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Interview with Russ Lee -- Out On His Own

  • Published Aug 07, 2001
Interview with Russ Lee -- Out On His Own
J MAN: How did you come to the decision to leave NewSong and go solo?

Russ: I love NewSong. I loved being a part of that ministry, and I always will. They are some of my best friends in the world. They love what they do, and they do it for the right reasons. And they're real fun off the stage, which is real important when you're in a group. I really felt like ... I have three little kids, and I wanted to have more control over the schedule, but more than that, God began opening doors and record companies started calling me to do a solo record. I was kinda pushed into a corner since I knew I was supposed to pursue that. I had prayed and asked God to open those doors if that was what I was supposed to do. But I also began to realize that if I toured with NewSong and a solo record, what would suffer would be my family. I didn't want my family to suffer because of my busyness. So, I had to make the decision and I felt God was leading me in that direction. NewSong was great, I didn't leave mad at all. I miss the guys terribly at times, but I knew it was something I was supposed to do. Really it was a matter of "Do I obey, step out, take a risk?" or "Do I stay here where it's comfortable?" And I believe God knew the desire of my heart as a family man, a father, he knew I loved NewSong and ministry, so He put me with a great record company that's supports my family and my ministry. So more than anything it was a God thing, and I knew I was supposed to do it.

J MAN: You just got off tour with Carman and ZOEgirl. How was it?

Russ: A lot of fun. Carman was really good to me. We had some good opportunities to talk about what's in my heart to do and he really encouraged me to go do it. It was a lot of fun ... I actually opened for Carman as well as played in the band. I was on stage with him all night ... A tour that big ... six buses, five trucks, 42 cities, you hopefully build some lasting relationships with people. The bad part was being on the road that long and not being able to go home. The record company really worked with me and brought them out some, and helped me finance travel home, since they know how important my family is [to me]. The tour was a great opportunity. Eight-thousand-plus first-time decisions for Christ, playing for between, conservatively, 350,000 to 400,000 people. Carman just invited me out. He wanted people to know I was here, to hear my heart. It was a blessing.

J MAN: Let's talk Words In Time. What is your favorite track on the album and why?

Russ: I really believe so much in this [whole] record. I love every song, because it's a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. I wrote or co-wrote everything except for one song. So, it's really hard to say [a favorite]. I think the song that provokes me the most is Tell Me. Just because it reminds me that everyone I disagree with or I'm afraid of, or the people doing crazy things in the world, they're looking for the same thing I was looking for when Jesus Christ found me. The song just reminds me that sometimes the people we think are the least interested in the gospel, are the most interested and the most ready.

J MAN: What's the story on Pam Tillis recording I Smile?

Russ: A song plugger, which is the person that takes a song, and puts it with the artist, came by the studio while I was recording the record and heard I Smile. He got real excited about it and said, with a little bit of work, this could become a great country song. I was like, "I've never heard this as a country song," and he was like, "Oh, I do!" So he took the song and said, "You mind if I pitch it to a couple country artists?" Well, he pitched the song to several artists, Tim McGraw put it on hold, Bryan White was very interested in it, [but] Pam Tillis beat everybody to the punch, heard the song, loved it, and recorded it. I was thrilled, because that's an audience I will never play for. And it's a great opportunity to have a little influence over there.

J MAN: When people come away from a concert, what do you want them to feel and say about the experience?

Russ: I want them to know that I love what I do. I want them to know that I love Who it's about. I want them to know that I'm not faking passion about the Lord. I'm there to encourage them and provoke them. Just to speak [about] God honestly. I'm there to press people into Jesus. I'm not just trying to expose them to what God is doing in my life and display Christian artistry. That's part of it, but more than anything I want all that to bring people to a place where they realize that God knows everything about them, and then they're at a greater moment of opportunity to move into a greater intimacy with Him.

J MAN: What's next for you? New album?

Russ: We're writing right now. I've got several songs already in the works ... but I'm really just trying to listen, write what I'm supposed to, also make it musically fun and interesting. I'm in the early stages of beginning to write and collect thoughts, ideas for the next record.