Offstage with Russell Dickerson

I never meant for this to happen. I’m not usually this kind of girl, but it snuck up on me. I accidentally joined the ‘RD Fam’, which is how Russell Dickerson’s community of fans are known.

Sure, I’d previously sung along to the romantic Yours and head-bopped to Blue Tacoma (after googling what one was), but I was convinced that Russell Dickerson’s music was for a younger generation. I was surely more of a death by whiskey country music kind of woman.

Two things happened during Country Music Week to shake my preconceptions.

One was interviewing Russell in a graffiti-lined stairwell before his Bristol, UK show. The first thing he said to me was “you look ravishing”, but I don’t want you to think that’s entirely what swayed me. Being British I am preconditioned to root for an underdog, and it was here I found out that Yours, which became Russell’s first number one hit, was in fact an underdog song.

Yours was ‘the one’ song for me. I’d been writing songs for four years before that and they were cool and could’ve been hits, but when we wrote this one I felt ‘oh man’. I hadn’t had that feeling before so I put everything into that song. We’d released it independently at first and there were times when people on my team would say ‘but it’s been out for so long’. Then in 2017 I was on a radio tour and this was still the song I wanted to push.”

The radio exposure gave the rest of the world the chance to fall for the song Russell had so believed in. Even in the Bristol audience later that night there was a young couple, Kieran and Jasmine, whose wedding dance had been to Yours. Russell’s ‘little song that could’, written on January 24th 2014, finally reached number one on January 22nd 2018.

There was a much shorter wait for his second big hit, Blue Tacoma. It topped the chart just a fortnight before we met in October during UK Country Music Week and Russell still seemed gobsmacked speaking about it.

Having my first two number ones in the same year is just crazy. I’ve been so busy I still haven’t soaked it all in. I’m looking forward to relaxing and reflecting on the gravity of two number ones because that changes my career.”

He explained there’s an acceptance that’s come with this second success; it’s evidence he’s not just a one hit wonder. His phone has been dinging with congratulations from his peers like Thomas Rhett, FGL’s Tyler Hubbard and writing friend Ryan Hurd.

You have one [number one] and it’s ‘OK, good job’, but then two in a row is different. People in the industry have been texting to say ‘you’re in’ and that’s huge to me. It’s not just about getting that second number one, which is amazing, it’s about being welcomed as a guy in country music.”

Unlike Yours, Russell wasn’t expecting Blue Tacoma would be the song to take him back up the charts; he took the lead from his fans.

I was a little bit surprised that one was the song everyone gravitated toward. At shows, as soon as we’d start that song up people already knew it from Spotify or YouTube. Of course whatever song is connecting the most to the audience, that’s the one I want to go on radio so seeing the reaction to Blue Tacoma we thought, dang, well there’s our second single.”

The U.K. fans clearly felt the same connection to that song. An hour later, I’m in a mass of Bristolian concert-goers singing along with every word, despite most having never seen a Tacoma – blue or otherwise. It was this, his live show, which really initiated me into the RD Fam.

Russell is parading on the edge of the stage with microphone raised high in the air; a Freddy Mercury level strut and playing the crowd like a conductor. Those who’d come mainly to hear classics from the night’s headliner Darius Rucker and who started the set with arms folded have thawed. Like me they are bouncing along with the throng; snapping their fingers (or ‘clicking’ for you and me) as Russell has requested.

His showmanship is relentless. When he picks up a guitar it’s to play it raised high with his now signature dramatic stances. He’s joked that the poses are just to avoid double chin gig photos, but actually he hardly stops moving onstage.

If I had a show, Russell’s the one I’d want to open for me. By the time his set finishes (after his impromptu line dancing, flossing and an extended crowd-initiated sing-along to That’s My Girl) we are thoroughly warmed up. This might be why so many high-octane acts have brought Russell on the road with them. He spent this summer as part of Lady Antebellum and Darius Rucker’s Summer Plays On tour.

Lady A’s shows are obviously amazing, hits after hits. They’ve been doing this for so long so there’s loads for me to learn about how to treat people and how to line up songs and do a show.”

The megastars also gave him a Rolex as an end of tour gift but Russell tells me it’s more than a posh watch and stage tips he’s picked up. He’s been observing for his future.

Hillary [Scott] would bring her three kids on the road with a nanny. My wife and I’ve been married for five years and we’re almost getting to that place and thinking of maybe having kids sometime soon. So it’s been really cool to see behind the scenes; things like when and how often to bring kids out and just how to have a family while you’re on the road.”

Kids may be on the horizon, but for now Russell seems to genuinely value his #RDFam, of which I am a new but a card-carrying member. And from the social media buzz, he made a great impression on more Brits than just me. Let us know what you thought of Russell Dickerson’s recent UK shows, below or on our socials [@britsinboots].

CJ

P.S. Keep an eye on our Instagram for Tennessee born Russell D teaching us to speak Southern!

Leave a Reply