Today's Charleston Scene music video premiere comes from a local Americana and rock musician who has been playing guitar and singing for over 30 years in Charleston, Nashville, San Diego, Atlanta, Austin and beyond.
Rene Russell has performed with the Indigo Girls, Tom Chapin, the Jennifer Nettles Band. Now, she's releasing a brand new original song with an accompanying video.
The video, released with Artist Formula and shot by Paul Chelmis, shows off the beautiful Lowcountry with views of James Island. Chris Blackwell is on drums and backing vocals, Pete Clark is on bass and Rene Russell is on 12-string guitar and vocals.
Here's a Q&A with Russell about her transition to original music and upcoming goals. You can watch the video now.
Q: When did you first start playing guitar and who were your early inspirations?
A: I first started at 11 years old. Before that, it was piano. My early music inspirations were Fleetwood Mac, Janis Ian, James Taylor, Nanci Griffith, Eurythmics, Santana, Indigo Girls, Tracy Chapman, Carly Simon, Roger Whitaker, John Denver, Pretenders, The Allman Brothers, Suzanne Vega and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Q: How have you seen the music industry here in Charleston change over time during your 30+ year career?
A: Originally from Columbia, I used to travel to Charleston to play Cafe 99 and other spots back in the '80s when it was just a cool Southern coastal town with lazy beach spots, lots of jazz and art and good food. Back then most of the venues and restaurants with live music were all about cover tunes for the tourists.
What I'm seeing here now is a greater demand for original music. Many of the local breweries much prefer to hear great original music rather than the same covers. Charleston is becoming a musical artist's destination, and that is the biggest change I've seen. My producer Chris Blackwell and I would like to see Charleston become a recording destination as well.
Q: So what made you finally jump into original music instead of covers? Had you been writing songs the whole time or just recently?
A: I've always written songs and have mixed them in with the cover songs; they just were not the focus. It is much harder to put yourself out there and play original songs, because those songs are pieces of you that are intimate, personal moments. I've always felt the need to tell a story, my story, but it takes courage to do so.
I decided to focus on my originals because I took a serious look at what I was doing musically and what I expected and honestly, there was no way I was going to get where I wanted to without taking the risk to become an artist instead of a cover musician.
Q: Let's talk 6-string guitar vs. 12-string guitar. Why do you prefer the latter?
A: The 12-string guitar is like a small orchestra. It has such a full, vibrant sound. I played piano when I was 8 years old. Then at 11, my neighbor got a 12-string guitar. Once I heard that sound, I was hooked.
Q: What's the inspiration specifically behind "I Wonder, Do You?"
A: Most of my songs are about my views of the world or circumstances I've witnessed or experiences. With this one I wanted to talk about how often we just "settle" instead of taking the time or effort to try to change things when we see injustice. We just let things go, maybe waiting for someone else to do the hard work, to take a stand for change.
...This song asks us why we just settle, why don't we take a stand and change, why don't we have the courage to live an authentic life and trust our intuition and do the right thing instead of being lulled back to sleep by the status quo.
Q: What are the next steps for you?
A: We are planning to release two more singles over the next few months with support from Artist Formula and tour regionally, both solo and with the trio.