Every year, WhatsUpNewp interviews Newport Folk and Jazz Festival artists who are playing Fort Adams for the first time. Our first chat this year was with Andrea von Kampen, a Lincoln, Nebraska-based singer-songwriter who will be playing the Folk Festival’s “Folk On” event Monday, July 26th.

“How does it feel?” we wondered.

“It feels very surreal, I’ve never even been to Rhode Island … I’m very excited,” von Kampen responded enthusiastically.

Von Kampen received national attention in 2016 with her entry in NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, where she landed in the Top 10 with her song “Let Me Down Easy.” Although she’s never been to Newport, she’s quite familiar with the legendary gathering held here.

“For my last year of college, I did a project all about the folk revival in the 60’s and I read a ton of books that talked about Newport being a really important place for that movement. I’ve been aware of it for five or six years. It’s an incredible festival.”

In addition to her original songwriting, von Kampen has recorded some remarkable covers of songs from artists including the Carter Family, the Beach Boys, and of course, Bob Dylan.

“I definitely think about Bob Dylan going electric, one of those iconic moments. I’ve been a big Dylan fan for a while. Newport is a place where songwriters evolve and change,” she added.

Indeed, the Newport Folk Festival has always served as an incubator for emerging artists, a practice organizers cultivate at the Festival. Von Kampen is certainly one of the freshest artists playing this summer. She has an incredible voice and is a formidable songwriter. She gave us some insight into her approach to songwriting.

“I try to approach songwriting like more of a practice,” von Kampen explained, “like the way you would work out in a gym – if you’re not lifting weights every day, your muscles are not going to be as strong, and that’s how I feel about songwriting. I try to work at it constantly.”

“When I’m working on a project, I try to devote one to two hours a day, where I sit down and start to write. When I’m not in those big intense writing moments, I’m reading a lot, watching a lot of things, constantly taking notes. I’m seeing things that inspire me and writing it down.”

Lincoln, Nebraska is not exactly recognized as a songwriting hub, but von Kampen finds it a perfect spot to work her craft.

“I think the thing that helps the most, coming from Nebraska, is the space that it provides, and not just literally but sort of metaphorically. There’s not a lot of noise going on here, there’s not a lot of artistic competition, I’m not in writing rooms every week or meeting up for coffee to talk about songwriting. It’s kind of sparse on that front,” she explained. “I feel that Nebraska provides that quietness to really get the work done.”  

Von Kampen is looking forward to releasing That Spell, a new album, being officially released on August 6th, right after the Festivals. She described how it came together during the pandemic.

“It was written over the course of two or three months, and during the pandemic, I was able to get into the studio frequently. The album is a reflection on all the change that was going on over the last couple of years. It’s a pretty broadly themed album.”

The release includes covers and originals including a stunning version of The Beach Boys “Don’t Cry, (Put Your Head on My Shoulder).” “I love The Beach Boys,” remarked von Kampen.

At press time, Von Kampen wasn’t certain where and when she’d be playing, but look for her at a pop-up stage, or perhaps busking around the Festival. Wherever she lands, she can’t wait to play Newport.

“I’m really excited to just take it all in and see as many people as I can!”

Click here for more on Andrea von Kampen.

Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music and more for What'sUpNewp, Providence Monthly, SO RI, and The Bay. He DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse" Tuesday nights, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM.