While Campbell / Jensen is a new project, its two members have a storied history spanning Americana, country, bluegrass, gypsy jazz and rock. Ashley Campbell first came to attention as a member of her father Glen Campbell’s band before embarking upon an acclaimed solo career, while Thor Jensen was a member of Quiet Life and toured as part of Hazmat Modine and in Stephane Wrembel’s band. They met when Ashley wanted to learn how to play the gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt that her dad had adored when she was a child, the tutor she found being Thor, who had only moved to Nashville the week before.
Their debut album “Turtle Cottage” will be released on November 3rd (available to pre-save/pre-order HERE) and takes it’s name from the impromptu studio in on Mahee Island, near Comber in Northern Ireland where the project was crafted. To coincide with the release of the album, the duo are set to embark on a UK tour in November and February, which Ashley and Thor told us all about when we recently caught up with them over Zoom.
Thank you both for taking the time to hang. Thor it’s great to meet you for the first time and Ashley, it’s been about four years since we hung out, you know in a realm before we all got stuck playing Jumanji for two years. Let’s talk about “Turtle Cottage” which the two of you wrote and recorded up in Northern Ireland, how long ago was that where the project came to life? “Well, we wrote the songs before that, we recorded the album in the cottage but we wrote them in the months leading up to it.” – TJ “We did finish one or two there but they were all written by the time that we got there last January.” - AC
With the songs that formed the body for the album, when you were writing them, was it always the intention to be writing towards making a project together or did it just happen to be something that you felt worked? “This was definitely a very deliberate project and very intentional.” – TJ “The first song that we wrote together was before we had the project in mind but we did have the idea that we would want to do something together down the line. “P&P” was the first song that we wrote together but the rest of it was definitely deliberately for this album.” – AC
Looking at how the two of you first met, that almost seems again that Thor was in the right place at the right time. I understand that Ashley was looking to delve into something that is a bit of a niche in Nashville. I know Music City is becoming a melting pot of genres, but I imagine Romani-French Jazz is not something that you come across that many exponents of so was Thor just they guy that you got lead towards to help you along with it? “Yeah, it was pretty serendipitous because I had just got back from spending three months in Europe and I had decided to really hunker down and focus on becoming a better musician. I had always wanted to learn to play gypsy-jazz style so I asked my fiddle player friend if he knew any guitar teachers. He gave me a couple of options but said as a matter of fact there is this guy that has just moved to town and he is my new favourite guy, so he gave me Thor’s number and I’m glad that I called him.” - AC
What about you Thor? How did you discover it and become a guy that had a real interest in this style of music? “It started as a love of Django Reinhardt, I started listening to him when I was a teenager. It was one of those moments when I decided I was going to learn his style of music when I read his biography then I proceeded to be frustrated for fifteen years because it is really hard. That is how I made my living for a long time with Stephane Wrembel in New York who for me is the guy for that style of music in the United States, yet I continue to be frustrated by it.” - TJ
So, after that initial meeting, the two of you got on well enough that you are now sort of working together, at what point did you both decide that you wanted to collaborate as a musical partnership going forward? “First, I gave her guitar lessons and not long after that, Ashley asked me to play in her band which we did and life moved forward. It was actually after we wrote that first song that we both revealed that we each wanted to do some sort of duo and partnership like that because neither of us had ever done anything like that before and we obviously had some kind of musical chemistry so we might as well give it a go.” – TJ
With everything that you have both done before and now creating a project as a duo opposed to part of a band or for an individual project, how different has the whole process felt when you are intentionally looking to create music in that way? “It’s a true partnership, it’s a true fifty-fifty input thing so, luckily we rarely disagree strongly and we want similar things from it, and we enjoy similar things from it so it’s different that I’m the boss of my band. It’s almost a relief of burden to not have to make all the decisions yourself and have someone to lean on or see around the corner when you hit a wall.” – AC “Personally speaking, most of my career has been as a sideman. I do have my own records and do my own music as well but even that has been a bit more improvisational based so it is collaborative even by default setting so it is interesting to make decisions with another person as opposed to let’s all try this and see what happens. This is a very intentional thing and it’s great.”
