Singer Tevin Campbell has to finish Catcher in the Rye for a test. ”Have you read it?” asks the lanky 15-year-old. ”It’s crazy.” Holden Caulfield might say the same about Campbell’s own coming-of-age, highlighted by ”Round and Round,” his hit track on Prince’s Graffiti Bridge, and by his warmly received R&B debut, T.E.V.I.N. Featuring the smooth ballad ”Tell Me What You Want Me to Do” — a Top 40 hit — Campbell’s career opener is homework of the highest order.
Raised singing gospel in Waxahachie, Tex., Campbell got his break in 1988, when a friend of his mother’s insisted he sing over the phone to jazz artist Bobbi Humphrey. Humphrey flew him to New York to record a demo tape, and Campbell eventually signed with Quincy Jones’ label, Qwest.
Now in Encino, Calif., Campbell juggles singing with his studies at a private school. He’s gotten some counsel from former child star Michael Jackson: ”Everybody in show biz says, ‘Stay levelheaded, work hard, be careful,”’ Campbell says. ”But coming from him, I kind of listened.”