Russell Dickerson is a hopeless romantic.
One of country music’s most popular new artists, the 34-year-old Tennessee native just scored his fourth consecutive number-one single, making him the second country artist ever to have his first four singles hit the top of the Country Mediabase and Billboard charts. His debut album, “Yours,” has amassed more than 1.1 billion streams worldwide, and in 2020, he dropped his second full-length album, “Southern Symphony” featuring the hit “Love You Like I Used To,” which spent a record-breaking 21 weeks on Billboard Country Airplay’s Top 10.
Ever since picking up a guitar as a teen, Dickerson had the dream of becoming a country artist. He got a bachelor’s degree in music from Nashville’s Belmont University, where he made some lifelong connections — both his wife Kailey as well as Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, the two guys who would eventually form the duo Florida Georgia Line.
After college, Dickerson focused on writing songs and playing gigs around Nashville, and put out some music independently as he sought a record deal. Things changed dramatically in 2015 when a music video directed by his wife for “Yours” blew up on YouTube. He signed that elusive record deal with Triple Tiger the next year.
“Country music has always grabbed my heart because of the storytelling and that’s just what drew me,” Dickerson says during a photo shoot before the kickoff of his first headlining tour — “All Yours All Night” — in New York City. “The success didn’t really start coming until I started being honest and real and opening up about our story and our love. That was the turning point for me.”
Since then Dickerson has invited fans to get up close and personal, starting a popular YouTube program, “This is Russ,” where both his wife and their 16-month-old son Remington get nearly as much time in the spotlight as he does.
“It’s just me carrying around a camera and giving you access,” he says of the YouTube program. “You come to a show and you see what happens on stage. But ‘This is Russ’ is what I’m excited about, where we’re eating lunch, all the random stuff that happens off stage.”
Unlike a lot of other artists who leave their homes and families for long stints on the road, Kailey and Remington travel with Dickerson as he tours.
“We were at the point where we wanted to keep our family together on the road and not just have me leave and come back,” he says. The turning point came when he’d had enough commercial success to get a second tour bus for the family. “That was a huge thing for us,” he says. “We were supposed to have that in 2020, but…it’s just always been a priority. Kails is the one who keeps it all together, making sure we have all the things on the bus for Rem. Her mom travels with us and my mom will travel with us too sometimes as ‘nanny on the road’ and take the load off of Kails.”
Like everyone else, the pandemic caused Dickerson to stop touring and lockdown at home. But the artist actually embraced the break.
“We couldn’t tour, so we went into full-on album mode for ‘Southern Symphony’ and getting that out as big and as quick as we possibly could. We shifted our focus to keeping ‘Love You Like I Used To’ on the radio and that turned out to be one of the longest-running top-10 songs in country radio history during the pandemic. So to shift our focus from touring was actually refreshing to me because we’re always touring — always. It was nice to put 100 percent of my focus into making music.”
It also afforded Dickerson the opportunity to compile a range of materials for his third album.
His current single, “Home Sweet,” will most likely be the last release from “Southern Symphony,” he says, “so that means new music coming.” Much of the material for the next album will be “more reflective life songs. I’ve become a dad since I released my last album. There are some songs about when we were young and all the dumb stuff we would do. But there’s a lot more depth. I feel every record just keeps getting deeper and deeper about who I am and peeling back layers.”
That same attitude shines through in his style choices. Although he works with a stylist, Cherie Kilchrist, Dickerson selects many of his outfits himself, like the brown suede jacket he picked up at Zara to wear on his tour. “We collab on looks and vibes and images that we love,” he says of his stylist. That includes modifying some pieces to better fit his lanky 6-foot, 4-inch frame. A pair of Wrangler camo jeans that he’s owned for 10 years, for instance, were taken in and tapered, and paired with a Michael Kors shirt that Kilchrist distressed herself.
Dickerson describes his style as “timeless,” but definitely unique. “I don’t feel like a lot of people would put hunting pants with a Michael Kors shirt, but it helps me sprinkle in a little personality.”
One of his prized possessions is a Rolex Milgauss that he got as a gift from Lady A and Darius Rucker as the opening act on their tour. He’s also partial to Timberland boots and Air Force 1 sneakers for everyday wear. “I’m not the exclusive streetwear, Off-White, RIP Virgil, kind of guy,” he says. “I do keep up with all of that but I’m not a hype guy. I love a good pair of Tims, or Hoka hiking boots or Jordan 1s, those are classics.”
For red carpets, he’ll step it up a bit. At the Country Music Association awards, he wore a skinny Saint Laurent black suit, paired with a shirt with “a little sparkle” on the collar. “It was just a little sprinkle of something different, that’s usually what we go for,” he says.
Dickerson is one of those people who can be silly and deadly serious at the same time. He thinks nothing of dropping into a plank for a photo shoot on Dad bods, but when it comes to his music and his future, he’s got his sights set on even bigger stardom.
So where does he see himself in five years? Headlining Madison Square Garden, he says. “That’s the number one, but I want to continue growing, year after year. Garth Brooks is a huge influence of mine and to see him play Central Park with 1 million people, that’s what I strive for: I want to break records and make history and that’s what we’re going to do, we’re not going to stop until we change the game and change the world.”