A lifetime spent soaking in music from a multitude of cultures has led singer/songwriter Brenda Russell to a new label, Hidden Beach Recordings, and the release of her latest album, Paris Rain.
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Russell heard the rounded harmonies of street choirs through the window, Latin bands in the park, and the songs her musical mom worked on at home. Perhaps the musical training she received from her parents (her father was also a musician) at the dawn of her life helped form Russell's style, which combines a variety of influences and a direct appeal to the human heart.
Throwing away complex metaphors and intricate musical devices takes courage, the kind of strength that Brenda Russell demonstrated when she wrote "Get Here." Originally dismissed by its composer as "corny," the song, as recorded by Oleta Adams, became a national anthem of sorts during the Persian Gulf War. Recognition and residuals came with that track, but what Russell remembers is the fact that "Get Here" "brought me a lot of emotional love."
Despite the success of "Get Here" and the hit recording Russell had with her 1988 release "Piano in the Dark," the roughness of the music industry would once again work on this talented artist. No stranger to the ups and downs of the business, Russell, who scored a hit with her first single, "So Good, So Right" back in 1979, was nonetheless taken aback by the seven-year period she spent without a recording contract following her 1993 release, Soul Talkin'."
Rather than focus on the difficulty that maturing artists face when it comes to negotiating label deals, Russell spent much of the '90s expanding her creative skills by collaborating with other artists, and writing for other singers, including Diana Ross, Tina Turner and Patti LaBelle. Traveling the globe and exposing herself to different cultures enriched her art during those years.
In 1998, Russell and veteran music executive Steve McKeever met by chance - perhaps. McKeever had actually heard a demo of Brenda's new material and planned on contacting her to discuss the possibility of signing her to his new label. "Steve knew every song, he was a real fan, and he was into the music and into what I was doing as an artist. I was totally delighted to join forces with Hidden Beach," notes Russell.
The result of sessions recorded for the Santa Monica-based label, Paris Rain extends the period of collaboration for Russell, who co-wrote "Move The Moon" with Carole King. "Love and Paris Rain" features lyrics by Russell crafted on top of music written by pianist Russell Ferrante and Will Kennedy of the Yellowjackets. Brazilian composer Ivan Lins wrote the music to the samba "Please, Felipe," and drummer Sheila E. cooked up the groove to "Walking in New York."