THE ANNUAL SPRING HO music festival was recently held in Lampasas, Texas, an outpost of 6,786 souls between San Antonio and Austin. On a scorching Friday evening an aspiring pop tart named Amy Lepard performed on a tiny outdoor stage in the dirt parking lot of the Roadhouse, a barbecue joint off Highway 281. About 60 fans turned out for the show, and easily a third of them were family, including Lepard's mom and grandparents, an aunt and uncle from Big Springs, cousins from Terrell and a dozen in-laws who are native Lampasans. The whole thing couldn't have felt more small-time but for the conspicuous presence of the pros on Lepard's payroll.
This is an article from the Sept. 8, 2005 issue
Obsessively tinkering with the knobs on the sound board was her manager-producer, Doc Holiday, who had just flown in from New York City, where he is working with P. Diddy on their MTV reality show, Making the Band 3. That's only part of Holiday's solid-gold résumé, which includes stints as vocal coach to Britney Spears, 'N Sync, the Backstreet Boys and En Vogue. Holiday was conspicuous at the Roadhouse as the only dude with shoulder-length dreadlocks. Lepard's two-man team of publicists was also in from Dallas, each sporting the classic music-biz hairdo--graying shoulder-length locks swept back from a receding hairline.
With so many people turning out to support Lepard, one intimate loomed particularly large by his absence--her husband, Chad Campbell, the PGA Tour player who has written all the checks to launch his wife's career. The morning after the Lampasas gig, Chad and Amy were leaving for the British Open from their home in Lewisville, a suburb of Dallas, 200 miles away. So instead of making the long drive to cheer on his wife, Chad puttered around Big D, hitting balls, visiting the eye doctor, filling prescriptions, shopping for toiletries and fretting about how late that night Amy would blow in and begin her packing for St. Andrews.
"He wanted to come, but I talked him out of it," Amy said. "It was much more important for him to be at home concentrating on what he needs to do. Anyway, you know Chad. He doesn't like to be out of his element. If he had come, it would have been like I had to babysit him."
Chad, 31, missed a show that demonstrated both his wife's star quality and just how far she still has to go. Amy, 27, has a sexy, smoky voice and a bubbly stage presence, and her other marketable assets were on display thanks to the plunging neckline of her sequined black top. But the Roadhouse is not exactly Madison Square Garden. Three songs in, the stage went black. The band kept playing, and to kill time the drummer--Amy's brother, Bryan--launched into a solo that would have made John Bonham proud. Taking this in, Holiday merely sighed. "The show must go on, and it is," he said.
The lights eventually came back on, but as Amy's performance progressed, the strength drained from her voice and it became increasingly thin and fatigued. When the 45-minute set ended, Holiday said, "She couldn't sing another song. She's done. But she survived, and she learned a few things, and that's the key right now."
The Spring Ho festival--and, yes, there is a Miss Spring Ho--is the music business's version of golf's mini-tours, and Amy is paying her dues in much the same way as Chad spent four seasons on the Hooters tour long before his breakthrough year on the PGA Tour in 2003, when he finished second at the PGA Championship and won the Tour Championship, finishing seventh on the money list ($3,912,064). In the wake of that success Amy quit her job as a full-time grade-school teacher to record a CD that she describes as "pop-soul, because R&B-country is too confusing for people." In May '05 On My Own was released by Lepard Skin Productions, the company Chad has funded, and the disc is presently available at Amazon.com and select record stores around Texas. Though the arena is different from his own, Chad is familiar with the struggle to slowly, incrementally build a career.
"I don't know the first thing about music, but I know what she's doing is not easy," he says. "She doesn't just show up and start singing--it takes a lot of dedication and a lot of preparation. It's like I don't just get out of bed on Thursday and show up at a tournament."
It's nice that Chad can empathize with the struggle because, beyond chasing their individual dreams, "the only thing we have in common is our dogs," says Amy. Chad doesn't disagree. Asked for his take on their connection, he says, "I have no explanation."
