In 2020, fast-rising country star Russell Dickerson was an ACM nominee for “New Male Artist of the Year,” and his single “Love You Like I Used To” hit #1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, reaching certified gold sales status and surpassing 130 million streams. His album Southern Symphony came out in December, which seems likely to continue his successful streak.
Dickerson still remembers what it was like to be a struggling artist though, so he’s happy to offer advice that others might find helpful as they try to make the leap to stardom. “Once I started telling my story, my true, real story, that’s when it started happening,” he says. He feels he finally got this right when he wrote “Yours,” the title track from his 2017 debut album. “That was a song for my wife. That was one of the most real, genuine songs I’d ever written.”
“Yours” went on to stay at #1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart for two weeks, earning double platinum sales status. That led to multiple ACM and CMT award nominations. “There’s a reason that it connected with so many people,” Dickerson says. “If you talk about real stories, there’s bound to be somebody else who’s experienced that same thing. So I think just being genuine is the first step to that. And then really finding your sound, and trust in your producers.”
But Dickerson, who went on to hit the top spot in the charts with three more singles so far (“Blue Tacoma,” “Every Little Thing,” and “Love You Like I Used To.”), says there really is no secret songwriting formula. “Every song is not going to be a hit, and that’s okay. So don’t be too hard on yourself.
“It’s okay to write bad songs,” Dickerson continues. “Bad songs make good songs. Eventually that magic will strike, and you’ll know it when it does. I read a Dierks Bentley interview and his advice was, ‘You have to write a hundred songs before you get to your first hit.’ And I was like, ‘No way, dude! The songs that I’m writing right now sound like hits to me.’ I think I had written maybe twenty songs at this point. Sure enough, it took me three [more] years before I finally wrote “Yours.””
After that experience, Dickerson believes that songwriters should be “humble with ourselves.” (But with Southern Symphony climbing the charts, perhaps he doesn’t have to be quite so modest.)