Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell is embarking on his most exciting adventure yet with the birth of his son. The Wonder Years’ frontman and his wife Alison have just had their first child (named Wyatt James Campbell because “the pentameter works nicely”), and for Dan, it seems that there is no job that would suit him better than fatherhood.
Add into the mix that a new Aaron West album is imminent, tour dates in support of that and more Wonder Years show too, it's going to be a busy year for the Campbell household, but Dan couldn’t be more excited. We caught up with him just before it all took off.
How are you feeling with just a short time left until the baby arrives?
Nothing about it has gotten me shaken at all, but you never know until it actually happens. I always saw myself as a father, and I always wanted kids. With teaching elementary school for a while, and I was significantly older than all my cousins, so I always had these younger kids around me and babies everywhere, so I feel excited and prepared for it.
There were definitely songs from times where perhaps you weren’t as ready mentally for kids - ‘Passing Through The Screen Door’ in particular had a lot of references to you not be as ready as people your age at the time, are you glad you’ve gotten to place in your life where everything feels right?
That song is funny right now. In my head when I sing “all the kids names I ever liked are tied to tragedy” line, I think, “ahhh except Wyatt”. It’s funny to sing that song now, but it's still an important song to me and a lot of people.
It's interesting now because I wrote that song when I was 26, a good seven years ago. A lot of our fans were 18/19, and now they're rolling into that age, and it's affecting them in a certain way. I like it because it can stand as a bastion of you can follow your own path and still get to the destination you want to get to.
You don’t have to do things by the timeline markers that everyone else is following. I mean, my mum adopted a baby when she turned 50 so anything can happen at any time.
With that in mind, are you feeling mentally prepared for the baby?
When you’re dealing with the kind of things that people like myself - and a lot of our fans, it turns out - end up dealing with, it's a constant reality. I’m anxious about everything. I don’t know when the last time I felt any sustained joy was. That’s just what I know my brain will always have to deal with. You just do the work to be effective and a caring, giving, member of society. I don’t think I’m in a better position at all, but maybe I’ve gotten better putting the effort into dealing with it.
Not hiding from feelings has to be essential for a child’s development?
Yeah, and I think I am generally happier around children. That's why I loved teaching; I love the energy, so I’m excited for what it will do.
I’m looking forward to some semblance of normalcy. I like the idea the baby will need a schedule, and I will need to adhere to that schedule, and that will force me into more patterns.
Touring takes a toll because you cant develop habits or patterns; every day is different, then you go home, and there are these “activity deserts”. You’re like, well I finished the tour, and there is no writing to be done. You go on these long periods of malaise where you don’t have to wake up at any certain times, and you sleep in, and you don’t take care of yourself. I think even our dog helped take care of that for me because, “okay, the dog has to go out, so I have to go out."
I'm looking forward to what he can do for me in that way. He’ll demand a schedule, and I will adhere to it.
Wyatt James was born Wednesday, April 9th, at 10:30 pm. 7 lbs, 14 oz, 20.5 inches. He’s been home for a few days now and is settling in perfectly. He and George made fast friends. He loves chewing on his shirtsleeves and the first song he ever heard was “God Only Knows.” pic.twitter.com/46Gi0U0DcI— Dan Campbell (@headabovewater) April 14, 2019
Moving forward with the band and baby, will we see less of you around?
I don’t think you’ll see a lot less, but I think we will have to be very strategic about it. We are trying to be.
The big thing for me, this is the big anxiety push-pull for me right now, I wanna be able to be home and be Dad. The plan is for my wife to go back to work after her maternity leave is up and for me to be home with Wyatt all day, every day as much as I can until I have to go and play shows because unfortunately, the only way we generate any income is by playing music in front of people. If we are not on tour, then I don’t earn anything to support the family, so it's about finding a balance.
We have a year planned that it a lot of staggered things rather than long blocks of time away. I’m releasing a new Aaron West record this year and planning to do twenty shows throughout the year and probably another twenty Wonder Years shows. So that’s another forty shows, but we will find a way to space them out.
Our fans are so fucking awesome and so supportive, and we put up a merch subscription service where you pay every month, and we mail limited edition merchandise pieces. We took up a really good number of sign-ups on that, and that should be helpful too.
It’s about walking a line. As much as I love to play music, I don’t want to be on tour one-hundred days a year anymore. But at the same time, I do love playing so we want to be an active part of this community and out here playing songs every chance we can.
Do you think people will understand that you have to be more selective with the dates you play?
I think people are starting to worry that it would be the end of us playing shows for people and I don’t think that is true. I just think it's going to be a little more thoughtful. Maybe we won't do ten cities every time.
Derek [Sanders] from Mayday [Parade] and I always talk about this, and he said, “I’m afraid that if we stop or slow down, then people will forget about us”, and I think that’s a fear that every musician has. There are so many people trying to make music that if you intentionally vacate your spot, then someone wants that spot, but that’s something we’re gonna have to do our best to deal with. If we slow down touring and people are tired of it, then I guess I will go drive for Uber or something!
Rather than running back and making another record as quickly as we have over the years, we have been thinking of maybe doing singles and finding other ways to connect with people that aren’t always making full-length records and then forty-date tours.
In terms of writing music, what do you think will change?
The Aaron West story arc already exists, and that’s a work of fiction so primarily [fatherhood] will end up reflected in The Wonder Years but, now that I think about it, there are some inadvertent echoes of where my headspace has been on this Aaron West record. I didn’t really think about it until you said it, but now I am seeing it.
So if Wyatt wants to be in a band in a few years, you’ll say ‘no way’ right?
There is a joke because our friends had a baby about a month and a half ago, and named him Hank and everyone thinks that the names together sound like a country duo, so everyone said you have to start writing songs for them now, so they have something to play in a couple of years. So, watch out for Wyatt & Hank the country duo.
Taken from the May issue of Upset. Aaron West and The Roaring 20s’ album ‘Routine Maintenance’ is out 10th May. They tour the UK in September.
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