Key Change

David Campbell's life has been a cabaret for four years. Now the young Australian star plans to pop, rock and roll out of the mould. When Olivia Newton-John changed musical styles from country and western to pop, cowboys all over were crying into there beers. Now it seems it will be the hipsters' turn to cry into their martinis as another Aussie, cabaret star David Campbell, changes musical direction.

"It's not like I'm going to do Marilyn Manson covers or anything,' say Campbell, whose stock in trade - Sondheim, Porter, and Rogers and Hammerstein - has taken him to the top of the cabaret tree in the hardest of all cities to crack, New York.

"It's just that I wouldn't mind exploring the more pop side of things."

It's hardly surprising Campbell would be intrigued by other musical styles. His dad is, after all, rocker Jimmy Barnes.

It is cabaret Campbell has sung for the past four years to extraordinary success and it is cabaret he will perform in his engagement at the Sebel of Sydney in Elizabeth Bay over the next two weekends. The act will however, reflect his growing realm of interest.

"Some of the newer songs in this act will be like, more James Taylor, Beatles, things like that. But I guess I also want to explore some of the R&B roots that I have and pop rock roots, good Australian rock, like the songs that I grew up with."

To the end, Campbell will soon commence writing songs for his third album.

"I want to write for a couple of months, I don't want to rush it." he says. I want to write here and write in the States and maybe in London a bit. I don't want to rush it, I want to take my time with it because I don't know what direction it's going to go in.

"I think it's going to be more contemporary; I'd like it to be but we'll see. I would really like myself to have more hand in the writing so there's more of my voice in the music."

Campbell describes that voice as "a bit urban, someone who has seen some stuff, but is not jaded."

"It's my plan to explore that and it doesn't mean I'm bored. It just means that I want to push myself harder. I don't want to be too comfortable. And it is easy to get comfortable. Very easy. It's not like I should retire or anything. I'm 26 and I'm experimenting."

There is, after all, little he has not achieved since taking up cabaret four years ago.

Campbell, who began his career in Australia in theatrical stage productions and singing at the Tilbury, has played Royal command performances and other galas, sung in prestigious events such as the 50th anniversary of South Pacific alongside Liz Callaway and George Hearn, all the while making a mark on cabaret throughout the US.

He recently took to the stage with Liza Minnelli at the MAC awards (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs). He has won numerous awards, including Young Australian of the Year, a MO for his acting in Les Miserables, and New York's Bistro Award for Male Vocalist of the Year.

For now, however, he is happy to be home and looking forward to singing for his Sydney fans and giving them what they want: David Campbell in cabaret.

"This show is going to be a mixture of old stuff from the first CD and from the second CD and then playing with some new stuff that's going to be coming up in the future.

"But I sort of wanted to do a rounding off of all the times I've played here; coming back to something more intimate, and something that was going to incorporate a lot of the shows at the Tilbury and other stuff I've been doing.

"I guess a rounding off is the best way to put it because hopefully when I come back I'll be working some new material.

"To do this work with any longevity, and I do want a long career, I don't want to be labelled, and even in the States now I'm already being labelled.

"I can feel it creeping in and I want to run away at a million miles. I want to stop and change completely and impetuous, I'd rather just take a step back and just let it take its course."

by Julietta Jameson, The Daily Telegraph - Arts Section 23rd April 1999