Russell Dickerson remembers growing up in his rural West Tennessee town and hearing country music all around him.
With that background, when the 22-year-old Belmont senior sat down to write his first song, country came with ease.
Seven songs later, Dickerson released his debut EP, “Die To Live Again,” which peaked at No. 21 on the iTunes Country Albums chart, surrounded by the likes of country music superstars Blake Shelton, Sugarland, Taylor Swift and more.
“Honestly, I felt drunk,” said Dickerson of his reaction to first learning “Die To Live Again” had reached No. 21. “It was kind of an out-of-body experience.”
He attributes the huge success of the “seven-song ride” to the songs on the EP; in fact, “it’s all about the songs,” he said.
“I’m so grateful to have written with such fine songwriters,” Dickerson said. “If you don’t have good songs, your music stops at the people who know you. If you have great songs, it reaches far beyond anything in your control.”
The ensemble of songs, all of which Dickerson either wrote or co-wrote, helps to tell his message of being present and thankful for “this day, this moment, right now,” he said.
“I just pray for good songs that speak. I believe country music relates to so many people through its lyrics. Country brings in real life and sinks way deeper,” Dickerson said.
On the title track, Dickerson sings of seizing the day, living it up and remembering to love along the way.
“Your story never stops,” he said. “It keeps going no matter what you’re doing. ‘Die To Live Again’ is about that. It really envelops the whole idea of the project. It’s about life, love and the pursuit.”
Dickerson’s pursuit began in church in the small town of Union City, Tenn. His dad is a music minister, and his mom is a pianist.
“As far back as I can remember, I’ve been either pounding on the piano keys in my mom’s lap or singing in my Dad’s children’s choir,” he said. “I remember wanting to write songs and have people in the crowd singing them with me.”
And that fascination with live performances still intrigues Dickerson. “I think a lot in the live stage sense,” he said.
Dickerson was recently one of four Belmont students chosen to play the university’s annual Country Showcase in the Curb Event Center.
“There’s a definite swagger that bands have when they play the same set over and over,” Dickerson said about the importance of live performances. “It’s a seasoning that they have.”
And those seasoned artists influence Dickerson’s music. Whether it’s Keith Urban’s feel-good love songs or Paramore’s synchronization, the inspiration behind his country tunes comes from a variety of artists.
Dickerson is currently laying the groundwork for a bright future in country music.
He is now represented by Creative Artists Agency, a prominent entertainment and sports agency whose clients include Sting, Mariah Carey and Carrie Underwood.
“I am continuing to build my team within the industry to create a solid foundation towards creating a successful, lasting career in this business,” Dickerson said.
“Die To Live Again” is currently featured on iTunes’ “What We’re Listening To” in country music.