Opposites may attract, but Chad and Amy's personalities are so different and their lives are going in such disparate directions that they have become one of the most-gossiped-about couples on Tour. In a sport of introverts Chad stands out as one of the shiest and quietest. Amy is a sassy, saucy motormouth with an R-rated sense of humor and a fierce independent streak. The level of conformity on the Tour rivals that of Stepford, Conn. It is unusual enough for Amy to have kept her maiden name. And it is downright scandalous that Amy often skips her hubby's tournaments to attend to her career obligations, sometimes working with Holiday in L.A., where she keeps an apartment.
"I know they talk about us," Amy says of the other players and their wives. "I have had a number of the women tell me, 'Well, if I packed up and went to L.A. to record a CD, my husband would kill me.'"
It is not only in golf circles that Chad and Amy's marriage raises eyebrows. Amy's mother, Karla, says, "I worry about them all the time. What they have is so unusual." She regularly cuts out relationship advice from glossy magazines and mails the clippings to her daughter and son-in-law.
With the first single from Amy's CD having been scheduled for release on Aug. 1, the pressures on the marriage only figure to increase as her promotional and touring duties accelerate. Asked if he is prepared to further share Amy's time and attention, Chad says, "Obviously it will be difficult. It's been very difficult so far."
The turbulence may already be affecting his golf. Fellow Ryder Cupper Stewart Cink describes Chad as a "caveman golfer"--and that's a compliment. "See ball, hit," is Cink's scouting report, a nod to how Chad has taken a complicated game and reduced it to something enviably simple. Chad has no swing coach, no sports psychologist and no personal trainer. Since the end of last year he also has not had an equipment-endorsement contract, which is unheard of for a top talent. Campbell says he is simply trying to find the best fit, and so far this year he has put in play three sets of irons and four drivers, "and I've tried out a lot more than that on the range," he says, with some exasperation.
The uncertainty with his sticks has contributed to five missed cuts in 19 tournaments and 11 rounds of 75 or worse. (In 2003 he had only seven such rounds for the entire season.) Typical of Chad's up-and-down play this year was his showing at the Honda Classic in March. He opened with a 64 in brutal conditions to take a two-stroke lead, but then he blew up on Saturday with an 80 that doomed him to 52nd place. After finishing third in Milwaukee two weeks ago, he is up to 28th on the money list, with $1.43 million, but more than a third of that was earned in February at the Nissan Open, the screwy, weather-ravaged, 36-hole tournament in which Chad didn't hit a shot from Friday afternoon until Monday morning, when he lost a playoff to Adam Scott.
"It's been a weird year," says Chad. "I feel as if I've played well, but I haven't gotten anything out of it. There's been a lot of weird bounces, a lot of bad luck. I've worked harder than I ever have--maybe that's the problem."
It couldn't have helped that the bills for Amy's career were arriving at a furious pace. In addition to the substantial outlay to record the CD, her weekly expenses include the salaries and travel tab for her four-person band, rented rehearsal space, three publicists and Holiday's hefty fees. "Chad has already spent more than half a million dollars on Amy's career," says Holiday, "and the bills just keep coming." Asked if the heavy financial load is affecting Chad's on-course performance, Amy says, "I'm sure he feels more pressure--how could he not?"
Chad declines to discuss specific numbers, but he says of the expense of Amy's career, "It's quite a bit, put it that way. I try not to pay attention to the money aspect. Obviously it's a big deal. I've worked hard to have what I have. But it's a nice feeling to allow someone to pursue their dream."
So how are Chad and Amy making it work, with the myriad pressures they face? The name of Amy's first single--Love Is a Compromise--may provide a clue.
My kingdom has been built for a queen he said to me
And I saw myself at the top of the highest castle I could see
At first it seemed so perfect, at least that's what my friends told me
Be happy you've got everything a girl could need
But all I need is
Love and affection, a little attention in my life....
--FROM THE SINGLE ON MY OWN
Chad and Amy's story began in Andrews, Texas, a dusty oil town of 10,182 in West Texas. Amy's family lived across the street from Andrews County Golf Course, which was Chad's home away from home. "I always knew of him," she says. "He was Mr. Big Shot Golfer."
