Rhythm and Roots: A Conversation with Libby DeCamp

“It’s easy to be a fanatic when you’re a weird little kid latching onto an interest,” muses Detroit area singer/songwriter Libby DeCamp. 

That weird little kid that DeCamp is referring to is, of course, herself. It was obvious to DeCamp from an early age that she was different from her peers. 

“As an adolescent, I could feel these stormy forces of feeling trapped in a rural area and trapped in different ideologies,” she recounts. 

These days, when a musician describes feeling trapped or otherwise alienated from their peers, the story usually includes the discovery of punk, heavy metal or some kind of music that would upset their parents. While DeCamp does recall moments slinking through the hallways of Almont High School with Rage Against The Machine in her ears, heavy metal wasn’t where she found her rebellion. For her, it was string band music, and she started listening to it in 6th grade.

“The band that outlined a lot of interests that I had was Old Crow Medicine Show. They had a Dylan-esque sense of protest in their music. My notebooks and folders were covered with either pictures of them or lyrics of songs,” DeCamp said.

“Something struck deep with me with them because they were rebels in a sense, but it was so rural. They opened my eyes to connecting those worlds,”  she reflects.  

The rural sound of Old Crow Medicine Show resonated with DeCamp partly because she grew up in a small village north of Romeo called Almont.

“There has already been a huge connection between, you know, freedom seeking/freedom fighting in rural spaces. So they kind of cracked the nut of research open for me on that stuff too far as rural protest music goes and finding people that were talking about religious equality on the country music channel,” she said.

All this inspired DeCamp to pick up an instrument. Growing up, there was a guitar around her family’s house that belonged to DeCamp’s mother. “I knew my mom had a guitar somewhere and I asked for her to bring it out so I could start figuring stuff out on it,” she said. From there, DeCamp explored the foundations of her favorite songs.

“I just started by learning basic chords and seeing how many songs that I already loved fit those same chords,” she recalled.

DeCamp, known for guitar and banjo playing, didn’t plan to buy those instruments when she started her music journey.

“Actually, mountain dulcimer was the first instrument I bought on my own. I’d never heard one before. It was just such an ethereal sound I hadn’t heard before and it looked fun to play. So that was kind of my parlor instrument,” she said.

These days, DeCamp is operating everything independently. 

RELATED: Sonic Lunch Returns for Another Standout Season

“I don’t have a team to put me in places and tell me where to go, so I just pick up the slack myself so I can make it happen,” she said. 

The result is sometimes a solo tour that DeCamp booked herself. 

“I’ve found those kinds of journeys to be empowering in the end and healing as a way to just spend time with yourself and spend time with the world without being too shielded or guarded from it. It’s a very freeing thing to go out on some songs and then figure everything else out on your own. I guess it’s my way of staying mobile in the flux and playing music for people,” she said. 

Catch Libby DeCamp at The Trinity House Theatre in Livonia on June 28.

+ posts

Recent Articles