Russell Dickerson Talks About His Excellent Album Southern Symphony, And Writing His Hit Songs “Love You Like I Used To” And “Home Sweet”

Russell Dickerson
Russell Dickerson
(photo credit: Spencer Combs)

In the past three years, singer/songwriter Russell Dickerson has emerged as one of the most successful and consistent artists on the country charts. Starting with his debut single “Yours” in 2017, Dickerson has had four, consecutive number one hits on the Billboard country charts. Currently, his recent #1 hit “Love You Like I Used To” remains in the Top 5, and it’s been on the Billboard Country Airplay chart for an impressive 46 weeks.

In December (2020), Dickerson released his second album, called Southern Symphony (on Triple Tigers Records). This album is a strong collection of songs that shows Dickerson’s solid development as an artist & songwriter. Not only does the album contain “Love You Like I Used To,” but it includes his next single “Home Sweet,” which may be Dickerson’s best song to date.

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Russell Dickerson, who tells how he wrote his hit “Love You Like I Used To” (with Casey Brown & Parker Welling).


Southern Symphony also includes the fun, upbeat song “It’s About Time,” which features a duet with Florida Georgia Line. Another highlight is the title cut “Southern Symphony,” a heartfelt, acoustic ballad where Dickerson reflects on his young family life and roots. Other key songs are “Never Get Old,” “All Yours, All Night” and “Forever for a Little While.” Notably, Dickerson has created a unique, imaginative short film that features excerpts from all 10 songs on the album.

Dickerson grew up in the small town of Union City, Tennessee, and he later attended and graduated from Belmont University in Nashville. He eventually signed a music publishing deal, and in 2016 he independently released a 5-song EP called Yours. Interestingly, this EP not only contained his first hit “Yours,” but also included his second and third hits, “Blue Tacoma” and “Every Little Thing, which also became #1 country hits.

It was in 2017 that Dickerson released his debut album, Yours, and he toured steadily through 2018 and 2019. Then with the pandemic & shutdown of 2020, Dickerson had time to finish writing and recording his new album, Southern Symphony.

Here’s the video of Russell Dickerson’s hit, “Love You Like
I Used To.”

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Russell Dickerson. He discusses the making of his new album, and he tells how he co-wrote his hits “Love You Like I Used To,” “Yours,” “Blue Tacoma” and “Every Little Thing.”

DK: You released your first album, Yours, three years ago, and since then you’ve had a string of hits. So what’s it been like for you, to be building your career with each new single?

Russell Dickerson: Oh man…I think the most gratifying part was that my first three number ones were on my original EP that we put out without a label. We wrote these songs before anybody was paying attention, and these were the ones that put me on the map. But it takes time, especially as a newer artist in this day where there’s so many artists and so many people trying to do this. We just kept our head down and kept pushing and working hard, and ended up where we are now.

DK: You’ve just released your second album, Southern Symphony. Can you talk about the making of your new album?

Dickerson: Oh man…this whole album is a compilation of my life, from the title track “Southern Symphony,” which goes back to my childhood and how I was raised. I was born and raised in Tennessee, so the song talks about my Southern upbringing and has those (lyric) phrases that I was raised with, like “washing up before supper,” and “don’t talk back to your mother and get your butt worn out.” So that goes back to my childhood, and then all the way now to my current single “Home Sweet,” which talks about when my wife was pregnant and we were having a baby in our new house and moving in. So it covers the expanse of my entire life, and it’s a lot more mature than my first album.

My first album (Yours) was super fun and more poppy. The Southern Symphony album is more mature, the songwriting is deeper…the emotional depth is there. So I could not be more proud of those 10 songs on the new album.

DK: You’ve been on the charts with your hit, “Love You Like I Used To.” The title of this song seems a bit sad, but actually it’s a very happy song. So how did you and your co-writers come up with the idea for that song?

Here’s the short film about Russell Dickerson’s new album,
Southern Symphony.

Dickerson: Yeah, one of the co-writers had the title, and so I took that title and started running with it, with the melody. We actually wrote the song for a first time, and I played it for my wife and she was like, “Uhh…the title of the song is better than the actual song.” So I was like, “Okay, that stings a little bit, but it’s alright.” So we went back to the drawing board—we completely rewrote the entire song. And the first time, it didn’t have that twist in the first verse. In the first verse, we wanted to preserve that anticipation of, “Is this a sad song, or is this a happy song?” And in the first version we didn’t have that at all.

And so now in the first verse, it was like “I’ve always loved you, but something’s changed.” And we keep building the anticipation of “I don’t love you like I used to,” and then the chorus is like, “Bam! This gets better every time. It just gets better and better.” So I think that’s why the song has really connected, and it’s proven to be my biggest song yet.

