Isobel Campbell: After Belle Comes 'Ballad' They're an odd couple. Angel-voiced Scot Isobel Campbell and gravelly grunge rocker Mark Lanegan of Seattle combine their talents on the CD Ballad of the Broken Seas. Campbell tells Liane Hansen about life after Belle and Sebastian.
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Isobel Campbell: After Belle Comes 'Ballad'

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Isobel Campbell: After Belle Comes 'Ballad'

Isobel Campbell: After Belle Comes 'Ballad'

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Take a few simple chords, stir in a cello solo or two, add some percussion instruments reminiscent of an old western film score and top them off with two voices, one made rough by experience, the other softened by youth, and you have the sound recipe for Isobel Campbell's new CD, Ballad of the Broken Seas.

(Soundbite of song)

HANSEN: They're an odd couple, Isobel Campbell is the former cellist and angelic vocalist of the Scottish-Indie pop band, Belle and Sebastian, and the deep gravel howl belongs to Mark Lanegan, the former front man of the Seattle grunge band, Screaming Trees. After splitting up with Belle and Sebastian in the spring of 2002, Campbell decided to try her luck as a single act, which brought the Glasgow native to the United States this month for her first solo tour, and Isobel Campbell is in the studio of member station KUOW in Seattle.

Hi, welcome to the program.


HANSEN: What music were you listening to or were you inspired by when you were putting this CD together?

MS. CAMPBELL: Well, a few things. When Mark and I first sort of met and started talking about this record we were going to make, we spoke a lot about Lee Hazelwood and we're both big fans of his work with Nancy Sinatra and his solo work as well. Also, right about the time I was writing a lot of the songs, I was completely addicted to The Man Comes Around, the American recordings, completely addicted.

HANSEN: Yeah, Lee Hazelwood for those who don't remember, who did a duet with, or several with Nancy Sinatra, but I think the one that became a hit in this country was Some Velvet Morning.

MS. CAMPBELL: That's one of my all-time favorite songs.

HANSEN: Did you have Mark's voice in mind when you were writing?

MS. CAMPBELL: I'd actually never heard Mark's work. It was an old boyfriend of mine. I was like who could I ask and he was like, oh, listen to this guy. So that was how I heard Mark and I'm very grateful to have heard him, you know.

HANSEN: The lyrics that you give him, I mean, you know, you give him some pretty macho stuff to sing.

(Soundbite of song):

Mr. MARK LANEGAN: (Singing) I bring you a tale of the broken season drowning in whiskey and beer. My doctor reports if I don't stop singing, I'll drown in an ocean of tears...

HANSEN: You know, it's coming from you and I'm hearing this like very sweet, little, you know, girl on the other end of the line. Is there a side of you that people don't know?

MS. CAMPBELL: Yeah, for sure. I think the voice, I've got quite a high voice and deceptive and, you know, that as musician, like even since I was like a kid, I've always been very in touch with my male side for some reason. I don't know. You know, guys have feminine sides and we have masculine sides and I work with a lot of men a lot of the time just being in studios for the last decade, you know, so I've gotten them sized up, some of them.

HANSEN: Why did you want to re-record Hank Williams' Ramblin' Man?

MS. CAMPBELL: Well, when I was writing the record, as well as listening to like the Man Comes Around and it was the last two Johnny Cash records I was just really obsessed by it, but also I was listening to a lot of Hank Williams. But when I heard that particular song, Ramblin' Man, it struck a chord with me and I thought, oh, I'm going to ask Mark if he wants to do it.

(Soundbite of song Ramblin' Man)

Mr. LANEGAN: (Singing) I love you baby, but you must understand when the lord made me; he made a ramblin' man...

HANSEN: All right, I have to ask you about the whip. Is that you? Do you play whip?

MS. CAMPBELL: I bought it. I adore Tom Waits' music so much. To me that's just the perfect music. But yeah, I just kind of, so okay, we had sample CDs and all the whips just sounded really kind of comical and not very mean and stuff, so I bought a whip and then the interviewer and myself were trying to use it and we just kept on getting kind of tied up in knots with this whip. But there's this other engineer where we work, he's almost like seven foot tall and he came down and my God, could he work that whip. He was outside like swinging it around and the dust was flying and stuff. So he played it for us.

HANSEN: He got the sound that you wanted.

MS. CAMPBELL: Yeah, he played it for us and then when some of the other musicians that played America came in, we were kind of almost blushing because it does sound kind of nasty that whip.

(Soundbite of song Ramblin' Man)

HANSEN: I want to just mention a little bit because so much has been written about your work with the Scottish indie band, Belle and Sebastian, and in some cases, people always thought that you were Belle because, although the title of the band comes from a completely different source. Does it weigh you down that you're always mentioned in terms of Belle, that perhaps fans might be a little bit reluctant to let this kind of sweet Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm kind of persona go?

MS. CAMPBELL: Well, I think definitely it has done in the past. Yeah, it has been very frustrating in the past, but I just kind of accept now that, you know, people think what they want to think and people love labeling things, so I just leave them to it. I know what's important to me and it's creating and I'm in love with music and with the job I have it's like I'm hanging on right now to the stuff that I love, which is the very personal, magical, intimate special stuff, and that's the kind of thing that keeps me afloat.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. LANEGAN: (Singing) Little girl have I told you, you're my guiding north star. Now my love travels with you for wherever you are. From the mountains to the valley leave your light on for me from Virginia to Alaska from sea to shining sea...

MS. CAMPBELL: So I know what you're saying, but they can think that if they want, you know.

HANSEN: And if they don't like it, you can always bring out the whip, right?

MS. CAMPBELL: Yeah, or just a flying fist.

HANSEN: Isobel Campbell's new CD with Mark Lanegan is called Ballad of the Broken Seas. It's on V2 records. She joined us from member station KUOW in Seattle, Washington. Isobel, thank you so much and good luck.

MS. CAMPBELL: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. LANEGAN: (Singing) Do you want to come walk with me? Do you want to come walk with me? If you do, baby say it now know we both wonder anyhow. Do you want to come walk with me? Do you want to come walk with me? Do you want to? Do you want to? Do you want to? Do you want to?

HANSEN: And you can hear more songs from Isobel Campbell at our website

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