A few months back, we had multi-talented R&B singer/Producer, Russell Elliot at our Bushwick film and photography studio to shoot his latest music video for his new single, "On You". This NYC based artist is quite the unique soul and has been on the scene for nearly a decade now, using his powerful voice and all inclusive ideology to connect with his listeners. He delivers his points of view with a genuine sincerity and a powerful voice that draws you in and grips your attention from the get go, telling stories to shake up the way we've always thought about things. As an artist it's his goal to ask the tough questions in regards to our culture and our values, putting heavy emphasis on equality and steering his genre away from misogyny. Upon meeting Russell, we recognized the fact that there was a constant smile on his face throughout the day at our sound stage. This demeanor is definitely contagious as I couldn't help but notice the joy it brought out in the rest of his crew, myself included. Nothing but positivity all around. we're sure this is the case during his live performances as well. After some research, we found this to simply be part of who he is as a person, as an artist hoping to spread that joy in whatever direction he can.
We had the opportunity to sit down and pick Russell's brain to gain some further insight on his projects as well as some of his day to day routines and current endeavors. Check out the interview along with the new music video for "On You" below.
1. First of all, where are you from?
What's good, Be Electric?! I'm from right outside D.C.
2. When you think of the music you are working on, what are some of the influences that come to mind?
I find inspiration everywhere! And I definitely go through phases with the music I listen to (ask me about that one road trip when I listened to the same Gloria Estefan song on repeat for 4 hours... actually don't). Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is the CD I wore out until it skipped. I still bump R&B babymaker classics like Silk, 112, Boys II Men, and Maxwell. More recently I've been crushing on Kehlani, Jasmine Sullivan, Jack Gerratt, Solange, New Frank Ocean (obviously), Russ, & Leikeli47 to name a few. Prince, Beyoncé, Amy Winehouse, & Aaliyah are my forever heroes.
3. Did you grow up knowing that you wanted to make music?
Music and storytelling were all around me from early on. I was an actor as a kid so I knew I wanted to be on stage and on TV. I also studied classical piano and loved it. It took properly getting my heart broken for the first time to pull it all together and start writing songs. I wrote my first songs at 14/15 and cut my first record at 16 in Nashville (no, you can't find it anywhere. Thank God.)
4. Tell us about your day to day here in NYC. Music and beyond.
I write, produce, and perform all my own music. Most of my time is dedicated to perfecting the live show, writing new music, working on the business, & scheming up video concepts. I dance often. I explore the city often-- though less so now that it's winter. I work with other artists in a producer capacity, helping to refine and clarify their ideas. I just finished up a gig where I helped teach an Entrepreneurship Course at NYU's Clive Davis Institute. I also help a dance studio in Greenpoint with strategic partnership marketing. I stay busy!
5. I notice that your music video's include a large element of freestyle as well as choreographed dance, is this something that you've had some training in?
I've been dancing since college! Everything from Ballet to HipHop. Where hiphop and body rolls meet contemporary is where I'm most at home.
6. So, you ran a successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2014 to help fund your 4 song EP along with a music video for your single, "Around"; do you feel that the crowdfunding element brought on a certain sense of responsibility to push yourself in a way that you haven't before with your art?
Amazing Question. Absolutely. With Kickstarter, all of the sudden there were new people involved in my creative process. I'm generally pretty private so at first that terrified me. The fact that people were invested--not just in the product but also in the process-- definitely held me accountable, fortified me, and contributed to the success of the EP. It was definitely a process though-- learning to create with an audience.
7. Was the recent video you shot at Be Electric Studio crowd sourced as well or done independently this time around? Or do you happen to have some representation now that helped?
"On You" is a hybrid project in terms of fundraising. Half of the funding was independently sourced, the other half was matched by our extremely generous partners. (They're credited in the video!) No representation. My team and I are 100% independent.
8. You've been performing on some level for a decade or so, how do you feel you've grown over the years, whether it be in your actual performance level or even the message you are trying to convey today compared to when you first started?
The success of "Around" definitely cemented my promise to always be authentic with my work. I think, as humans, authenticity is what we respond to. As Americans, I think it's what we need right now. It's the commitment to authentic material that made me double down on my commitment to hone my craft. I want to do my stories justice.
9. What are your thoughts on the current sociopolitical climate and what that could mean for you as an artist?
I'm just trying to stay intersectional, stay humble, stay authentic, stay joyful...I turn especially to the women of color in my life-- many of whom have being doing agitation and resistance work for a very long time-- to learn a thing or two about how to meaningfully protest. We've all got a lot of work to do to resist Trump. I hope to rise to the challenge & use my platform for good. (I also wrote a piece for Thought Catalog that went live yesterday about how I hope to be of use in tough times.)