DK: My favorite song on your album is probably “Home Sweet,” your next single. How did you and your co-writers (Casey Brown & Charles Kelley) write that song?

Dickerson: Thank you for saying that. That’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve written. That song came about, when me and Casey Brown were on a run. We actually came up with the idea for “Home Sweet” the same day that we wrote “Love You Like I Used To.” That was a great day for songwriting. We were on a run, and Casey was like, “Hey, what do you think about the title “Home Sweet Us” or something like that?” And I was like, “Dude, what about Home Sweet you and me,” and get the internal rhyme there. And we were like, “Dude, yeah!” (laughs). So Casey already had a track built, and he had the chorus going. And he was playing that in the back lounge of my bus. Charles wasn’t even there yet.

Casey started playing that, and I started singing what is the chorus now, (he sings)  “Home sweet, you and me, ain’t got much but we got all we need.” And literally within 15 minutes we had the whole chorus. We were vibing on that, and then I texted Charles (Kelley): “Dude, you gotta get in here…we are on something crazy.” And so he did. I think he was sound-checking, and then he came and hopped on my bus.

Here’s the lyric video of Russell Dickerson’s new single,
“Home Sweet.”

Me and my wife Kailey have a bed back there on the bus. And I’m 6’-4” and Charles is 6’-6”, so we’re both on this bed scrunched up with our knees up (laughs). And with Casey Brown, we’ve got three people in this little back lounge. And man, within an hour-and-a-half, we finished that song. Once we did, we knew it was going to be special.

DK: I read the songwriting credits on your first and second albums, and many of the songs were written with Casey Brown and Parker Welling. So what makes the three of you a good team?

Dickerson: I think it’s the relationship we had before we even started writing songs. I got my first publishing deal before I even graduated from college, and they started putting me with these big writers who already had hits. So I would be walking into a room to work with writers I’d never met before. And personally, it takes me a little while to open up and be real. It take me a few times hanging out with somebody. So I would get put with these great songwriters, but I think it was my own walls I had up that I couldn’t get past at first.

But then I got with Casey and Parker, who are like family to me. We went to college together…they knew me and my wife Kailey, and they knew our story from before we were even dating. And so when I got in a room with them to write, the walls were already down. They knew about who I am as an artist & writer and what I want to portray to the world. They know about my love for my wife and my faith in God, and they know where I’m headed. So when I got in the room with them, it was magical…it clicked.

DK: You, Casey Brown and Parker Welling also wrote your hits “Blue Tacoma” and “Every Little Thing.” Can you talk about writing these songs?

Dickerson: With “Blue Tacoma,” we wrote it and turned it into my publisher at the time, and we didn’t get a response that we thought we would. But I guess we heard the elements of the song that were potentially a hit, so “Blue Tacoma” was one that we kept coming back to. I kept hearing and singing the hook, “Blue Tacoma, California.” So I sat down at my computer, and I changed the entire verse melody. Then I re-recorded it, and reproduced some of the elements I was hearing in the song. And that little demo sparked a whole new excitement and passion for the song. We got back together and rewrote the verses and tweaked the song, and we walked out of there with some magic.

Here’s the video of Russell Dickerson’s song “It’s About Time”
(feat. Florida Georgia Line).

DK: On your new album, you have a fun collaboration on “It’s About Time” with Florida Georgia Line. So how did you hook up with Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley for that song?

Dickerson: When we wrote the song, it was obviously a big ol’ party jam…it was completely over the top. That’s what I like to do. I like to take things and push the boundaries, and make it as crazy and over the top as possible. And I was like, “You know what? It’s already this far—why don’t we keep pushin’? (laughs) Why don’t we get FGL (Florida Georgia Line) on the song? So I played it for Tyler (Hubbard), and he absolutely loved it. Then he sent it to BK (Brian Kelley) and within 10 minutes BK was like, “I’m getting on a plane, I’m coming in, we’re recording it next week.” I said, “Dude, I’m glad y’all love it.” I’ve never asked that favor before, but I felt like this was a perfect song, and perfect timing.

DK: Over the past year, we’ve all experienced the pandemic & shutdown. What’s it been like for you during this period?  I did read that you & your wife had a baby boy a few months ago, and you’ve had a big year on the charts.

Dickerson: Man honestly…it’s been one of the best years for me. I know it’s been hard for a lot of people, and this past year was the first time we were supposed to profit from touring, and that all got canceled. But even without that, it’s been the best year to be at home. We moved into our house at the end of 2019, so we’d been in our house for two or three months when things shut down. So to be at home while my wife was pregnant, and to be at home with her and with our son, and wake up with him every morning and hang out, it’s been incredible. And so yeah, I wouldn’t trade 2020 for anything. We’ve had the time to really soak in life.

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima