Anyone who listened to Russell Dickerson's debut album, Yours, was sure to come away knowing at least one thing — he really, really loves his wife. He also loves to have a good time, evidenced both by his music and high-energy live shows. With his sophomore effort, Southern Symphony, released on Dec. 4, the Tennessee native takes both of those aspects of his personality a little deeper while also showing listeners a few new sides of himself.
"It's still that same Russell Dickerson energy from top to bottom, but it's like there's a lot more depth to this album," Dickerson told PopCulture.com for our series, PopCulture @ Home. "There's a lot more storytelling. There's a lot more of just me going a little deeper, back into my childhood with the title track 'Southern Symphony.' That song starts with my childhood and just goes through all the memories that I have growing up."
"Southern Symphony" is a touchstone for the sound of its namesake album — light and airy with a little bit of twang — and is one of the tracks that offers listeners another facet of Dickerson, this time the Southern boy who grew up attending church and waving to his neighbors.
"I mean, the first line is, 'Where I come from, we wash up before supper / You don't talk back to your mother or you get your butt worn out,'" he said. "I was born and raised in the South, and that's why that song is called and the album is called Southern Symphony. That's where I came from, and that's how I was raised. It's just kind of a nostalgic song that goes a little deeper."
The album has been in the works since 2018 when Dickerson wrote "Home Sweet" while on tour with Lady A. "This album's a little rootsier," he mused. "It's a little more organic than my first album."
That declaration proves itself true on opener "Never Get Old," a guitar-accented, clap-based track written for arena sing-alongs. It's followed by a series of love songs — the standout of which, "Forever For A Little While," is the only one not about a current partnership — and one drinking track, "It's About Time," a collaboration with Dickerson's good friends Florida Georgia Line.
Yours contained three consecutive No. 1 songs — the title track, "Blue Tacoma" and "Every Little Thing" — and Dickerson kicked off Southern Symphony with another No. 1 for its lead single, "Love You Like I Used To." While he admitted that "there is that pressure going into the second album" after experiencing such success, Dickerson felt "confident in the music that I created for album two from the beginning."
With the absence of live shows due to the coronavirus pandemic, the new dad treated fans to The Southern Symphony Experience, an eight-and-a-half-minute film that starts with Dickerson, his wife, Kailey, and their son, Remington, arriving at a motel and moves through the building to explore the stories of its other patrons. He worked on the project with frequent collaborators Spencer Combs and Daniella Mason to create a "whole interwoven story" where each vignette connects back to a song on Southern Symphony, with an end result Dickerson dubbed "a masterpiece."
"I was like, 'Hey, I don't want to just like do a Zoom concert with my guitar right here,'" he recalled of the decision to create the film. "I want to do something freaking crazy, and take it over-the-top ridiculous, because that's what I do. So we were like, 'Well, let's shoot a daggone movie.' And that's what we did." You can stream Southern Symphony here.