I find it really interesting from what you said earlier and almost surprises me that the record really fits the imagery of the record and the “Turtle Cottage” theme where you didn’t build around that when you were writing it. It sounds like you had the songs before and that just happened to be where when you recorded it which I think is really cool but was it intentional with the “Turtle Cottage” ideology when you were recording the project and things just fitted into that vibe? “We had decided where we were going to record even before we had finished writing the second song. We wrote that first song back in December of 2021 and Ashley took me to Turtle Cottage in May of 2022 where right then and there we both agreed that we should make an album here then it all started falling into place. So, we did have the imagery of the place in mind.” – TJ “I always had in the back of my head that “Turtle Cottage” sounded like a catchy name for an album, it just sounded great.” – AC
The record comes out next Friday and then you guys head out on tour but you are splitting the tour with dates in November and in February. Have you guys got anything exciting planned for whilst you are off in December and January or is it just a bit of wind down time over Christmas really? “We moved to London at the end of August and Thor immediately went on a tour with Postmodern Jukebox so he’s barely been home. In December and some of January we just want to settle in and enjoy living in London.” – AC
Ashley, I know that from when you and I last spoke that you had said that you had spent a fair bit of time over here but have you actually lived in London before or is this your first time as a proper Londoner? “This is the first time as a proper Londoner. I stayed in London twice for university with a theatre programme but this is my first time living over here. I spent a lot of time in Belfast as well because my Godmother lives thee now but it’s my first time of actually living abroad and it is awesome” – AC
Are there any places that are brand new to you guys that you are going to be heading to on this tour? “Not in November really, we’re playing a couple of venues that are new but we have been to Birmingham and all these places. Actually, I’ve never been to Huddersfield before, we’re opening for The Kruger Brothers where we are being brought there for Deering Banjo’s who I endorse so, that will be fun because I’ve never been there.” – AC
Lastly, I remember the festival where you played last year up near Manchester which was where I last saw you at Buckle & Boots, you were billed as Ashley Campbell and Thor Jensen and now we are seeing Campbell / Jensen as the band and project name. When did the way you were styling putting music out change? “Well. Funnily enough we had decided on Campbell / Jensen at that point, there was just a lot of mixed wires as far as that went.” – TJ “We’re going to see more of this and we have seen it in the past, maybe because I have been over here as a solo artist a lot more than Thor has but also the association with my dad. We are still seeing some billings saying Ashley Campbell with Thor Jensen but it is really a Campbell / Jensen show. Thor is taking it with a lot of grace, what are you going to do? We’re trying to make the Campbell / Jensen name more well known, because it truly is a full on collaboration.” – AC
NOVEMBER 3rd - Edinburgh, The Voodoo Rooms 6th - London, St. Pancras Old Church 9th - Brighton, Mid-Sussex Music Hall 11th - Huddersfield, The North Light Gallery (special guests to The Kruger Brothers) 12th - Birmingham, Kitchen Garden Cafe 15th - Bangor, The Court House 16th - Bangor, The Court House 17th - Galway, Monroe’s Live 18th - Letterkenny, The RCC 19th - Clonakilty, De Barra’s 21st - Dublin, The Ruby Sessions 22nd - Coolagarrantoe, Mitchelstown Cave (a Wilde Dining event) FEBRUARY 7th - Barnoldswick, Music & Arts Centre 8th - Liverpool, Music Room 9th - Kirton, Diamond Jubilee Town Hall 10th - Newcastle, Cluny 2 16th - Twyford, St, Mary’s Church 17th - Ansford, Caryford Community Hall
The debut album “Turtle Cottage” from Campbell / Jensen will be released on November 3rd and available to pre-save/pre-order HERE.
Tickets for their UK tour in November and February (dates listed above) are available from their WEBSITE plus you can keep up to date with all that Ashley and Thor are up to over on INSTAGRAM.
True country music is honesty, sincerity, and real life to the hilt. Garth Brooks