Her father, Dickie, coached Chad on the ninth-grade basketball team at Andrews High. (Chad's self-assessment? "Slow, couldn't jump, halfway decent shooter.") Amy went to all the games but remembers only that Chad was "really skinny with huge feet." When Chad was a senior, in 1992, he had Dickie as an instructor in Government.
It wasn't until Christmas break four years later that Chad and Amy began to hang out a little. She was a senior in high school, he a standout senior at UNLV. In the years that followed they sporadically kept in touch, but there was no romantic spark. Just before Christmas in 1999, after Amy had graduated from Texas Tech, they had their first date, and after one more, Amy phoned Chad and said, "Hey, you got any plans for New Year's? Good, because I bought a ticket to Dallas. I'm coming up to see you." They've been a couple ever since, she says.
Chad and Amy's courtship was mainly long-distance, as he traveled the mini-tours and she taught elementary school in Andrews and then in nearby Odessa and in Flower Mound, a suburb of Dallas. Amy would go on the road with Chad during her vacations and often provided a spark that might otherwise have been lacking. Says Amy, "Whenever we got in a fight or he went to the course really mad at me, he would go out and win."
It was tragedy that finally helped cement Chad and Amy's future. Dickie waged a long battle against cancer, and during his final weeks, in the spring of 2002, Chad never left Amy's side. "That brought them so close together, and it was when their relationship got really serious," says Karla.
Within seven months of Dickie's death Chad and Amy were married. Over the next two years she moved in and out of various teaching jobs but also spend a lot of time on Tour with Chad. From the beginning Amy made little effort to fit in with her fellow Tour wives. "I don't see any of the other gals walking around out there holding a beer," she says. "But honestly, how are you supposed to get through five hours of golf without it?"
Amy often jokes about having attention deficit disorder, and she radiates the kinetic energy of a hummingbird. Before their year of traveling together was over, "it was obvious that it would be tough on both of us if she was out there full time," Chad says.
Adds Amy, "If I was a regular see-you-at-five-o'clock-hon girl, one of us would be dead."
So being a full-time Tour wife was not going to work. The question then became, What would Amy do next?
I'm unleashed, I'm walkin' out that door
I'm at peace, I ain't coming back no more
I'm unleashed, I ain't turnin' around no more
Now I've finally found my way
--FROM THE SINGLE UNLEASHED
If you're the prettiest girl in Andrews, Texas, perhaps it is inevitable to dream about Tinseltown. As the 2003 Tour schedule droned on, Amy decided to become a movie star. She began attending auditions in L.A. She landed bit parts in a couple of soap operas but quickly soured on the life of the wannabe actress. Chasing a singing career seemed like a logical next step, at least to her.
Music had been a big part of Amy's upbringing. When she was growing up, the Lepard house was alive with gospel and bluegrass, Elvis and the Beatles. "We listened to Merle and Willie every single day--seriously," says Bryan. Dickie had set up a room in the house for the family to jam. He would play guitar, Bryan was on drums, and Karla worked the piano and accompanied Amy's singing.
Says Karla, "When Dickie was really sick, Amy used to drive home from college, and they would stay up till three or four in the morning singing together. It was so beautiful to hear and so heartbreaking. Having a music career was always her daddy's dream, but he never had the opportunity. After he died, I think Amy had a strong desire to do something to honor him."
So in August 2004 she jumped into her car and drove by herself from Dallas to Los Angeles to record her CD. Asked his reaction when Amy announced her plans, Chad says, "She doesn't even announce things, she just does them. Eventually she'll tell me or I'll find out somehow. I don't really have a choice."
Aspiring musicians arrive by the busload every day in L.A., and the typical trajectory is to wait tables and try to scrounge together a two- or three-song demo tape, often recorded in someone's garage. Thanks to Chad's largesse, Amy spent three months in a state-of-the-art studio working with a small army of producers and songwriters. The result was On My Own, 10 slick, soulful songs bursting with romantic longing and declarations of independence. Amy has two songwriting credits on the album, but of the other tunes she says, "I didn't write them, but I very easily could have and should have. They're definitely about me. I got with the producers and songwriters and they asked me, 'So what do you want to sing?' I told them what I was feeling and what was on my mind."
