I find most of my inspiration in struggle: whether internal, external, or within the natural world, struggle is the most common human experience and the root of all the best stories.
Russell James Pyle was born into a Pennsylvanian family steeped in musical tradition. With parents who were a trumpet player and classical pianist, respectively, a sister who was a flautist, 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 with college friend, Josh Gingerich. It was with The Porter Draw 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. Russell recorded five albums with the band and although he no longer performs with them, they continue to create exciting music.
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 will be releasing a new EP, Seasons in December, 2016.
Playing in the Chisos Mountains at Big Bend National Park as part of National Park Arts Foundation artist-in-residence program.
Live at Marble Brewing in Albuquerque, NM. June, 2016
1: What artist would you most love to work with?
I'd like to work with ambient composers like Harold Budd, Eluvium, or Brian Eno. I enjoy music that combines traditional and nontraditional instruments, so I think I would learn a lot from working with electronic artists.
2: What instrument brings you the most joy?
The human voice.
3: What was the worst advice?
Go to college, get a job.
4: What was your first concert?
I can't even remember.
5: What/where is the best road food?
I bring 90% of the food I eat on the road with me because I hate road food, generally speaking. I use a lot of backpacking meals from Alpine Gourmet because they don't taste horrible. I eat instant oats in the morning. It's important to keep my body working right while on the road. That being said... Dairy Queen Grill and Chill.
6: What’s the best music advice you ever got?
"Do it." My grandfather, when I was deciding to move to Albuquerque to play music.
7: Who is your most surprising inspiration?
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist teacher that started Plum Village in France.