615 Spotlight: Shawna Russell Sees the Light
615 Spotlight: Shawna Russell Sees the Light

In being around Shawna Russell, you find a very talented and very polite person who will admit to being a little bit shy until she gets to know someone. However, put a guitar in her hands -- and put her on the stage, and you will witness one of the more dynamic newcomers on the country music scene today.

Russell's latest self-titled album is causing many in the industry to sit up and take notice. She has just released a new single to radio called "Waitin' On Sunrise," that many feel just might be the ticket to the fast lane for the talented Okie.

Russell has been climbing the career ladder since her debut came out a few years back, and she likes the fact that it's been a steady climb. "That has allowed me the time to grow and learn a lot about the business -- even things like doing interviews, and that's been really good for me. I'm a really shy person, so it takes me a little bit to warm up to things. It's been a slow and steady course. We get to one point and we work and work, then something special comes up. It's like all of that hard work pays off in the end," she says.

Russell says a lot of different styles played a part in her musical upbringing. "I'm a lot of different people mixed into one. I've got a lot of classic rock, southern rock, and blues. I've listened to just about everything that I admired listening to. That included my dad and my uncles. They listened to so much music, and it made me want to be a part of it too. If they were listening to Southern Pacific or Larry Stewart, then I wanted to be like them, so I could follow in their footsteps," she says.

615 SPOTLIGHT is Billboard.com's weekly look at emerging country or roots artists. Return each Wednesday for a new installment.

In fact, her father and uncle play in her band today, and also serve as co-writers with her on many of the cuts on the disc. "That really works well for me," she allows. "Songwriting is kind of mysterious. You have to be really comfortable when you're co-writing. It can be somewhat of a taxing process - getting in a room and sitting for three or four hours. You might come up with something, or nothing, but you need to be comfortable with who you are with. That's the good thing about having my dad and my uncle there because we can sit around, laugh, and joke, then get around to business. So far, that formula has worked for me, and I've really enjoyed it," she allows.

When asked about her latest single, Russell says "I'm getting such great response from it. I'm a big fan of wintertime, but it's also a time to be down and reflect on what has happened in the past year. It's about trying to find that glimmer of hope on the horizon that there are going to be better days ahead. I had someone comment on my Facebook page, and it brought me to tears. It said that she'd been going through chemo and cancer treatment, and she saw some of the lyrics as being the cancer and the sunrise being the hope. I had never intended that to be portrayed in that way, but for someone to hear that and to feel that makes me feel good. It's a magical thing, and you never know how people are going to be affected by it."

She smiles when asked about how being on stage with an instrument in her hand makes her a different person. "It does. I've been doing it since I was seven years old. It's where I feel most like myself. I'm not comfortable in front of an audience and speaking to them. But, if I sing it, I can get it out to them. It's where I am most comfortable with myself."

She admits it's taken her a while to get comfortable with cameras tracing her moves as part of a proposed reality series. "That's pretty wild," she says. "I'm not that used to having people around me filming all the time. Of course, for videos and TV, I'm getting more used to all that. What I really want to accomplish with this is people seeing someone at my level trying to break down the walls and make it to the next level. You never see all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, going from venue to venue all over the United States, carrying out my own gear and selling my own CD's. I want them to see what it takes to be in this industry. I'm not going to say it's not fun, but it's not easy."