David and Lisa Campbell grant Stellar a rare insight into their family life and sit down for a candid chat about raising three kids, the lingering demons from David’s childhood – and why there’s no shame in being a “Christmas tragic”
When David Campbell decided to make a Christmas album, it wasn’t comparisons with Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole or even Michael Bublé that he feared.
Rather, it was how would he measure up to the Tin Lids – the ’90s group formed by a few of his father Jimmy Barnes’s other children – and Hey Rudolph!, their enduring Christmas compilation. As Campbell points out, even his own three kids sing along to the Barnes brood’s version of ‘Jingle Bells’.
“It’s a big deal doing a Christmas album in my family because I have to compete with Hey Rudolph! – which is the greatest Christmas album of all time,” Campbell says with a laugh. “Sorry, Michael Bublé, but it’s true. If I could come in at least third…”
Campbell needn’t worry. His new set of yuletide classics also features a catchy new title track (‘Baby It’s Christmas’) written for him by Rick Price, and the result is joyous and assured – two requirements of any album aiming to become a playlist favourite during the festive season.
An artist’s work often reflects where they are in life and while this new album outs Campbell as a selfconfessed “Christmas tragic”, it also marks a newfound contentment and resolve. “I’ve wanted to do a Christmas album for a while and everything came together,” he says. “I spent some Christmases in New York watching ice skaters and buying warm chestnuts, so this has all the elements of a traditional Christmas but with hot overtones – like a Beach Boys song.”
After years of unrest, the 45-year-old is at the top of his game, hosting the Nine Network’s Today Extra alongside Sonia Kruger, performing in award-winning roles in theatre and cabaret, hosting Carols By Candlelight, penning a popular Stellar column and, of course, being a husband and father. More than that, he has a sense of acceptance with his complicated upbringing, only recently made possible by his father’s own reckoning with the past. In confronting his demons, the Cold Chisel rocker seems in part to have released his son from the enduring ache of confused identity and growing up with an absent father. Indeed, as Campbell plays with his children, Leo, eight, and twins Billy and Betty, three, at Stellar’s photo shoot – their first as a family – it’s hard to fathom that he had no role model for how to be a father. As the trio take turns jumping over a skipping rope, finally falling in a pile on top of their dad, Campbell’s easy warmth with and clear love for them prove he has, as Barnes has written, “broken the cycle that his family had been trapped in for generations”. Pivotal to that transformation is the woman watching her family frolic: his wife Lisa, 38, who Campbell describes as “incredible”. There’s no question the Campbells are an animated clan. A passion for performing courses through the gene pool, and combined with David’s self-confessed “bogan” heritage and Lisa’s faultless British manners, it has produced characterful kids as courteous as they are curious. Betty is mesmerised by Stellar’s make-up artist and confidently asks if she, too, might have a little lipstick while even weeks later, Billy is still inquiring how he might procure the lederhosen he wore for our shoot. (His dad had already coughed up for the knitted crowns and gold velvet wings.) Leo, meanwhile, throws open the front door of the family’s home before enthusiastically settling down to watch Steve Irwin videos while his siblings sleep and his mother and father chat to Stellar.