Chad shrugs off the messages in the songs with typical detachment. "When I listen to music, I don't pay attention to the lyrics," he says. "Whatever she wants to sing about is fine with me."
Once the CD was finished, Amy had no clue how to proceed. Bryan wound up acting as her manager, with his wife, Molly, doing all the publicity and trying to line up shows. Not surprisingly, On My Own went nowhere.
In March, Amy's career path began to change. She was in a hotel room at the Bay Hill Invitational--Chad was the defending champ--when she spotted Holiday on an episode of MTV's Making the Band. He was a friend of a friend, and Amy got the inspiration to call and ask him for guidance. Doc reluctantly agreed to meet with her in L.A. on April Fools' Day. He was blown away by what he calls "the raw quality of her voice. She had zero technique, but there was so much natural talent there. She had such a drive, such an energy, I knew I had to work with her."
He also liked her gold Gucci shoes, which he took as a sign that she wasn't the rube he was expecting. Holiday's first impression of Bryan was a little different. Attending his first band practice, in Dallas, he was riveted by the sight of Bryan with a fat pinch of chaw tucked behind his lower lip, spitting viscous brown goo into a dip cup. "Man, if that's not country, I don't know what is," Holiday says.
I won't take no more
I only get one shot at life, better treat me right
Or I'll walk out that door
And I ain't comin' back I don't care what it costs me
I'll be on my way
With my head up high for a brand new day....
--ON MY OWN
It's not a linear journey from Tour wife to pop star, which is how Amy went from Lampasas to St. Andrews to Minneapolis during a crazy two-week stretch that ended on July 22. She was in Minneapolis to perform a four-song showcase at the annual music-industry gathering known as the Conclave, which attracts a crowd heavy on radio-station programming directors and record-label executives. These are the people who will more or less decide Amy's future, and in advance of the Conclave, Holiday said, "It's crucial, man. It can make her or break her."
Staying in a musty B&B in St. Andrews 4,000 miles from your band is not the ideal preparation for a career-defining performance, but Amy felt it was important to travel to the British Open to stand by her man. "I want Chad to know I support him no matter what," Amy says. "He's the reason why I have the chance to do all of this."
Chad's money or his patience is going to run out eventually, which is why the Conclave was so important. "They have done a great job getting the album this far, all things considered," says Dan Kieley, a consultant recently brought on board to help push Amy's first single. "Now the goal is to get her noticed by a major label that could re-cut and improve the album or send her back to the studio to do something bigger and better."
Amy certainly improved her chances with her performance in Minneapolis. The venue was packed with suits from such major labels as Capitol Records, Columbia, EMI, RCA, Reprise, Sony, Virgin and Warner Bros. Amy performed four tight songs with the band, then brought the house down with a rendition of Billie Holiday's Good Morning, Heartache, on which she was backed only by a piano. Even a perfectionist like Holiday was impressed. "It was a home run," he says.
To capitalize on the momentum, Kieley and his partner, Garry Leigh, drove 3,000 miles across the Midwest, stopping at radio stations to drop off Amy's CD and glad-hand station programming directors. Next week Chad and Amy will be in New Jersey for the PGA Championship at Baltusrol, and Kieley is scheming to get Amy into Manhattan to press flesh with various record executives. "It feels as if things are about to pop for her," he says.
Chad, meanwhile, enjoyed his best putting week of the year in Milwaukee, and Baltusrol is a long, hard, traditional course that favors his brand of macho ball striking. It's like Oak Hill, the site of the 2003 PGA Championship at which he battled Shaun Micheel down to the final hole. Listening to Chad enthuse about Oak Hill recently, Amy asked, "Which one is that?"
"Where the PGA was."
"The PGA where I finished second."
"Oh, yeah, that one."
After an awkward pause, Amy said, "I'm not that into the details of Chad's career, just like he's pretty clueless about my music. Maybe that's the secret to marriage--let the other person do their own thing and hope they're happy."
On My Own and Love is a Compromise written by 3:am music;
Unleashed by Jordan Omley, Nick Turpin and Coffey Anderson