Russell is an Australian-born singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist living in Portland, Oregon.
Since releasing his first album, Russell has toured and performed with artists such as Augustana, Tyrone Wells, Andrew Belle, Russell Crowe, SafetySuit, GoRadio, Mat Kearney, Matt White, Brendan James, Tom Curren, and countless independent bands, racking up in excess of 1500 concerts.
Russell is also co-frontman for the danceable alt/rock band Crown Point, releasing two albums since the bands inception in 2010. Russell has been relentlessly touring the US, Australia, and Canada for three years with the band.
During those three years, he wrote dozens of songs that didn't fit the rock style of Crown Point, and in the spring of 2012, hit the studio to record what would become his third solo album, A Silent Storm.
A follow-up to 2005's Freshwater and 2008's Between U&I, A Silent Storm is a brave departure from not only Crown Point, but all of his previous solo work.
"The message of this album is self-discovery and learning how to truly be honest with myself. If I had to really boil it down to one thing, this album is about finding the love of being in our own skin," he says after much pondering. "It's about struggle, finding meaning, and finding resolve in things we often go through alone.”
Summing up the record with one lyric, the line "take me as I am, flawed and out of plan," from the song "Queen Without A Land," the writing and making of the record was very cathartic for Russell.
"I think that everyone can associate with simply wanting to be loved and valued for who they are in their most honest state," Stafford states, discussing the lyric in question and the album's theme as a whole. "Our society puts so much emphasis on being perfect. Looking perfect, acting perfect, saying the right thing every time, being what some TV show or movie or magazine says we should be. Deep down though, we all want to be ourselves and be loved for it. None of us are perfect in the way that seems to be so highly valued by pop culture, but we’re all special and unique, and that in itself is perfect."
It was the "take me as I am" mentality that helped Stafford strip himself of the pop expectations and the commercial pressures he had previously placed on himself, and helped him make a better record as a result of it, a record that is honest from the first until the last note. It was also this attitude that helped him step away from his rock band and write for himself, not a band.
Opening with "We," Stafford lays it all on the line, delivering a short, not even two minute acoustic guitar-and-piano ballad that instantly lets you know this is Stafford at his rawest, his voice seeping with honesty, and the melody as direct and see-through as there is. Following it with the catchy "Waiting In Bed," an alt. country ditty in the vein of Ryan Adams.
"Just Like You" recalls Amos Lee or Jim Bianco, with its late-night jazz-pop verses and hook-laden chorus. While "Fire & Light" turns a tender note into beauty, with Stafford's voice leading the cello while the acoustic guitar and pedal steel add haunting layers to the song's base melody.
"Records On The Record," which also appears on Crown Point's latest, Curtains, takes a more rustic, roots approach than Crown Point; the easy-going, summer breeze melody and nostalgic lyrics paining the imagery to draw you in.
However, the highlights for Stafford are the album's two final songs, "Queen Without A Land" and the album's title track, two songs Stafford nearly cut from the album.
"They are the first songs I’ve truly ever been scared to release," he says without hesitation. "Not because I don’t love them, but because they’re so unguarded and vulnerable for me. I came close several times to not putting them on the album. To be able to overcome the fear of 'what people might think', for me, that’s the underlying message of the album."
The end result is a record that fits in well with the music of William Fitzsimmons, The Civil Wars, Angus & Julia Stone, Ray LaMontagne, Damien Rice, and Ryan Adams.
"I think that there is a counter culture brewing in the industry that is kind of a backlash to the pop formula that has been beaten into our ears through years of FM domination. People more than ever are craving music that is real, that is honest, that comes from the heart. If we as artists can’t be who we truly are in our music, then how can anyone ever fully connect with it?" comments Stafford. "This album is honest, heartfelt, and me really putting everything I am out there. Take me as I am, flawed and out of plan. Too often, we forget why we make music. We try and please everyone, we try and make everyone love our music, our image, our persona. These songs are me. They aren’t written to be everything to everyone, but I think that will help some people really connect with them on a deeper level. I think that is the kind of honesty that’s craved by listeners, especially in such a saturated and poppy world."