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Hotstar


12:00 AM Monday, 5/17/04 |   |

When Christian rock artist Jeremy Camp left his Indiana home in 1996 to go to Bible college in Southern California, he had no idea he would be spreading his ministry from a concert stage instead of a pulpit.

The 26-year-old singer/songwriter exploded on the Christian music scene with his BEC Recordings debut, Stay, in 2002, followed by his February release, Carried Me. At press time, both albums were listed on the Top Christian Albums chart and Camp earned Dove Awards for best new artist and male vocalist of the year.

He said it wasn't until two years into his studies that music became the catalyst for a career he hadn't previously thought about.

"I didn't have a clue what was really going to happen. I didn't have any friends out there," Camp told Pollstar. "While I was there, I started playing music in front of the students and [during] some worship times. From there, the doors started opening for me to play different churches in different areas of Southern California.

"I knew God wanted me to be in ministry, no matter what, even if it wasn't through music. Basically, the doors kept opening for music."

It was during that time that Camp met wife-to-be Melissa, the woman who would influence his life and music in more ways than one.

"When I first met Melissa, her mindset was to tell people how amazing God was and her life reflected that. Even when she'd have bad days, she'd still ... encourage people, and that's what drew me to her," he said. "To make a long story short, I knew she was the one for me."

The two got married after Melissa was diagnosed with cancer in 2001. Camp said it wasn't long before the illness took its toll.

"The honeymoon was awesome, but that's when the doctors told us that she had weeks to months to live. She would go to different cancer wards and different places and share, encourage people," he said. "Until the day she died, she kept that attitude. No matter what I'm feeling, no matter what harshness I'm going through ... there's hope."

Camp poured his feelings about Melissa's tragic death into his music.

"Listen to my CD because that's where my heart is. I put a lot of heart into Carried Me and feel people will relate to it, no matter if you like Christian music or not. [The music] is reaching a vast majority of people, and it just blows me away."

Matt Balm of Flat-Out Entertainment said he met Camp a few years ago during Gospel Music Week in Nashville. He was immediately impressed, personally and professionally, by the young singer.

"As an artist, there was this real ... integrity in believing in what he did, which was refreshing for me to see," Balm told Pollstar. "You can very easily get jaded by the industry. I've watched a lot of artists go that route. And here's this new guy that just went through a devastating life experience and he's the most encouraging, positive, uplifting guy."

Camp said Balm was referred to him by Brandon Ebel at BEC when the singer was looking for management.

"I was new in the industry. I didn't know what to do. When I first met him, it was just weird because we kind of clicked personality-wise," Camp said. "We both had the same heart for the music and the same attitude toward what we were doing, which was to help people out through music."

Balm, who had been road managing for quite a while, said meeting Camp couldn't have come at a better time.

"I was with the Supertones and we were doing a showcase the same day. Then we ended up the next day passing on the elevator and [Camp's] like, 'It's so crazy. I really need a manager,'" Balm said. "At that time, I was getting ready to start my own thing and stay home, kind of get settled. We ended up hooking up the following weekend."

While touring about 200 dates a year with various artists, Camp found love a second time with Adrienne Liesching, former vocalist for South Africa's The Benjamin Gate, while sharing the bill on last year's Festival Con Dios tour.

Liesching joined Camp on the road after the two were married last December, and they are expecting a baby in October.

"When you look back two years ago to where he was in life to where he is now, it's an amazing testimony. Here's a guy who's not bitter at life or mad at anybody," Balm said. "At this stage of the game, nothing surprises me at all as far as his career goes."

There won't be much slowing down for the singer/songwriter. Summer festivals and one-offs are already set, as well as a fall tour from August 12th through September 12th and October 21st through November 21st. Somewhere in between, Camp will finish his next album, Restored, tentatively set for a fall release.

And he isn't taking his fans or his good fortune for granted.

"When I look back at what's happened to me in life and the hardship and the difficult times and pain, I see what God has done," Camp said. "It's exciting to see what's going to happen in the future because there's a lot of neat things in store. And I'm ready to run with it."


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