Since releasing his breakthrough Country Airplay No. 1 “Yours” in 2017, Triple Tigers Records’ Russell Dickerson has established himself not only as an artist capable of lobbing consecutive hit songs at country radio (evidenced by his string of four chart-leaders, also including “Blue Tacoma” and “Love You Like I Used To”), but also an ace songwriter who can hold is own in the writing room, given that he has co-written every song on each of his three albums.
With his upcoming self-titled third studio album, out Friday (Nov. 4), Dickerson is also building upon a unique career moment — an intersection that highlights his range of musical abilities. His collaboration with electronic music trio Cheat Codes, “I Remember,” is currently in the top 40 on Billboard’s Pop Airplay chart, while the smooth R&B-tinged “She Likes It,” with Jake Scott, is in the top 20 on Country Airplay — and has even spent 30 weeks on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100.
“That’s the closest I’ve ever had to an outside cut,” he says of “I Remember.” “[Writer-producer] Jesse Frasure sent me that song and it was half done. The vibe, the melody, everything was the same, so I rewrote the second verse and a couple of things in the first verse. We sent it to Cheat Codes and they loved it. They were like, ‘We will put our sauce on it, produce it and make our version,’ and then it went straight to pop radio.”
Over the course of these 15 tracks, Dickerson expands his circle of co-writers and co-producer wider than ever. “I’ve never been adamant that I have to write every song on an album, but these are just the songs that spoke to me,” he explains. “It was just a natural progression, really. I wasn’t trying to do an overhaul of writers on this album. But it’s been cool branching out. It’s a new phase, a new era.
“It all started with Ashley Gorley,” Dickerson adds. “We went to his beach house and wrote for three or four days with some of his writers and a few people I wanted to write with and got some great songs. ‘Big Wheels’ came from that trip. Then we did another writing camp at his farm and I believe ‘God Gave Me a Girl’ was written then. And of course, I also wrote with Casey Brown and Parker Welling, who I write with a lot.”
Like most songwriters, Dickerson’s creative mindset doesn’t switch off as soon as a project is done, and he says the dozen-plus tracks on the album are a sampling of his recent favorite compositions. “I just picked my 15 songs that I couldn’t stop listening to from my demos folder,” he says, holding up his cell phone and scrolling through a seemingly endless number of tracks.
Collectively, the songs on Russell Dickerson capture Dickerson’s current life stage as a 35-year-old artist, writer, husband and father. The album’s opener, “Blame It on Being Young,” written with Josh Kerr and Welling, looks back on his youth with wistfulness and maturity. He also highlights the sleek, pop side of his artistry on the ‘80s-fueled “She’s Why,” written with Sean Douglas and Kerr. “Just Like Your Mama,” written with Lori McKenna and Brown, is a tribute to Dickerson’s wife Kailey and her influence on their son, Remington.
“I just wanted to shine a light on how wise and strong my wife is as a human being, and I hope he grows up to be like her,” he says.
For Dickerson, the writing session was intimidating — and not only because he wanted to get the sweet tribute just right. He wrote the song at Brown’s house, with McKenna joining via Zoom.
“It was my first time writing with Lori. I was so nervous, oh my god,” he says of co-writing with the multiple Grammy and CMA Award winner. “I mean, she wrote [Tim McGraw’s] ‘Humble and Kind’ by herself. I didn’t have any grandiose idea or title or anything, but at some point the idea of ‘Just Like Your Mama’ came up, and if there is anyone who can write a deep, heartfelt tearjerker, it’s Lori McKenna. We just started spitballing lines like, ‘You’re gonna cry when you raise your hands in church/ But you’ll act tough when those sticks and stones and heartbreaks hurt.’ I started playing this song live as soon as we wrote it, and at every show, people would bring up that song.”
Dickerson has a history of using concerts as testing grounds for new material, and says a performance at the Faster Horses Festival led him to include “Blame It on Being Young” on the album.
“My merch guy was kind of walking around the crowd, and I had never played ‘Blame It’ before. He said, ‘There was a group of like three dudes, like bros, and they were just like crying. They were like, “This song is us.”’ I was like, ‘Okay, well that’s definitely going on the album. People are feeling something when they hear this.’”
He also dives deeper into co-production on this album, working with six co-producers: Dann Huff, Zach Crowell, Brown, Kerr, Ben Johnson and Alysa Vanderheym. “I’ve co-produced every album, but this was me being very hands-on, in the room and in the studio,” he says. “With so many co-producers, I had to step up for it to be cohesive — because also, they are not hearing each other’s songs. And especially in the mixing phase, it was just smoothing out the rough edges and molding the songs into a Russell Dickerson album.”
With the success of “I Remember” and “She Likes It,” Dickerson hopes to eventually see his name on the pop charts more often, in addition to extending his list of country chart-toppers.
“I want to, I hope,” says Dickerson of becoming a more prolific and diversified hitmaker. “I love country music and country radio, but there are parts of me that I need to rip out and sing, like R&B, or vibey bedroom pop. I feel like that’s where my music degree comes in… I can do all that stuff.” (Dickerson has a degree in commercial voice from Nashville’s Belmont University.)
He’s also not opposed to putting out more pop-oriented music, even if it means via a different name. “My wife has this indie kind of voice and vibe, and our good friend is a great pop artist and has done a bunch of sync stuff — it would be cool to just form a group, make music, write songs and have no agenda,” he says.
Dickerson recently inked a new publishing deal with Concord Music Group, one which also includes his back catalog, and he hopes the new deal will offer the right homes for his range of music.
“I’ve been independent for the last two years, so this is a huge partnership for me,” he says. “That’s a huge reason I went with Concord, is I know they are huge in the music sync game.”
Asked what his dream music sync would be, he says, “A [James] Bond movie would be sick. I’m a huge Bond fan. To do like Adele and Billie Eilish and have the main song [in the movie] would be incredible.”