Rolling Stone features TRK & California Son 4/21/24

Ted Russell Kamp’s Been Shooter Jennings’ Secret Weapon for Years. He Steps Out on New Solo Album

‘California Son’ shines a light on the L.A. musician, who’s played live and in the studio with Jennings on Grammy-winning albums by Tanya Tucker and more.

Ted Russell Kamp just can’t quit L.A. Despite an extended stint in Seattle and growing up in Upstate New York, Kamp is a California country-rocker through and through, and his latest album, California Son, reads like a love letter to the Golden State.

But it’s also a snapshot of one of the most prolific, if under the radar, careers in country music. A Grammy-winning musician and producer, Kamp is revered by those in the know for his work with Shooter Jennings, with whom he’s played since 2003, but he’s also worked with icons like Jessi Colter and Tanya Tucker, along with countless rock acts.

California Son is Kamp’s 14th studio album and assembles 12 songs rich in Americana and indie-folk textures. “High Desert Fever” is a slice of classic, wandering honky-tonk, “Hard to Hold” underscores his outlaw country bona fides, and the title track nods to the hold that L.A. has over him.

“I learned from each album, the plateaus and personal growth,” Kamp says. “You can hear my love of the Band, Jackson Browne, the Old 97’s, the Byrds, and Gram Parsons in them — when Americana was still called alt-country.”

Originally from Westchester, New York, Kamp was immersed in music early on, taking up trumpet in elementary school, then the bass in ninth grade. By high school in the mid-1980s, he got involved in a slew of projects, from school orchestra to garage bands in a revolving door of rock, soul, and ska outfits.

“Like many people who grow up in and around New York City, you assume the entire world revolves around New York City,” Kamp says. “So, I just assumed I would grow up in the suburbs and then live in the city.”

Instead, Kamp landed at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Situated in the rural countryside of the Southern Tier region, Kamp double-majored in English and philosophy.

“But my entire social life and every day after [class] was all about music,” Kamp says of the college bands he played in throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s.

He toyed with the idea of attending graduate school to become an English professor, but had to first quell the voice within him encouraging his tightly-held rock & roll fantasy.

“I told my parents, ‘Hey, I’ve got to try music for a year or two,’” Kamp says. “If it doesn’t work, then I’ll go back to grad school. But I have to at least try.”

In August 1993, he packed his car and left New York for Seattle, 2,800 miles away. But after about seven years there, he was still coming up empty and headed south for L.A.

“I realized I’d done every hundred-dollar gig you can play and I was never going to join Soundgarden,” Kamp chuckles. “It was an easy decision to move down to L.A. rather than come back across the country.”

There, he waded into numerous musical circles and eventually crossed paths with Jennings, himself under the spell of Los Angeles.  They were kindred spirits.

“One of the reasons I moved to L.A. was to meet someone like Shooter,” Kamp says. “He was looking for a bass player. I was kind of the right person for the job, in terms of my love of Seventies classic rock, country, and outlaw music.”

Kamp notes he used to cover songs by Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter — Shooter’s parents — in bar gigs before ever meeting Jennings. Now he’s a two-decade member of Jennings’ band, playing bass and appearing on albums going all the way back to Jennings’ 2005 debut, Put the “O” Back in Country.

“I always tell Ted that he’s my lifelong musical partner. From the minute I met Ted he was by far the best bass player I’d ever seen, but also just a really smart musical mind,” Jennings tells Rolling Stone. “He was into thoughtful, complex music and he wrote great songs. In all of the 22 or 23 years that I’ve played music with Ted, at every session or on every stage, he has never once shown up without his ferocious dedication to the music, his amazing leadership qualities, and his team spirit attitude. Ted has been the main collaborator in my life, a constant support and a friend as he shares my personal musical journey with me. And he is just plain groovy.”

Kamp says it’s been rewarding watching Jennings get more creative with his music. “Especially with this killer run of albums he’s been producing,” he says, “these artists coming to Shooter to break out of their box, get creative, and do something a little different.”

In 2019, Kamp was brought onboard as the bassist for Tucker’s album While I’m Livin’. Co-produced by Jennings and Brandi Carlile, it won the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Country Album.

“I love being a sideman,” Kamp says. “I’m lucky that I’m eclectic. But I love writing songs, making records, being an artist, being a solo singer-songwriter and a band leader.”

“It’s been a phenomenal ride,” Kamp says. “And the adventure keeps continuing.”

BY GARRET K. WOODWARD
APRIL 21, 2024

  1. High Desert Fever - preview Buy 0:39
  2. California Son - preview Ted Russell Kamp Buy 0:49
  3. You Can Go To Hell, I'm Going To Texas Ted Russell Kamp 4:17
  4. My Girl Now Ted Russell Kamp 3:17
  5. Path of Least Resistance Ted Russell Kamp 2:52
  6. Home Sweet Hollywood (featuring Shooter Jennings) Ted Russell Kamp (featuring Shooter Jennings)
  7. Waste A Little Time With Me Ted Russell Kamp 2:45
  8. Right Down to the Wire Ted Russell Kamp 4:03
  9. California Wildflower Ted Russell Kamp 4:05
  10. If I Had A Dollar Ted Russell Kamp 3:04
  11. Rainy Day Valentine Ted Russell Kamp