At 12, he discovered he was Jimmy Barnes’ son but his tastes swing towards Bobby Darin, who he is now playing on stage.

My story is very much like Bobby Darin’s story because I grew up with my grandmother, thinking she was my mother. Early on I adopted her taste in music. Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole were huge in my house, and Streisand. She also liked Matt Monro and smatterings of swing music. I used to like watching

Solid Gold and Countdown like most of the other kids. But my alternative music thing was almost retro, listening to these beautiful crooners, so that’s where I got my first interest in that kind of music.

We also watched all the MGM Musicals and Bill Collins on a Saturday night. I went through a real phase of loving Singin’ in the Rain, but also There’s No Business Like Show Business. For someone from Adelaide, who didn’t even know my own showbiz history at the time, it was quite ironic looking back on it, but I really liked big, brassy, showbizzy stories, which became a gateway to musicals. I only really got into classical music in the ‘90s when I listened to Leonard Bernstein conducting, and again that was through theatre.

I really liked big, brassy, showbizzy stories, which became a gateway to musicals

I knew for a while that Jimmy Barnes was a ‘friend’ of the family. I remember him coming and giving me the first Cold Chisel album, but because I was so ensconced in my grandmother’s music at the time I didn’t really get into it. By the time I met my Dad officially, which was The Last Stand tour in 1983, all those hits of theirs had come out and I’d had my eyes opened. He then introduced me to an entirely different world of music because he liked Tina Turner and Ray Charles, so all of a sudden I was going down another pathway, not necessarily with his music but certainly with his taste.

I began performing cabaret because I couldn’t get a job as an actor and I really wanted to do musicals. It was very rudimentary, not nearly as sophisticated as many of the kids you see today. But all of a sudden something that was supposed to be just a side project to get me a job became my actual job: doing cabaret. That’s how I went to New York in the 1990s and fell in love with swing music. I discovered Bobby Darin and Sammy Davis Jnr and realised that swing music didn’t have to be like my grandmother’s, that it could be manly. And I discovered Peter Allen. All of this different music kept coming up that was circling parts of my grandmother’s record collection but landing in different grooves. 

My personal musical taste is really broad. If I want to relax I’ll put on something with no vocals like Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue or his version of My Funny Valentine. Chet Baker is big in my record collection and has been for a long time. He was a real hero of mine. So if I really want to relax it would have to be that beautiful, almost pristine jazz.

I was a huge fan of Bobby Darin long before I was asked to play him in Dream Lover. I recorded many of his songs on my Swing Sessions albums. Even on my Broadway album I do his version of Hello Dolly!. And I was doing Bobby Darin medleys in New York in 2002. So I’ve had Bobby in my life for a long time. I’ve worked hard to get his style, inflection and tone, because he did so many different things. He was a rock ‘n’ roller and a pop star, then a swing star, then he went into folk music. I probably get my love for such an eclectic range of music from listening to people like Bobby.


The Music I Couldn’t Live Without

Miles Davis: Kind of Blue
Columbia Records NOT2CD335
I think Sinatra’s Live at the Sands is a perfect live album and I have always loved Darin at the Copa. But if I had to pick one, I’d probably say Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, which I’ve had in my collection since my mid ‘20s. That is a beautiful album. It’s not really a vocal album but it’s iconic. I find it really relaxing and really therapeutic.

David Campbell stars in the new Australian musical Dream Lover at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre until November 13

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