Dickerson shared with Billboard the one song he wishes he'd written, how becoming a new dad has affected his songwriting, and why he's a Hanson fan for life.
1. What do you want fans to learn about you from Southern Symphony that they didn’t on Yours?
Yes, I am always the hype, fun, crazy guy, but I can also go deep and talk about real life too. I think that really comes through in “Home Sweet” and the title track.
2. You were coming off of three No. 1s as you were making this album. What kind of confidence did that instill in you as you were writing and recording?
Honestly, just that feeling of “man, our hit radar actually works!” We felt it in those moments in the writer room but to have all three singles off the first record go No. 1 was a huge confirmation to just keep following the same instincts that brought us here!
3. What did your wife say the first time she heard “Love You Like I Used To”? Is it true she told you you could do better?
Haha! She 100% said that. I played the old version for her and she was like “Hmm… the title of this song is way better than the actual song you just played.” At first, I was pissed! It was the first song of the year that I wrote and she was like, “nah, it sucks…” So, we got back together later in the year and completely re-wrote “Love You Like I Used To,” and the second time was the charm! I played it for my wife and some of my team on the bus and we all looked at each other like, “Dang, this is the one!”
4. How did “It’s About Time” with Florida Georgia Line come about in the middle of a pandemic? It feels like the song we need to remember when we will be tailgating again.
YES! Thank you for saying that! So many people have told me how much they needed “It’s About Time.” They’re like “there’s so many sad, sappy, slow songs coming out right now” and when you hear “It’s About Time,” it definitely stands out and gets that party going for sure!
5. What was your most fun day in the studio making this album?
Wow. I mean every single one. For real, I think either the first day, because that’s when we recorded the front-runners of the album like “Love You Like I Used To” and “Home Sweet.” But then, recording “Southern Symphony” was such a magical day. It’s just one of those songs that just sounds amazing without anything fancy on the mix. Sitting around feeling the magic of that song come to life was one of my favorite days too.
6. What song challenged you the most, either to sing or perform?
I think “Home Sweet” was a beast to record. I wrote this song with Casey Brown, my producer, and Charles Kelley from Lady A. So Charles sang the demo and absolutely crushed the demo. His voice is insane. When it came time for me, there was definitely a little pressure to live up to his amazing vocals. But I feel I did, you know, I’m super proud of that one!
7. This marks the first time you’ve worked with producer Dann Huff. Were there specific artists he’d worked with that made you want to work with him?
Keith Urban. Hands down. Golden Road and Defying Gravity -- those two Keith albums are what lit a fire under me to keep trying to write better songs, make better music. Those two albums were so influential in my career I can’t even explain! And, to have Dann on board to bring this album to life, it was a dream come true.
8. You became a first-time dad in September. Have you written any songs about Remington? How do you think being a dad will affect your songwriting?
Whew, I have tried honestly, but I just end up crying too much! I’ll get there though, I promise.
9. You are such a dynamic performer. How have you coped with not being able to tour?
I think I had been going so hard for so long that I needed this time more than I knew. I started touring in 2011 full time. That was all I had, driving my SUV around the country from then until 2017 just starting to get a little bit of success. Then, you have to fly/drive all over the country from Sunday through Wednesday on radio tour and then hop on a “shared” opening act bus and play Thursday, Friday and Saturday on the weekends for an entire year… and that’s just getting your first single off the ground. After touring and touring for three years, it was a much-needed break. But now with the new album coming out, I’m definitely getting stoked to play these songs out on the road ASAP!
10. You kicked around for six or seven years before “Yours” hit the top of the charts. Were you ever discouraged or did you have enough activity with writing and touring to make you feel you were always moving forward?
Yeah, in my world I was not kicking around. I was working my tail off trying to get this whole thing off the ground. It was never a question of “if” for me, just “when.” I knew I had what it takes. I knew that I will work harder than anyone else because I want this more than anyone else.
11. Is there anything you miss about the old days of touring in your Sprinter Van?
Haha! Absolutely. You’re in such close quarters, there’s no personal space so that just makes for so many more memories.
12. What’s the first piece of music that you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?
I think it was the Michael Jackson's double disc greatest hits!
13. What was the first concert you saw and how did that influence you as a performer?
My first concert was Hanson! Yeah, “Mmmbop,"straight up. My cousin and her friends were coming to Nashville to go to the concert and I asked if I could go, mainly because I thought one of her friends was super hot. So, they let me go and it was honestly a bomb concert!
14. What’s at the top of your professional bucket list?
Selling out Madison Square Garden. All my goals are performance-related because that’s always been my dream. When I write songs I see the fans, I see packed arenas, so that’s where I set my sights -- sold out arenas and stadiums around the world.
15. Name one song you wish you’d written and why?
First song that comes to mind is “Friends in Low Places.” That song is so universal, it is crazy. If you yell out on a street corner in any city, “I’ve got friends…” I guarantee 10 people can finish that line.
16. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in the crowd of one of your sets?
There have been a couple fights. And I don’t put up with that! I will stop the song, I have done it before. Once security is on it, then we will start the song over and keep RD Partying.
17. What movie, or song, always makes you cry?
Where do I even start? I’m a softie. Toilet paper commercials make me cry…
18. What TV series have you watched all the way through multiple times?
New Girl! That’s our wind-down go-to. We had already watched it two or three times before quarantine but I think we're on about six now!
19. What’s one thing that even your most devoted fans don’t know about you?
I’ve never been in a fight. I’ve been punched in the face, probably in the 5th grade, but I’ve never physically punched another human in the face. Fun facts!
20. What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
WRITE BETTER SONGS! Focus a little less on touring and a little more on writing great songs.
Russell Dickerson's Billboard Live At-Home Performance | Billboard