Once a Globetrotting musician, Joel Campbell now calls Montreal home

Egbert Gaye

For all of history, brilliant minds have been grappling with the complex connection between two words: fate and destiny.
One relates to what will happen inevitably , the other we will do inevitably.
In tracing the path that lead him to Montreal after many years of playing on some of the world’s biggest stages with some of music’s biggest names, the story of Joel Campbell, a young British-born musician, hinges on those two words.
He says there’s no denying that is was inevitable that he came to Montreal.
Today, after two world tours with Tina Turner, one with Janet Jackson on her “All For You” 2001-2002 World Tour, and an extended tour with Annie Lennox and the Eurhythmics, the much sought-after keyboardist/pianist and vocalist has made Montreal his home.
He’s convinced this is where he is destined to be and thinks he knows why.
“I feel as if all that I’ve done in the past were in preparation for what I’m doing now,” he told The CONTACT during a recent sit-down at our offices. “All those years point to this…”
For the past month or so, Campbell has been serving as the Worship and Arts director at the Resurrection Centre in Lachine, one of the fastest growing churches in the community, and certainly the one with the most dynamic music ministry.
And with his eyes fixed on helping to heal our community, both in and outside the church, he is hoping to bring to bear the wealth of his musical and leadership skills he acquired during his decades on the global circuit to the massive task at hand.
Of course, he says it all starts at Resurrection Centre, where he is equipping a Worship and Praise team with the tools that will prepare them to take their work   beyond the four walls of their church, to energize those who are faltering, as well as “to help to rebuild broken churches.”
“I see it as the grand purpose of my life,” he says. “And it can be defined in three words: love… connect… serve.”
And he is already making an impact on those around him.
“This man is a gift to our community and to Montreal,” says Ray Johnston, a veteran gospel musician and long-standing member of the Christian community. “Musically, he’s incredibly gifted with the ability to take people with limited talent and make them the best they can be.”
Johnston, who has helped to build congregations at Bibleway Pentecostal Church as well as at Church Of God Of Prophecy and has worked with several young Gospel performers, is now a member of the music ministry in charge of “Sounds” at Resurrection Centre and works closely with Campbell.
“He’s humble and easy to work with. I think he will turn Resurrection Centre into the Mecca of Gospel music in Montreal.”

Simona McDonald is a noted gospel performer and a devoted member of Resurrection Centre’s Worship and Praise team and a true believer in Campbell’s abilities to motivate others.
“He comes with a rich history that has given him a lot of what it takes to be a true leader,” she told The CONTACT. “He has mastered the art of delegation.”
She added also that emerging performers in the city have a lot to gain from him “because he is the definition of professionalism when it comes to the art of music and vocals.”
Campbell says his mission is broad enough to accommodate those with whom he comes in contact, whether it’s music or worship and praise, but what’s most important to him is to build a team that connects and serves others in the church and in the community.
And he is confident that’s a pre-ordained mission.
You see, as fate would have it that spring day back in  the early 1990s, when he was returning home from the meat store after running an errand for his mother, if he had taken three or four footsteps quicker, the opportunity of a life time might have passed him by.
He remembers that fateful day, the moment he was about to open the gate, a taxi stopped in front of his house and the impressive looking passenger lowered the window and asked: “aren’t you Joel Campbell?”
It was the great Ronny Jordan, one of Britain’s legendary guitarists who burst into global prominence with his musical combination of Jazz, Hip Hop and R&B.
He was about to go on tour and was looking for a keyboard player. He had heard a thing or two about Campbell who at the time had forego his technical college training and decided to forge a musical career.
Had he gotten home a minute before, he would have missed that life-changing run-in with the man who he said had the greatest influence on his life and who taught him so much of what he has come to know as a musician, songwriter, arranger, producer and businessman.
“Ronny Jordon not only gave me my first break to accompany him on tour, but he opened up a whole new world to me,” he says.
His fairy-tale musical journey also connected him to a number of luminaries on the music scene, such As Carole King, Joe, Naughty By Nature, Luther Vandross, Bebe Winans, Brian McKnight, Chantal Chamandy, Slim Williams and Dave Hollister, all of whom benefitted from his talents as a songwriter, producer and arranger.
He also produced the Omarion-Soundtrack For The Movie “Hitch” Staring Will Smith.
For the young man out of  Kensal Green on the outskirt of  London, who was born to Jamaican parents and coming from a home with two brothers and three sisters, it was a life of celebrity and glamour that was beyond his mind’s eye.
But although he was in that world, Campbell says he wasn’t really of that world. And is willing to venture that much of what he had done before was in preparation for the work that destiny holds for him Montreal.
He first came to Montreal in 2000, playing the Jazz Festival with Jordan. He eventually married and started a family here.
Today, the father of three is well rooted in the city and has since re-married and is sharing his life with another Montreal icon of music, Marcia Bailey, the renowned choir director, who is now the founder and director of Imani Choir.
The two met when they worked together on Imani’s recently released CD.
Now with his super talented wife at his side, Campbell says he’s more motivated to bring together the resources, people and talent that are harbored in Montreal and start building a movement.