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Sadie Campbell’s Darkroom is refreshingly unfiltered. On three gripping songs, the Canadian-born, Nashville-based artist tracks the mind’s disorienting descent into depression. “2020 for me felt like a darkroom," says Campbell, "It was a lot of isolation and alone time, but it was a place of creativity and development." Her raspy, powerful voice evokes the likes of Melissa Etheridge and Bonnie Raitt, but Darkroom introduces a sound and journey all Campbell’s own. “This project is so real to me, and it’s a little bit of a departure from the country-rock I’d been doing before,” says Campbell, “It’s a new, deeper, darker side of me I have embraced.”
Campbell’s blend of Americana pulls from a variety of influences, namely an eclectic mix of female artists of the 1990s, from Lauryn Hill to Alanis Morisette. “Strong women in the music industry have always inspired me,” says Campbell who cites Sheryl Crow and Brandi Carlile as prime examples. “Strong women that just went out and kept making art—they weren’t waiting for anything and they’re not stopping for anyone. They are my influences.”
Campbell grew up in Pritchard, BC, a town so small she says it consists of just one general store. There, she sang in the church choir before taking off for the open-mic scene in Vancouver, ultimately dropping everything to try her luck in Music City, USA. Years of couch-surfing turned to a home in Nashville where Campbell found full-time work performing in the city’s bustling honky-tonks. No stranger to odd-jobs, she has worked as a mail carrier and karaoke host, and has serviced airplanes and flagged logging roads on ATVS in Canada. “In the music business, you just have to roll with it all the time,” she says.
Rolling with it is a theme for Campbell these days. Campbell wrote Darkroom about her own mental health struggle in 2020, when isolation and uncertainty gave way to despair and, eventually, healing. The first track “Fade,” Campbell says, is “about being in that depression and knowing it, and not being able to necessarily control it, but knowing it will pass—you have to ride it out sometimes.” Slick guitar and a steady beat add an uplifting groove while Campbell contemplates, “Am I just scared to go to sleep cause I’m tired of the dreams?” The lyrics are searingly honest; the chorus drops an upbeat hook that refuses to wallow.
“Aftermath” is about being stuck in the “limbo phase,” or, as Campbell says, in “any situation where you know something is wrong, but you don't know how to make the change—a struggle with yourself, for yourself.” The song captures the paralysis that can accompany a desperate need for a change not yet defined. Over bluesy electric guitar, Campbell sings, “I’m empty, I’ve run out, given every piece of me trying to save this family.” The strength of the melody adds a pinch of pop to a soulful, edgy voice drained from giving too much to other people. “I’m tired of choosing everyone but me,” Campbell sings, “I'm fighting for my life. I want to take it back.”
By the third and final track, “Euphoria,” Campbell sings of finally seeing some light at the end of a long tunnel. “It’s about being ready to get out of the dark, being able to imagine my own happiness.” The track’s conception coincided with announcement of COVID-19 vaccines, reopening announcements, and the long-awaited beginning of the end—of the pandemic, and a dark psychological spell for Campbell. It is about faking it till you make it. It is the little bit of hope felt “when you close your eyes and imagine you are happier than you are,” says Campbell, “to see happiness as a fantasy you’ll get back to one day.”
For Campbell, returning to the fantasy came with the help of therapy, a puppy, and the catharsis of turning suffering into art. She wrote and recorded the vocals and acoustic guitar in her apartment, and sent the demos to Stuart Cameron and Peter Fusco in Toronto. The trio collaborated remotely, adding just enough guitar, drums, and background vocals to build on Campbell’s cuts. “We weren’t in a studio with a green light or anything. We just let inspiration flow,” Campbell says of the process behind the raw sound.
Now, she is ready to get back to performing and to resume her life as a working artist, with a newfound patience with herself and understanding of her own mind, struggles, and joy.
“There’s no escaping the highs and lows and I just hope that people will get some sort of support knowing that we're not alone when we’re in those lows—that it’s a normal thing. Having low days or low times in your life doesn't make you broken or anything—that’s just a Sunday,” says Campbell, “Depression can be a normal thing, you know. I think we should be talking about that more.” With Darkroom, Campbell shines a light on depression, all the while illuminating her incredible talent as a singer and songwriter.