Artist Spotlight: John Russel
Michigan-born, Los Angeles based singer-songwriter, John Russel, has developed a rather eclectic style of music, ranging from soulful tones to folky fingerpicking with passionate, meaningful lyrics.
We were excited to chat with John about his time when he won Guitar Center’s Singer-Songwriter 6 contest, his influences and more.
You’ve been working with Songfinch from the start of our company – I really appreciate everything you’ve done and continue to do. Thank you! Tell us a bit about yourself and how your music career got started.
Songfinch started as a way to make a little extra money and keep my songwriting skills sharp. It turned into being a part of so many healing, memorable, romantic moments that have been as much of a gift to me as I hope it was to them. So I really truly appreciate everything YOU’ve done, and every song you’ve let me be a part of.
I’m a writer and a storyteller, a sucker for romance and good poetry. I try to portray honesty and hope through what I write and sing. I want to encourage others to be who they truly are, say what they truly feel, and dare to chase what they truly dream of.
I would say my music career started when I learned I could play my ukulele on the street corner for 15 minutes to make enough money to buy a milkshake and fries and McDonalds. Something clicked, and I realized I was able to make money doing what I naturally loved to do. Music has always been a mistress and a medicine for for me. My piano is my escape, it’s my best friend, it knows my deepest darkest secrets, my greatest struggles, my worst pain. All that to say I’ve made my life about it, and about helping others and it’s led me to so many dreams already like working with John Legend, and the Producer of Artists like Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez.
You’re from Detroit and moved to Los Angeles. When did you make the move and how have both places influenced your sound?
Detroit (Motown) is where so many amazing soul artists became legends! Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding. The list is as impressive as it is long. The sounds of Motown have had a huge impact on my songs and life! For me I couldn’t think of better music to grow up on. Los Angeles has been inspiring as well, being surrounded by so many young talented unique artists I would say I’m as inspired by the unknown local artists here as I am the pop legends that also walk the streets here.
Last year, you won the Guitar Center Singer-Songwriter 6 contest – congrats! Tell us about that experience and how it’s helped your career as a musician. What was your favorite piece of gear that you won from that?
Yeah! That was amazing, what an honor to be a part of it, and even more so to win. It stretched me in so many ways, but I really did work hard, did my homework, created a plan, and gave it my all. It gave me the chance to work with incredible producers and songwriters… and a lot of cool toys of course. My favorite piece from winning that contest would have to be my Hotrod Red Gibson es 335. Which was exactly my dream guitar when I was a kid.
I’ve listened to your “Hold On” EP quite a bit since you released it earlier this year. Was this the EP that you made with Grammy award-winning producer RedOne as part of the Guitar Center contest victory? How has the feedback been from that album?
Actually, that one was self-produced! All the writing, recording, mixing, instrumentation, was done by yours truly. They were songs I had been sitting on for a while and needed to release them before I release what I’ve recorded with RedOne. The feedback has been extremely encouraging, I can’t wait to share more.
How would you explain your music in three words?
Hope, Courage, Honesty
I know with Songfinch, you create very well produced songs. For your original music, do you produce everything yourself or do you work with a team?
I’ve actually produced everything myself up to this point. But I’m starting to explore working and writing with others.
Who are your top 3 favorite musicians right now?
Way too difficult but I’d have to say Bruno Major, John Mayer, and…
Anything else that you’d want to let the readers know?
You’re lovely and loveable for who you are, you have more to give than you know, always be brave and be yourself!
Below is a personalized song called “Better Half Of Me” that John created with Songfinch for a wife to give her husband for his birthday gift.