From singing competitions through rising streams on acoustic performances, to releasing the beautifully intimate new single Let’s Be Friends – songwriter and artist Russ D talks creativity, inspiration, social media and plenty more. Here’s our interview in full.
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Hi Russ – grateful for the chat, what a beautiful new single. For those who don’t know, how would you describe your approach to making music?
For me I’m always thinking musically – everything gets turned into a lyric, much to the irritation of my friends and family sometimes, but I think it’s a good mental exercise. A lot of the time I will sing something and think, man I bet I can turn that into a song. Most of my tracks are born this way.
Where did the song Let’s Be Friends come from, and what do you hope people take away from it?
This song started with the line ‘let’s be friends that hold hands’. I just sang that line over and over in my head and thought there is a story here. The takeaway I think will be different for different people. For me, I think everyone at some point has had someone walk in the room and steal their focus from everything else around them. This song plays off of those emotions and the imagination running a little wild during their conversation.
“Everyone at some point has had someone walk in the room & steal their focus from everything else around them. This song plays off of those emotions.”
Is the solo acoustic sound typical of what you produce and release, and your live shows?
Yes, I enjoy the intimacy of performing for people, just me and the guitar – it allows you to connect in a way that feels more open and vulnerable.
You share a lot of live clips on social media – what would you say is the main difference for you as an artist, between performing a song raw and unedited, to releasing the studio version?
For me the difference would be emotion and connection over perfection. I really like the response and the pulse of a crowd. They help draw the emotion and you feed off each other’s energy which for me, makes for memorable performances. The studio is about precision and perfection and making sure you deliver something worth being set to repeat.
Do you notice a stronger reception from fans to one format or the other, and if so – does that impact the way you write and deliver?
I tend to notice a stronger reception from the live sets just because it’s that immediate satisfaction and feedback that you don’t get out of a recording that may take a while to gain traction, with a crowd you will know if the song landed well or not.
During the writing process there is the thought when working through a song that this song will be better live vs a really good recorded track, but you rarely know which it will be until it’s a completed piece.
Tell us about the singing competitions you’ve entered – is there a different mindset when singing to win, than purely singing something for the emotion of it?
There is a whole mindset or “science” to competitive singing. Song selection is everything, if it’s too fast or too slow or doesn’t push your range or the judge’s perception of your range then you are going to have a bad time.
Huge congratulations for making it through 1500+ contestants to the top 20 at UpLives World Stage. What was that journey like, and did it alter your confidence or understanding of the industry, or of what does or doesn’t work in a live setting?
The competition and the feedback helped me reaffirm I was on the right path. Our judges were comprised of Grammy winning and nominated producers, record label heads, Paula Abdul, and Bryan Abrams from Color Me Badd. To get positive feedback and encouragement from people who know the industry boosted my self-confidence a lot.
Song selection is everything and you have to take care of your voice. The experience also taught me how to control my emotions and just take a deep breath and block everything out but the music. In a setting like that if you don’t have this skill, you set is going to be rocky at best.
The biggest takeaways were the feedback and mentoring segments of the contest – getting invaluable insight from professionals in the heart of the industry helped me refine my approach to songs and made me a better performer over all. I am looking forward to next year’s contest and locking down that win.
“The experience taught me how to control my emotions & just take a deep breath & block everything out but the music.”
What do you have planned in the coming months?
Writing music is the primary focus of the next couple of months. As a songwriter I end up with scraps of paper, notes in my phone, or voice memos of lyrics or versus or hummed melodies, and every few months they get compiled into the computer and either turned into a song or put in the “maybe later folder” and looked at during the next writing session.
I tend to be a lyrical hoarder and save everything in the event something comes to mind to finish it out later.
Is there anything else we should know?
I will be at Allegro Sound Labs studio in March laying down two singles as well as working with my team on my EP release titled Over My Limits.
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