FYIG Chats With R&B/Soul Artist Heather Russell

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well for starters, I’m Heather Russell; an artist who’s thriving off of the earth’s beautiful energy. I’m a musician who writes about my own, personal truths. My heart lives downtown in the centre of THE SIX and I love to laugh, it’s my therapy!

You were born into a family of musicians. Was there ever any doubt that you’d make a career in music?

My parents have never questioned or pushed back on me in regards to the path I’ve chosen in life, which I’m quite thankful for. They’ve always been behind my decisions; artist or not. If I were to choose any career path, my family would support me, unconditionally and wholeheartedly.

When it comes to doubt, I’ve never really received it from my parents, although as a human being, I’ve definitely experienced self-doubt. At the end of the day, I feel so lucky to be working my craft in Canada and to have found a team that resonates as a family. Any sense of doubt that I may have experienced in the past no longer exists within me, all because of my team and my family. They’re everything.

Your father had a home studio. How integral was that in your development as a musician?

MOST DEFINITELY. Most of my early songwriting happened in the studio with my dad… those were fun times man. My dad’s version of ‘taking me to the park’ was being in the studio and being creative masterminds all day. Don’t get me wrong, he took me to the park too, but I loved being in the studio a whole lot more. I couldn’t imagine not having those experiences to look back on because they shaped into the artist that I am today. In retrospect, it’s like I was discovering my sound before I could even recite my ABC’s.

You were discovered and signed by Simon Cowell’s Syco Records at the tender age of 10. What was that experience like? Did you ever expect to be signed to a record label at such a young age?

Being signed to Simon Cowell was an unforgettable time in my life. I was given the opportunity to experience so much at such a young age, which I’ll forever be thankful for. I traveled to London, met Simon a few times, and that was pretty much it before I moved to LA… at 11-years-old. It’s funny because it feels like a dream, like a separate life. When I was first signed, everything felt surreal, partially because I was so young. I don’t think I ever fully took it all in until I was about 16. As I became more aware of everything around me I realized ‘wow.. I was signed to Syco.. ha, cool.’ Despite the fact that I might not have fully realized how crazy things were, I was always certain that music was what I wanted to do and that I wanted to pursue it professionally.

After moving away from Toronto to LA, you lost some say in your “creative expression”. What happened?

Moving to Los Angeles was incredible! Although, like any good story, there were downfalls. Although being able to experience the beauty of LA was great, when it came strictly down to the music side of things, later into my time being there I was losing out on the musical creative side of things, which was most important. My journey in LA is one that i wouldn’t ever go back on because I learned so much, but I will say it was a weight having to put my creative integrity aside and make music I wasn’t fully behind. Music is my everything, so when I had to create something that didn’t represent who I was, I struggled. Through going through that, I learned how important artistic integrity is. Now being older, I know exactly who I am, what I want to do, and wouldn’t bend.

You then moved back to Toronto and signed with Gladiator Records. Was it a good experience to be able to return to your roots?

Moving back to Toronto has been the best decision for me. It’s funny because right before I returned to Toronto, my mom and I were watching a speaker on Netflix who said something that stuck with me ever since. He said, “Sometimes, to get where you need to go, you gotta go back home to your roots first.” I don’t often listen to preachers, so when I heard him say something that I could relate to heavily, it spoke to me… and he was right. Since being here, I’ve made a new family, my music team… my forever music team. I met MY PEOPLE; Lucas Rezza, Adrian Rezza, Joanna Lawrence, and Will Van Zyl. The amazing thing about my team is that we’re all on the same page.

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Being signed to Gladiator Records has been such an amazing experience, I couldn’t ask for a better label to work with. I’ve been given 1000 per cent artistic control. I get to make whatever kind of music I desire. Writing music with Lucas and Adrian is genuinely fun. The chemistry we have in general and in the studio is irreplaceable, we just mesh. We’ve created so much content and I can’t wait to keep rolling it out.

