Is anyone having a better 2020 than Russell Dickerson? It's doubtful. Sure, his tour with Kane Brown was cut short, and his chance to open for Kelsea Ballerini was cancelled due to the pandemic. But despite not being able to play to a live audience since March, Russell is living his best life.
Earlier in the year, Dickerson was nominated for the Academy of Country Music Awards’ Best New Male Artist. His year is now ending with the release of his second full-length album, Southern Symphony. In between those accomplishments, he celebrated his 4th consecutive number one hit, “Love You Like I Used To.”
His baby boy came along in September, in a year when touring was not an option, so the new family of three is cozy at home. He is beaming when he joins us from his home south of Nashville - much more chipper than expected from a new dad who isn’t getting much sleep.
I must start by asking about that sweet boy, Remington.
Oh my little guy! My little guy! That’s the best part. That's why my life is so amazing. The number ones and all that is amazing, but this little dude, it's insane. I love him so much, his little face - he's just in the 99 plus percentile in everything. He's off the chart, they don't have a chart big enough for his a big old belly. His head, his height - he is a monster and it is amazing!
Tell me your favorite time of day with him.
When he first wakes up. We’ve been doing the swaddle thing, you know, and then we let him out and he's just stretching and then I'll hold his head right here (in my hands). He'll just give a little gummy smile and just talk to us for a little bit in the morning. I need my fix every day. I can't go a day without that in my life, you know?
I absolutely do know. This has been the most incredible time for you, but it's also happening with so many other crazy things going on in the world. So just the fact that you got a chance to be home for all of this Russell, what would it have been like if it had been a normal year?
I mean we literally had a baby September 10th and we were supposed to be on tour with Kelsea Ballerini by the 22nd. So less than two weeks at home. Then bam, right back on the road until almost Christmas. We would've had our baby and ten days later packed up our ten-day old baby on a tour bus and just rolled on and figured it out. You know, that's what we do. I hate that the Kane Brown tour got cut so early, but I mean, you know, we've been going for like six years just pedal to the metal. I don't think we knew how much we needed this time off.
You'd obviously been working on Southern Symphony before all this, was it delayed due to the pandemic? Or was it always a December release?
Yeah, it was always a December release, just based on “Love You Like I Used To” and where it was (in the charts). We actually moved the album up because of “Love You Like I Used To” climbing so fast up the charts. We were like, “Well, we better put this album out soon!” So that was a good problem to have.
Walking into a sophomore project, there's always that “Will there be a sophomore jinx?” thing. Was that ever a thought? Was the final product better than you anticipated?
It's definitely better than I anticipated, because these songs have come from a real place. They've come from bringing writers out on the road which I think is a huge part of this process. For the writers to see what I do every night, for them to see me out on stage, see my energy and just my vibe on stage, we were able to translate that into these songs. I think what I wanted to communicate and show with this album is more songwriting. I wanted to show on the first album that we had the hits but that we also had some fun, more goofy lighthearted songs like “Float” and “Billions”, which were still jams.
With this one, there's just a little more maturity in the songwriting, digging a little deeper and putting a little more heart into every single song. Even “It's About Time for a Drink”, thats still a songwriter's jam. You know what I'm saying? It's still a really well-written song. I just feel like I've come a long way as a songwriter since my first album and I think it really shows on all ten tracks.
Since you brought up “It’s About Time For a Drink,” I heard it and thought this is the perfect song when you're in the middle of a set, I can picture it live. When you're recording these songs in the studio, are you automatically thinking what this is going to be like on stage and where it will be in the set list?
That’s all I think about. Even when I'm writing the song, I want to make sure that everybody can sing every single word. I've already got it planned out, Maybe I'll bring it down to an acoustic chill vibe for a second, and I'll be like, “You know what? It's about time for a drink!” then boom, straight into it. I can't wait.
How eager and excited are you to get on stage again?
I mean, I'm going to have to take a sedative my first time on stage. I'm not kidding. I'm going to have to take some Benadryl or something to chill me out because I'm going to lose my mind. Even when I'm exhausted, I'm still crazy on stage. But after for being rested up for a year, I don't even know.
Which of the songs on the new album does baby Remington like the best?
“Southern Symphony” hands down. He loves it because he'll be crying in the car or something, and I'll just blast “Southern Symphony” and I think it's the lower rumbly register. He recognizes it's me talking and then he’s just chill. I think he just thinks “Oh, I know this. I'm going to go to sleep now.”
I think I know the answer to this, but I gotta ask, what’s the thing that you're most thankful for in this crazy year?
Um, first and foremost, chronologically speaking, just time off time to rest my brain, my heart and my body from six years of pedal to the metal, going 90 miles an hour. To be with my wife when she was pregnant through this whole time, and then time off to spend with our son - to wake up to his cute little face every single morning and get that time to really build a relationship with him, not having to be here, be there and be gone. I wouldn't trade a million sold-out arenas for this year that I got to spend with my wife and my new little baby.
Southern Symphony is out now. You can also keep up with Russell on his youtube show “This is Russ”.
Photography by Spencer Combs