Rising country-pop star Russell Dickerson is, if nothing else, adaptable. When it’s come to building his career, he has been willing to try just about any approach, whether it be old-fashioned or brand-spanking new, and he has been persistent in his dedication to bringing his music to his fans, no matter how he has to do it. It’s an approach that’s paid off with impressive album sales, chart-busting singles, and a growing fan base that loves to come see him play live.
“Since day one, all I’ve ever known is music,” Dickerson said. “I love touring, I love playing the shows. I love connecting with every single person. At the end of the day, it’s all about the fans. I want them to leave my shows feeling changed. I live to make them smile.”
Even though Dickerson grew up in Nashville, the cradle of the traditional country music industry, he went about things a bit differently from the start.
Road to success went through college
By the time he was in his late teens, he knew that he wanted to be a professional musician, which is in itself not an unusual thing for a teenage Nashville native to want. But instead of jumping right into the thick of the music business, he decided to go to college first.
His choice of the academic route might seem entirely counter-intuitive for an aspiring country music star if it weren’t for the college he attended. Nashville’s Belmont University is a small private Christian school with a long-standing tradition of cranking out country stars from its music program. Its alumni rolls include the likes of Minnie Pearl, Steven Curtis Chapman, Lee Ann Womack, Trisha Yearwood, Josh Turner, and Brad Paisley. It seems like the right place for a young country musician to go.
With a Belmont degree in hand and an agent, he took his first shot at the business in 2011, but his first self-released album failed to catch fire. That’s when he began to rely on a time-tested approach to the business: touring relentlessly and making lots of people aware of his music.
Around 2015, the old-fashioned approach began to produce results. Dickerson released a single, the ultra-romantic “Yours,” that generated buzz and paved the way for an EP that got him onto the charts. That success, in turn, opened the door to a big-label debut album in 2017 that cracked the top five on the country charts.
Now, two top-ten singles, 30 million Spotify streams, and three million YouTube views later, Dickerson is living in the top tier of the country music business.
Leveraging the power of social media, he’s found the final piece of the puzzle that he started building with his education and his old-school work ethic, and he’s gathered a loyal army of fans.
Pearce’s traditional route
The road to success has been a little different for Carly Pearce, but it has required just as much dedication. A native of Taylor Mill, Ky., Pearce was also sure that she wanted to be a professional singer when she was young.
Her path to a music career wouldn’t be academic, though; she dropped out of school at 16 and got a job singing at Dollywood in Tennessee. The next step was a move to Nashville, which she made when she was 19.
She got some attention from labels while she was there, but the most important part of her Music City experience was the opportunity to make the connections that got her some touring gigs and the chance to release a single, 2017’s “Every Little Thing.” The performance of the song on satellite radio finally landed her the offer to make a big-label record, which rocketed to number four on the country charts.
For both Pearce and Dickerson, the road to stardom has been anything but instant, and they formed a bond while they were slugging away at the business years ago in Nashville. Now that they’re both on top, it seems like the perfect time to celebrate their shared experience with a co-headlining tour, the third show of which lands them at The Clyde in Fort Wayne.
“Carly and I go way, way back, and we have cheered each other on for years,” Dickerson said. “Breaking onto the scene together has been such a fun ride, so we had to book a tour together to celebrate.”
Pearce feels the same way, and she acknowledges that the tour is a way to commemorate the hard work that she and Dickerson have invested in their music.
“It’s crazy to think about eight years ago when Russell and I had a residency in Nashville together,” she said. “Now, to see the evolution of our careers that have mirrored in so many ways is a dream come true. Sometimes slow and steady wins the race, and I couldn’t be more proud of how far we’ve come.”