Russell Dickerson shares his evolution as an artist, songwriter, and father on his third studio album. The self-titled and co-produced 15-track project is out now via Triple Tigers Records.
“It was time,” the Tennessee native tells American Songwriter of self-titling the project. “This feels like a whole new era for me. It feels like a whole new level for me. It really is just my 15 favorite songs that I’ve written since my last album.”
The singer has lived much life since Southern Symphony in 2020. Now a father to two-year-old Remington, Dickerson says he’s more efficient. As he explains, if he’s going to be away from his family, he has to make it count.
“It has made me way more intentional with every co-write, every interview, every phone call, every flight, and show and tour,” he says.
On “Just Like Your Mama,” the poignant album closer on Russell Dickerson, the singer shares all the traits he hopes his wife, Kailey, bestows on their son, Remington.
Just like your mama / No bull and no drama / You’ll know who you are / And you’ll know who you ain’t / You’ll stand on what you believe / Golden heart on your sleeve … Deep down, boy, I pray you’ll be / Just like your mama
Dickerson wrote the soaring ballad with Casey Brown (“Yours,” “Every Little Thing”) and Lori McKenna (“Girl Crush,” “Humble and Kind”). He recalls talking about his life and becoming a dad at the start of their writing session. At the time, Remington was one, and Dickerson says the song has taken on deeper meaning as his son grows. I can already see you’re better than my wildest dreams / Just like your mama, he sings.
“Lori (McKenna) pulls songs out of you,” he says. “She asks the right questions and knows the right conversations to have to get you to open up and dig deeper.”
Much of Russell Dickerson has a nostalgic thread running through it. Songs like “Blame It On Being Young,” “Big Wheels,” “I Remember” and “I Wonder” have Dickerson looking back. Being home in 2020 and 2021 allowed him the time to dig deeper into his past and revisit stories from his youth.
Dickerson sings about toilet papering the yards of girls he had crushes on, stealing road signs, and jumping off roofs into swimming pools on the feel-good “Blame It On Being Young.” Later, the triumphant “I Wonder” sees the singer revisit a past breakup with his now-wife.
“I literally broke up with her and drove away and just went back and autobiographically told that story of the back and forth in my mind that was going on and that’s the tension,” he says of “I Wonder.”
Despite the heartache felt within the song’s lyrics and reliving their breakup, Dickerson reveals that his wife loves the song. She’s proud of him for “digging deep and reliving that pain” since he’s a “pain avoider at all costs.”
In the years since he wrote his first song, Dickerson has found his voice as an artist and as a songwriter. “I’ve had to step up in that role of leading the write,” he says. “Even if it’s with Ashley Gorley who has like 7,000 No. 1s, [I have to say], ‘No, dude, actually I wouldn’t say it like that.’ … I’ve evolved in that way of just being completely confident in me, and who I am, and what I want to say.”
Trusting his gut proves Dickerson well as his latest single, “She Likes It” featuring Jake Scott, is the fastest-rising song of his career with 200 million streams worldwide. The track also has been certified platinum by the RIAA.
Dickerson wrote “She Likes It” with Scott and Josh Kerr. When Kerr launched into the bluesy guitar riff, Dickerson immediately heard it as the song’s chorus melody and hook. As the session progressed, he and Scott decided to add both their vocals to the track. Soon, Dickerson and Scott were talking about what their wives love, which became the basis of the song.
“This is a newer technique for me in songwriting—just rattling off all these specific memories,” Dickerson says. “What does she like when I do? Oh, she loves when I wear a suit, loves when we dress up a little bit. Loves when I bring home flowers from the grocery, even if it’s the little cheap $5 flowers, she knows I’m thinking of her and just started going down that list.”
She likes it when I / Pour tequila ’cause she knows that / We about to have ourselves a little night / When I play John Denver through that little Bose speaker / And I start dimmin’ those lights, Dickerson sings on the chorus.
After he penned “She Likes It,” Dickerson and his co-writers went back to his house and his wife was playing music from Denver. “She’s cooking and she’s jamming John Denver on the speakers,” he recalls. “I’m like, ‘Babe, you’re not gonna believe this. We literally just wrote a song about you jamming out to John Denver.’ I was like, ‘This song might be something.’”
Dickerson cites the late artist as a major influence, relating to Denver’s career as a genre-bending artist himself.
“He wasn’t defined by a specific genre; John Denver just did John Denver and I’m just trying to do Russell Dickerson, regardless of what boundaries may be in place,” he says. “That’s why this album is self-titled: it’s just me.
“I love redneck country songs like ‘Big Wheels’ and ‘All the Same Friends,’ that’s me. But also, I love my wife and I feel like I’m a tender guy too, with ‘God Gave Me a Girl.’ And, also obviously, I like to turn up, get a little excited, and rage a little bit on ‘Sorry’ and ‘She’s Why.’ There are so many facets to who I am and I feel like I tapped into just about every facet of my personality with this, hence it being self-titled.”