Cool Jobs: Music Producer Warryn Campbell Talks Career, Mary Mary

Cool Jobs: Music Producer Warryn Campbell, Master of Hit-Making Contemporary Soul

Music Producer and My Block Records CEO, Warryn Campbell (Image: Campbell)

Warryn Campbell counts producer DJ Quik as one of his biggest early mentors and influencers. (Image: File)

Pro Mentorship: He learned more about how to produce from DJ Quik, who allowed him to learn on the job. “I would sit in the corner for months and months, just watching what he did. He had a drum machine that I had never seen before, and I [eventually] saved up and bought one. He saw my interest in learning, and one day came in with a briefcase with floppy disks and told me to go home, copy [the disks] and he will teach him ow to work the machine.”

After experimenting with those beats, he would soon form a sound that would become Mary Mary‘s smash “Shackles,” a single that catapulted the group to the top of the charts.

Juggling Two Music Worlds: With a faith-based background, yet producing for secular acts, Campbell faced criticism as well as a moment of self-doubt about being involved in both types of genres. But any doubts were shut down by his father. He discussed the issue of secular versus religious music with him and was given a bit of advice he took throughout the rest of his career: “He told me, ‘You are a musician. This is your occupation. If you want to do secular music, it’s your occupation. You can’t let your occupation run all over your salvation. Simply do it with integrity and standards.’ ”

Though the music industry can involve many elements that are not morally positive, Campbell says he found a way to stick to his spiritual roots and rise about those elements. “I recall being at Death Row Records and working on music. And mainly that’s what we were doing, and maybe Tupac or Snoop would come in later to put the lyrics down. [After the songs were finished,] I would hear what they’re saying on top of that music at the time and think ‘Oh my God, I can’t put my name on this,’ but once I became a more well-known producer, I could pick and choose what I thought upheld a certain standard.’

As for other aspects of the music industry including nightclub appearances and the party  life that’s associate with it, Campbell says he chooses to be an example of the values he grew up with. “It’s my job in those places, I will be the only one not doing the things other people are doing. One of my best friends was Heavy D, and I remember him saying something to me. We were in studio, and he said, ‘Hey, I notice you don’t curse or anything like that. You don’t do none of the stuff.’ I like to lead more by example.”

Advice for Up-and-Comers: Campbell urges rising producers and music professionals to be like sponges. “Get into a situation to not be seen, and not be heard for a while,” Campbell says. “That’s how you learn.” He says some young professionals come in already macho or ego driven, but should realize they don’t know it all. “The moment that you think you know everything, you’re too good to learn, your career is over,” he says. “I was willing to sit there and be alone and learn.”