By Brian Ives
If one gets to heaven, does he or she get to decide what it will look like? Craig Campbell hopes so.
The country singer tells Radio.com that his new song, “Outskirts of Heaven,” was inspired by his anxiety that heaven may be more like a big city, and he prefers the country.
“‘Outskirts of Heaven’ was an idea that I had,” he says. “I was sitting in my house one night and I was talking to my wife about heaven. And said, ‘You know, heaven: the picture that has been painted in my mind of heaven is very metro, very big-city-like, with the pearly gates and the golden streets and the mansions.’ And I said, ‘I grew up in the country.’ We grew up so far outside of town that we didn’t even go trick or treating, because there were no houses around us. The idea of me living in a downtown area made me anxious. So, ‘Outskirts of Heaven’ was an idea that I had that maybe, just maybe, when I do get to heaven, it might be what I wanted it to be. A little farmhouse, a river, hills, country life.”
It seems to fall outside of the lyrical content of most songs on country radio today, but Campbell isn’t sweating that.
“‘Outskirts of Heaven’ is definitely a faith-based song, and when I wrote it, I wrote it with my buddy Dave Turnbull, and I said, ‘Listen, let’s take radio out of this. I don’t want to write this song for radio, I want to write it for myself.’ And it truly is 100% me. It’s definitely the things that I believe in, despite what country radio is doing these days, I wasn’t worried about any of that when I wrote it. I started playing it live, and I started seeing this reaction out of people. And it’s hard to get a reaction out of people when they’ve never heard a song before.”
He realizes that writing about the afterlife isn’t a fool-proof formula for a hit single in 2016, though: “It was a challenge, or a leap of faith. Pun intended. Because of what radio’s doing these days… ‘Outskirts of Heaven’ is fairly different than any of that. But I talked to a friend of mine a year ago, and we were talking about certain things and and I asked, ‘How do I go from where I am right now to being hugely successful in country music?’ And he said, ‘Man, you gotta pick a lane and stay in it.’ And I feel like this song is my lane. And I’m planning on staying in it.”
Although he says that his lyrical counter-programming may work in his favor. “I feel good about this song. I think it’s gonna be the surprise… we’re in the summertime right now, and it seems like all the things about this song are going against the grain. It’s a slower song. It’s a three quarter time waltz, it’s got a lot of steel guitar in it, and it’s four minutes long. I think that once it gets to a spot on the chart, I think people are going to be surprised, but pleasantly surprised.”