When it comes to my managers, Will and Joanna, I couldn’t ask for better. They support me like no other and let me tell you, being able to watch them mouth all of the lyrics to my songs when we’re together is priceless. In other words, going back to my roots has been the best move for me.

You recently released your debut single This Ain’t The End. Tell us a bit about the song.

“This Ain’t The End” was originally just a rap I’d written months ago when I was in a relationship. I didn’t think the lyrics would go anywhere until Lucas threw his beat on it and posted on the gram. I vibed with it right away! Soon after I hopped in the stu and the lyrics I’d written flowed over the beat perfectly, so we decided that THIS WAS IT. The rap I wrote had finally been given a home and “This Ain’t The End” was born. It was a new vibe that I hadn’t played with before, so that made things even more exciting!

You’ve also recently released a full-length album called My Metropolis. What can audiences expect from this album?

YERRRRR! My Metroplis is a body of work that represents who I am as an artist and really the transition of my musical direction. I experimented with different styles throughout this album such as rapping and playing with new sounds. For those who may have heard the project from my time back in LA, you may be in for a huge shock! This album is a voice for all my truths and experiences and hopefully, people will vibe with it. Every song is different from the last and incorporates different musical aspects that I hope people will find a liking in. There’s pretty much something in it for everyone; whether it’s trap elements, jazzy organs, or slow R&B vibes, this album represents the diversity of the mind.

How have you evolved as an artist over the years?

Over the years I’ve evolved as an artist and an individual. I’ve been exposed to many different styles of music that I honestly didn’t even know existed. Returning to Toronto exposed me to the local underground arts scene, which I’ve developed such an appreciation for.

The piano/keyboard has been by my side through it all, but within the last two years, I’ve branched out into rapping, hip-hop, R&B and soul, which was new to me. I think I had it in me, but it was like Toronto brought that new sound out of me.

What are your live shows like for those that have never seen you?

When it comes to live shows, I usually bring the keyboard with me; it’s like my other half! I’ll usually play a stripped down version of my songs and have fun with it. Watching Alicia Keys (who’s one of my biggest inspirations) definitely influenced my love for piano. As I grow, I also enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone and jamming out live on a stage, where I can dance and just be a goof. I love cracking bad jokes between every song by the way, so if you’re ever in town, be sure to come out and see me!

What’s next for your career? 

TOUR, LIVE PERFORMANCES, AND MORE CONTENT. Right now, we’re in the beginning stages of pushing my project and ongoing singles/music videos. With promotion comes live performances and press opportunities.

Are there any musicians that you dream of working with? If so, who and why?

There are so many musicians I dream of working with, it’s not even funny! It’s gotta be so magical being able to create something with someone who’s influenced all of your work. Ugh…what a dream! The major collars I dream of tackling sooner or later would be Paul McCartney and Alicia Keys. Those are probably two of my biggest influences. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. ONE DAY!

What advice would you give to aspiring singers and songwriters?

The advice that I’d give to other aspiring artists would be to three things:

1) Work as hard as you possibly can.

2) Remind yourself of how important your artistic integrity is, each and every day.

3) Keep a small circle of people you trust and who support you around at all times. These have been the biggest tools for me so far in my years throughout the industry.

What’s a day in your life like outside of the studio?

Outside of the studio, I like to indulge in lots of different things. I’m super random so I act spontaneously on my moods. Sometimes I feel like appreciating the earth, so I’ll go and get lost in the streets of downtown Toronto. Other days, I’ll stay at home, eat mentos and watch Netflix all day. And on other days, I’ll hang with friends and go to an open mic, or support local artists. I love being creative at all times, so I write songs at home every two seconds haha. Random fact: I used to also do origami. I’ve folded like every animal you can think of… okay maybe not every animal, but I’ve folded some cranes and parrots! I also used to create stories about superheroes, but not so much anymore.

Let the readers know where to find you online.

HEYY BOO, so you can find me on IG at @heatherrussellofficial, Twitter at @Russellheather, Facebook at @HeatherRussell, and on YouTube at Heather Russell.