Russell Dickerson was born for the stage. “I’m just naturally that kind of dude: a big, loud and over-the-top guy,” he says with a laugh. Yes, one of country music’s most talked-about new talents -- and the voice behind the smash single “Yours,” a stunning ballad inspired by his wife of four years, Kailey, that’s racked up over 42 million online digital streams to date, where he’s been on Spotify’s Hot Country, Country Gold Playlists and more for over a year, and exploded since being serviced to country radio in April -- need not go into “entertainer mode” before he catapults himself onstage to deliver one of his notoriously amped-up live shows.
He’s already there.
“I go out there, and I’m just me,” Dickerson, who recently tore up arenas with Thomas Rhett and Kelsea Ballerini on the Home Team Tour, says. Watch the massive-voiced singer up there, whipping the crowd into hysterics and performing with that time-honored killer instinct. He’s “running around and singing to people and messing with them and loving on them. It’s about interacting the whole time. I want people screaming their faces off. It’s all for the crowd.”
Even as a Union City, Tennessee-raised, obsessive teenage music fan, one who’d regularly wait in wraparound lines to see his favorite artists perform in Nashville (“I just got hooked on that energy”) and held up Garth Brooks and Keith Urban DVD’s as his personal Gospel, Dickerson, says being “that dude onstage was always the dream. We would scream every word of every song, and all I could think about was ‘I want to be that guy!’” Now, thanks to “Yours” and hook-heavy rockers like “Blue Tacoma” and “MGNO,” he’s steadily built a serious fan base of his own.
Strident, proud and fiercely determined in his artistry, Dickerson is that rare breed of artist who both writes with patient, staid intention and performs like a kid living out his wildest fantasy. “I’ve always envisioned myself playing stadiums. Honestly, as big as it will go, man,” says the singer/songwriter who saw “Yours” explode on satellite radio and streaming services alike after Dickerson released his Billboard charting EP. The song’s success led his manager at Dennis Entertainment to introduce him to the newly formed Triple Tigers, a joint venture with Sony Music, in October 2016 where he became the flagship artist.
Now, with his forthcoming full-length debut album, Yours, Dickerson is gearing up for his most massive moment yet. “Right now I’m just so stoked on life so I wanted my record to mimic that,” the 30-year-old says of a feel-good album stuffed with equal parts swagger (“Billions,” “Float”) and sweet vibes (“All Fall Down,” “You Look Like A Love Song”). “We just kept rolling with it,” he says of the loose, freewheeling writing sessions for the LP. To that end, if there’s a palpable ease and whimsical flow to Dickerson’s melodies and lyrics it’s because he’s found trusted collaborators, the most notable of which is his wife.
It was Kailey, in fact, who not only inspired “Yours” but also dreamed up the idea for its stunning video. On a rainy day back in 2015, the Dickerson’s drove out near John C. Tune Airport and, with Russell strolling behind his car for what he thought was merely test footage, Kailey began filming. This spur-of-the-moment adventure that cost only the $6 required for gas money wound up producing the massively successful beautiful black-and-white music video for Dickerson’s breakout hit. To date, the video for “Yours” has been viewed more than 4 million times on YouTube. It’s experiences like this, not to mention a fruitful writing partnership with longtime friends and fellow Belmont University graduates Parker Welling and Casey Brown, that has Dickerson feeling so inspired. “We’re just young kids writing relevant music,” he says. And having all known each other for years, as well as seeing Russell and Kailey’s relationship blossom, the trio all felt connected to “Yours.” Since then, they’ve teamed to write the majority of the songs on his upcoming album as well. “It’s just cool to write with friends,” Dickerson says. “It’s way less pressure and I can be myself. We just have this deeper connection.”
It’s a feeling not dissimilar from one he’s long held for music on the whole. The son of a piano-teaching mother and church choir-leading father, Dickerson was constantly surrounded by songs as a child. “It was all around me,” he remembers of an idyllic childhood. Dickerson credits discovering classic country artists like George Jones and Jim Reeves later in life as inspiring him to eventually pursue a career as a country music singer/songwriter. By the time he enrolled at Belmont and fell in with a group of hungry young musicians, he knew he’d found his calling. “It was really natural and young and innocent and we were having fun making music,” he recalls.
Dickerson says he’d written hundreds of songs before that “gut feeling” kicked in one day in 2014 when he, Welling and Brown penned “Yours.” “When we wrote it we all said ‘This is amazing!’ And then it was just one thing after another,” he says of the song’s rocketship ride to radio. “To get that affirmation from everyone at, what felt like, every step — publishers, record label, radio — is just so incredible.” Adds Dickerson of the breakout song, which has become a wedding standard, and because of which he recorded an acoustic wedding version: “It’s such a boost of confidence. It’s validation.”
Still, even as the accomplishments pile up, including the distinct honor of playing at the Grand Ole Opry last June (“To be recognized for my craft by an establishment that’s so esteemed in the industry was emotional”), Dickerson remains steadfast in his pursuit of refining his craft and taking his career to new heights.
“For as long as we’ve prepped for this,” Dickerson says, “I hope this is just the beginning.”