Russell Dickerson Talks First Hot 100 Hit 'Yours': 'It's a Welcome to the Big Leagues'
It's been just about two months since Russell Dickerson released his debut album Yours, but if you listen to country music, you've likely heard his name before. The 30-year-old has been creeping up the charts with his breakout single "Yours," which has been playing on country radio since April and currently sits at its peak positions on both the Country Airplay and Billboard Hot 100 charts (dated Dec. 16) at No. 11 and No. 69, respectively.
As Dickerson sits on the cusp of a top 10 hit, Billboard caught up with the rising country star to hear how a song that started out as a love letter to his wife, Kailey, has changed his life.
When you wrote “Yours,” did you think it would be the song that would break you?
Yeah, that was the one. At that point, I’d already written hundreds of songs. This one just felt different, it felt bigger, it felt more special. I just remember listening to it over and over like, “Did I really write that song?”
Jeffrey Steele, one of the biggest songwriters in Nashville of all time -- our publishers were connected, so I showed him this song, and he was like, “This is the best song in Nashville right now. Congrats on your first No. 1, bro." For him -- who’s had literally 30, 40, God knows how many No. 1 songs -- he knows what a No. 1 song is. It’s just one of the highest compliments you can get from a songwriting standpoint.
You wrote the song in 2014, so what were your thoughts going into the day that it officially went to radio three years later?
It’s kind of as far opposite as you can get from instant gratification, because we started from absolutely nothing. So when we put it out there, there wasn’t really this “Break the Internet” explosion, it was just this very gradual, slow, but natural. That’s what’s been the best part. You know, a tree doesn’t just explode out of the ground. [Laughs]
All the big superstars, they put out songs and they go No. 1 in 12 weeks -- 12 weeks? That’s three months! As a new artist, waiting two years, two and a half years for a No. 1 starting from absolutely nothing, it’s a lot of patience and tenacity, but it’s so fun to watch it continually, gradually grow. Every single step we’ve been able to celebrate, because it took so long -- so many firsts have happened with this song.
What’s been the most surreal thing to happen to you since releasing “Yours” as a single?
I think the Times Square billboard, that’s the coolest. It’s such a big exposure, and so many people are there. I grew up going to New York because we have family there.
We get out of the car and look, and my face is on it. I’m like “THERE IT IS!” I mean, we’re screaming. So we run over and we get a bunch of videos -- it’s just like, Times Square, what the heck? It was one of those moments where my adrenaline kicked. A surreal moment of, like, I’ve worked so hard to get my career going and off the ground, and now here is a freaking entire New York City block-sized billboard with my face on it. It was definitely one of those moments of achievement. I did an Instagram live and shared that moment with my fans!
Speaking of sharing a moment with your fans, have there been any proposals to the song?
One of my favorite performances -- the EP had just come out, and this was my first headlining show ever at the Grizzly Rose in Denver. I think we sold almost 800 tickets on a 1,000-cap room. Totally unexpected, it was completely packed, and they were screaming every word to the EP already. I just like, fell on the ground I was so overwhelmed. I was like, “This is insane. I’ve literally been waiting six years for this moment right here.”
A couple did reach out, he was like, “I’d love to surprise my girlfriend and propose during ‘Yours.’” So we worked up this whole arrangement and I called him up and gave him my microphone, we bought champagne for them.
Is there a lyric that means the most to you?
“You make me better than I was before, thank God I’m yours” -- it definitely does. And the boat stuck in the bottle, that is one of my favorite lines of any song I’ve ever written. I felt like kind of lost and not really knowing what -- especially relating to love life, just kind of drifting and no direction, like, "What am I doing with my life?" kind of thing. Because the music was not totally taking off and I was just kind of like, "Whatever."
But meeting Kailey, and when we got married, that was such a solid foundation for life. To know that I had this person next to me for the rest of my life was such a grounding and confidence booster. And even as a man, knowing that I’m now responsible -- I gotta step up, I have a household that I’m responsible for now. That was a big turning point in my life to step up and be a man. That’s kind of what those lines were based off of.
You and Kailey are very vocal about your relationship on social media -- have any fans told you how much that means to them? Or have you felt that that’s had an impact on who you are as an artist?
One-hundred percent. Every single day there’s at least a couple comments like, long story short #marriagegoals. I feel like it makes people, especially females, feel safe around me. And when people hear the song, they’re like, “Oh my gosh I love this song!” and then they go find me on social media and they’re like “Oh my gosh it’s true! He really does love his wife!” This song is real, you know? It’s a cohesive image that we’re portraying -- but we don’t have to try to do that, it’s just us living our lives.
“Yours” has been on the Hot 100 for six weeks now -- how does it feel to see your song among artists like Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar and Ed Sheeran?
When I first saw -- that wasn’t even on my radar. It’s such a renowned chart. I had to double take and double check that I was looking at the right chart. When I found it, I think it was like 87 or something like that and I was like, “Wait, like the Billboard Hot 100?” That’s the chart to me.
I want [my music] to be cross-genre, and I don’t want to be confined to very strictly country music. I want people to be introduced to country outside of the genre they’re used to listening to. At this point I feel like unworthy to be there. [Laughs] Just to be on that chart, it’s kind of like, “Welcome to the big leagues.” We’re just getting started!