Jeremy Camp’s Heartfelt Dynamism

Before he became a promising talent on the Christian music scene, Jeremy Camp was a 15-year-old kid who picked up an old Takamine 6-string of his father’s. “I was instantly drawn to the sound of the acoustic,” he says. “I dug being able to feel the vibrations of the guitar. I realized that I could control tone, sound, and the way the instrument resonated.”

That initial teenage discovery led to one of Christian music’s most respected debuts, Stay, in 2002. The uplifting album grew out of the heartbreak of the death of Camp’s wife from cancer the previous year. “She would ask me to play worship songs for her when she was in the hospital,” he says. “I think it was soothing to play lullabies and just strum the acoustic for her. A lot of very emotional songs came from me opening my case and grabbing my guitar during that time. ‘I Still Believe’ was written two weeks after she died. I sat down and started playing, and it poured out.”

For the recording of his latest effort, Restored [BEC Recordings], Camp relied heavily on his Koa Taylor K22ce. “I was writing the tune ‘My Desire,’ and I was picking it on that Koa Taylor,” he says. “The sound that was coming out of the guitar in combination with the picking pattern just screamed emotions at me. It’s in dropped-D so the open chords resonate beautifully. My vocal sounds very intimate on that tune, and it blends perfectly with the acoustic guitar.”

Camp’s current live arsenal consists of guitars that cover different parts of the tonal spectrum. “I love my Gibson J-185 jumbo,” he observes. “The J-185’s spruce top and maple back and sides give me a really thick, resonant low end, so I run it through the L.R. Baggs Para Acoustic D.I. to take out a little around 300Hz. That low midrange can sort of drone if I don’t. I also have a custom Taylor 512ce that’s all mahogany. The 512 is brighter, and it has a cool attack that’s great for picking. It also has more low end than I’m used to with mahogany instruments, which is nice.”

A key element of the powerful dynamics of Camp’s songs is his use of acoustic guitars. For that reason, he works hard to keep a strong acoustic presence on all of his records. “If the acoustic fills up the space, we try not to drown it out with too much electric guitar,” he says. “I’m real big on dynamics. I like to keep the verses acoustically driven, and, when the chorus hits, I’ll bring in the electrics.”

In live situations, Camp sports an acoustic about 95 percent of the time while his band leans on electrics. Regardless of the instrumentation—in concert or on record—everything starts with the acoustic guitar. “If the songs sound great with just an acoustic, they really emerge when you add the rest of the production.”

Camp realizes that today’s young listeners need hope as well as someone to admire. “A mission of mine is to be real and approachable with everyone I meet,” he reflects. “I don’t shove my faith down anyone’s throat, but I’m going to share my heart. I think that’s why I love the acoustic guitar. It’s real and transparent. It evokes honest emotions.”