Richie Campbell is one of reggae’s freshest stars. Having consistently sold out shows in Portugal and rocked festivals across Europe, he’s just dropped his third album In The 876. We sat down with Richie ahead of his performance at The Garage in Highbury to talk about all things Portugal and playing the world.
We’re here with Richie Campbell a Portuguese reggae singer. Would you like to introduce yourself a bit more?
No you just did, that’s pretty much all I am, I’m Portuguese and I love reggae.
How long have you been doing it for?
I think I’ve been involved professionally in music since I was 16. I had one band that started around 2003, then I had a different project that started around 2005, and then the solo project, which is my main one, the only one I have now, started in 2010.
What inspired you to get into reggae music?
I would say it was my mother because she’s from the UK and she lived here during the time when Bob Marley was at his prime, so she saw him perform live in London, I don’t know what show exactly. I guess from the day I was born I used to a listen to a lot of reggae, so she’s to blame.
You’ve got a tinge of Jamaican accent as well a bit of British sliding in.
I do. It’s very funny because since I’ve been here my accent has changed completely when I’m talking to somebody. If it’s Jamaica or even Germany, my accent is full-on Jamaican but because I’m here and I talk to my mother with this accent, it goes back to English. She doesn’t like it when I speak Jamaican with her, she’s like “speak proper English”.
Is she a fan of your music?
She’s my biggest fan from day one because she’s a big fan of music obviously, and she’s been very supportive and they always come to the shows they can make it to, my parents.
So you’ve got a tour and your new album is out, so how’s that going?
It’s going great. Right now being here in the UK, it’s personally my favourite part of the tour. I really wanted to come here because I have such a connection to the UK through my mother. We just came from Germany from a big festival called Reggae Jam, we’re playing Kendal Calling, and going back to Portugal, we have two shows in a row and then some days rest, we have big, big festivals in Portugal. We just played with John Legend.
Really! How was that?
It was crazy, it was a big festival in the north of Portugal, it was an honour to play with him.
So whereabouts in Portugal are you actually from?
I’m from the outskirts of Lisbon. It’s a very nice area, we have beaches, it’s very sunny right now, unlike the UK. It’s actually good today, it’s better than when we did Secret Garden Party, it was completely muddy, so it’s much better. I feel great now.
What was it like growing up in Portugal?
It was great man. Portugal is a very sunny place, specifically that area where I come from, a lot of people are into reggae music because of the whole beach vibes. I think it has kind of a California vibe because it has the same type of reggae influenced bands coming up in that part. You have Soul Jah in California, which is a very popular reggae band on that side, and they’re very popular in Portugal as well, but not so much in Europe, so I think we have a connection to that type of vibe, beach vibes and surfing and all that.
And now you’re trying to make a pin drop over here in England?
Singing reggae, coming from Portugal and singing in English and Patois, obviously my objective is to spread the music all over.
Yeah of course. Ok so you’ve already said that around Lisbon there are a lot of beaches but what else specifically would make someone want to go to Portugal?
That’s such an easy question. We have the best weather, our summer lasts for like four months. We have pretty girls. We have great food, amazing food. And everything is cheap, it’s perfect. And everyone is very nice. It’s definitely my favourite country in the world. Someone asked me the other day if I planned on moving to Jamaica, I love Jamaica, but Portugal is just the best country in the world. Plus we have Cristiano Ronaldo, you can’t beat that.
Not Messi though?
No I don’t know anybody called Messi [laughs].
You said before that Bob Marley was a very big influence to you and your music, and especially on your mum, but who else are your musical influences?
Growing up I used to listen to Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Alton Ellis, the great reggae artists but also I used to listen to soul. I love big voices like Luther Vandross, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder. I used to listen to Dru Hill but that was later on, you remember Dru Hill? You know Sisqo, that was his group before. I love real R&B with like five voices, that’s my passion, singing.
Ok so what are you doing in London?
I’m doing The Garage Highbury. I’ve come to understand while I was here that it’s a very iconic venue, I saw the names of people that have been here. We’ve been sightseeing here as well but obviously the objective is to promote my music. We went to Camden and all those places. I’ve been here before but the rest of the band they’ve never been so we had to do that whole tour.
Your album is out, what is your favourite tune on it?
I would say the last one called ‘Better Than Today’. It’s very different, it’s not even a reggae track, it’s an acoustic track with a piano and stuff. I like it because of the lyrics, it still gives me goosebumps to this day because it’s probably one of the realest songs I’ve written to date.
I actually loved your music video ‘Best Friend’.
Yeah? Thank you. Did you cry?
I did cry!
Mission accomplished [laughs].
I absolutely loved that video. Are you gonna perform that as well?
That’s the number one single from this album!
So what is your message that you’re actually trying to give to people?
It’s funny because I’m a reggae artist but mostly what I sing about is love, so I got some criticism already because I’m a reggae artist talking about love too much. People say that reggae artists should have a responsibility to talk about stuff that matters, and I agree, so if you listen to my album, I have a little bit of everything. Really what I usually say is my objective with my music is just, in life you go through certain situations and problems, they can be in your love life or your work life or whatever, and what I try to do, I write lyrics for things that happen to me or people that I love.
You must love a lot of people then!
I do [laughs]. I go through stuff and I try to write a song and put stuff into perspective and always keep a positive spin on whatever might happen in your life. And I think our performances translate that because we are very energetic performers. That’s our main goal live, we don’t want people to bored.
You want everyone to be interactive. They’re gonna work up a sweat then?
Yeah man, I always do!
As a reggae artist you already said that you feel you have some responsibility, so what do you feel you’re doing to make the world a better place?
My music and my work is really the only thing I can speak of. I would say I’m a Portuguese white guy from Lisbon singing reggae in the UK being interviewed as a reggae artist, that means you can do whatever you wanna do. I’ve been to Jamaica and I’ve performed in Jamaica as a Portuguese guy who decided he’s gonna sing reggae, that right there just tells you that you can do whatever you want to do. That’s really my message, whether it’s in the music or what I do personally, I think that’s just how it goes. Everything in life you just need to be persistent and you will get there, trust me.
So what are you looking forward to most?
Obviously I want to tour the world, that’s my main thing. I’ll be happy when I’ve played in every country in the world, that’s when I can sit down and relax.
How many countries have you played in?
Jamaica, Germany, Portugal, England, Belgium, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Europe is out the way! We wanna go to South America, the States, Africa. We’re going to Cape Verde actually. And besides that I wanna make my mark in reggae music. Reggae is an ever-changing genre and I wanna be able to be that guy that changed it up a bit and people followed me.
Follow Richie on Twitter.