The Kentucky Gentlemen Interview
With their new single “Alcohol,” twin brothers Brandon and Derek Campbell — otherwise known as The Kentucky Gentlemen — are bringing their authenticity and relatability to the forefront and mixing it up with a bit of humor and soul. And while the duo has been writing and performing together for over a decade, 2022 is shaping up to be an exciting leap forward in their genre-mashing musical journey.
I recently sat down with the siblings to discuss creative ESP, their genuine songwriting selves, and their lifelong quest for the biggest note possible.
AH: Music is a difficult road for anybody to travel on. I was wondering if you guys feel like you have one up on the competition, knowing that you have family— each other—in your corner?
BC: We were actually just talking about this the other day. Doors get closed and you hear “no” sometimes. And when we actually thought about it—sat back and thought— a solo act has to go home and lay in bed and think things through by themselves. We can go home and lean on each other and kind of get each other back up. So it definitely helps that we get to lean on each other.
AH: Well, and in this industry, you can’t always trust what you’re being told, but you know that you can trust each other.
BC: Yeah. Having not only just someone you can trust, but another brain who can look at something and say, “Hey, maybe we should take this angle instead, because this other angle doesn’t sound too promising or like the best idea.” It also helps when you just get overwhelmed trying to manage it all. We can definitely help each other out with certain tasks when things get so overwhelming.
AH: A lot has been said about twin ESP over the years, but is there such a thing as creative ESP? Do you understand each other on a creative level that others don’t?
DC: I would say for the most part, yes. Every once in a while, we’ll go back and forth and disagree on certain creative parts of it, but for the most part, it’s easier because instead of having to go into a room and explain where we want our destination creatively, we are already there together. Regardless if we’ve spoken about it or not, we both have the same direction that we’re going towards.
AH: What has been the overall goal with The Kentucky Gentlemen? Were you looking to create a completely new sound or were you taking what was already there and sort of just bringing yourselves into it?
DC: It’s a good combination of both. We love the roots of it all, but we’re well aware that there’s a different, unique aspect to us in terms of sound. And so, we just kind of take that and we run with that for the most part. We just kind of took the sound that we had and said, “This feels very authentic. It’s definitely different. Let’s see how far being this authentic can take us.” That’s kind of our whole motive and what we want to show the world—how being your most authentic self—how far that can take you.
AH: Authenticity is something fans understand, and often times, is more important than a great riff or memorable hook.
BC: Exactly. Once we learned that and stopped trying to morph any sound to what was going on at the moment—or what everybody else is doing—it started evolving and that’s when things really got rolling for us.
AH: What would the two young kids who first started jamming out together think of what you’re doing musically today? Would it surprise them?
DC: (Laughter) Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It was those two young kids’ dreams to do this. But I feel like the young us would be screaming that it was actually happening. Yeah.
AH: Would they dig this new track “Alcohol” that you’re releasing today?
DC: I mean, those two kids are just as dramatic singers as we are. So the whole time, they would be singing “Alcohol” and then preparing for the big note. (Laughter) Yeah. They would dance with the baseline, swinging back and forth, while trying to hit the biggest notes they could. That’s what they would be doing.
AH: How does “Alcohol” differ from what you guys were doing together musically when you first moved to Nashville? As I understand it, you were writing a song a day when you first arrived.
BC: I would say it’s freeness. We feel so much more free to be who we are, and sing about what we want to sing about and not think about the outside industry. It’s just kind of letting what we are work for who it works for. Honestly, I’d say writing a song a day, that very first year—there were plenty of songs about alcohol. (Laughter) But that helped us take something as simple as things that people think about—alcohol, which has been done over and over before—and flip it, and revamp it and give it this fresh, new, humorous feel to it.
Writing a song a day definitely helped us build that skill to do something like that.
AH: Again, just as authenticity plays with an audience, so too do songs that people can relate to.
BC: Right. Definitely. We’re two guys—two brothers— who are in their 20s. And so, we know how many folks are in similar boats and have gotten their hearts broken. And instead of letting everyone know how upset they are, all of a sudden, they’re out on the town and they’re just partying, drinking, and dancing. And to us, that’s true heartbreak and it’s really obvious, but it’s like a humorous and self destructive way. That’s something that you do when you’re in your 20s and is part of the trials and tribulations. So that kind of relatability is definitely something that keeps us going, because you can look back and say, “Hey, I had that moment there, but we made it through.”
AH: What does Nashville do for you that other places cannot? Does the creativity of the city inspire your own creativity?
DC: Yeah. Honestly, there are times when I’m like, “Dang, I can’t really think of what we should write about,” or just feeling like I need to push forward. And the best thing about Nashville is that, every single night you can go out and immediately get inspired by something. There are the shows. There is great music. There are great songwriters. You can walk out your front door and find something to motivate you and inspire you. Writer’s block is easily curable in Nashville. You can literally go and walk into any place where music is being played and you can feel something. And so, that’s the best part about our journey here in Nashville. It’s that whenever we kind of hit some stumps, we just kind of force ourselves to go out, and chat with other writers, and listen and be inspired by how they express themselves.
AH: You have a bunch of new music out in 2022. Does this feel like a new chapter for you?
DC: I feel like it’s kind of the continuance of our past chapters. It’s just that, I feel like more people are tuning into what we’ve been doing, so it does feel like a new chapter, but it’s also just a continuance of what we’ve been working on for almost 10 years now.
BC: Yes. Because you look back, and you just see a pattern of growth when it comes to just who we are, and how everyone should always be willing to grow and better themselves. And when people take notice that you’re growing and you’re bettering yourselves and your craft, it makes things real exciting. You feel like it really pays off and you’re just really happy that folks are relating to who you are.
For more information on The Kentucky Gentlemen, visit www.thekygentlemen.com.
Find new music like the Kentucky Gentlemen and more, on our playlist here: New Americana Music playlist by Americana Highways