Mon, 21 August 2017
Our guest this week on the Art of the Song Coffee Break is New Mexico based singer/songwriter Russell James Pyle.
Russell James Pyle was born into a Pennsylvanian family steeped in musical tradition. With parents who were a trumpet player and classical pianist, respectively, and a grandfather who commanded big bands with his horn during the 1940s and 50s, the groundwork for a career in music was laid. He was playing piano by age six, trumpet by age ten, before settling into the guitar after he found his great-grandfather’s broken ukulele in the attic, repaired it with fishing line, and plucked out a major scale. Songwriting followed at age 14, and those songs were horrible. He immersed himself in the punk and hardcore scenes of Richmond, VA and Lancaster, PA, playing in a myriad of different bands that were pretty awful. Towards the end of high school, Russell discovered traditional singer-songwriters and began almost a decade of honing his songwriting skills.
Russell migrated to Albuquerque, New Mexico when he was 26, and quickly formed The Porter Draw and it was with this band that Russell gained experience and sharpened his abilities. The Porter Draw was in a lot of ways an amalgam of Russell’s influences: the punk energy of his youth mixed in equal parts with the country songwriters he fell in love with in his early 20s. “Punk and hardcore really speak to the anger that comes along with adolescence, country music relates to the existentialism of adulthood,” Russell remarked in a radio interview in 2013. After releasing five albums with The Porter Draw, Russell and the band parted ways in April, 2016.
In May, 2016, Russell released his debut solo album, “Rise”. Backed by a talented young lineup of Albuquerque musicians, Rise creates the sound of the desert where it was born. Influenced as much by Brian Eno and U2 as by Texas troubadours, Rise creates an uplifting mood amidst honest songs about struggle. Delivered in a trademark vibrato rasp and accompanied by an ethereal folk soundtrack, Russell's songs are poems and calls to action.
In September 2016, Russell was selected by the National Parks Arts Foundation as the centennial artist-in-resident at Big Bend National Park. Russell is passionate about our national park service and the outdoors in general and this shows throughout his music and social media presence. “I can relate to struggle more than any other experience. There is a lot of struggle in the natural world and I draw inspiration, hope and healing from it,” Russell stated in an interview in 2016. Not only drawn to environmental activism, Russell incorporates principles of ecopsychology, or healing mental health through interaction with nature into his songwriting. Russell has done extensive academic work on ecopsychology and ecowellness and continues to write about the topic on his blog, The River’s Bend.
Russell is an avid outdoors enthusiast and tours the country living out of his 2005 Honda Element. Between shows he is often found exploring streams with his fly rod, or hiking trails. He released a new EP, Seasons in December, 2016.
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