Shawna Russell Storms Country Music World

Written by Nathan Winfrey in the November 2009 Issue
Shawna Russell should have been born with wheels. At least, that’s what someone once told her, and it’s a claim she embraces because this rising country music star has spent much of her life on the road, traveling casino, club and concert circuits.

Her resolve has paid off. After years of dogged persistence, Shawna is poised to storm the country music world. “I was basically born into it,” she says. “I’ve been singing on stage since I was 7 years old and performing professionally since I was 13, so it’s really all I’ve known.”

At 13, she formed a country band with her dad, Keith Russell. Four years later, she joined her uncle, Tim Russell, in the band Way Out West. Her experiences led her on a tour of the U.S. and Canada for 78 weeks at the age of 17, immediately after high school. Shawna only took one week off for Christmas and then quickly forged ahead another 56 weeks without rest.

Shawna’s intensive tour schedule has put her on stage two to six nights a week, sometimes playing up to five sets per night, blasting crowd-pleasers and raw, emotional tunes for a growing cache of fans.

She’s played top venues like Grizzly Rose in Denver, Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth and the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville. She even played with Ty England for three years, including a USO tour in Korea in 2005.

In addition to vocals, Shawna has demonstrated prowess in acoustic rhythm, electric slide and lead guitar. Her dad also plays guitar and sings in the band. “It’s very easy to work with him. We really are a great team,” she says. “We really support each other.”

Her uncle Tim is in the band as well. “There is great chemistry between the three of us and I don’t know that I could do it any other way,” said Shawna. The band also includes Eddie Howard on drums and Drew Kellar on keyboard.

She released her first album, Goddess, in spring 2008, with Way Out West Records, of which she is a partner. It was recorded in Oklahoma City, and produced by her uncle Tim and Ted Curtis at Upstairs Productions Studio. She co-wrote 12 of the 13 songs on the album. It was recorded with music icons Russ Kunkel, drummer for Carly Simon and James Taylor, as well as David Santos, bassist for Elton John, Billy Joel and John Fogerty. Shawna’s vocals were engineered by Grammy award-winner Julian King, whose credits include chart-toppers Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Toby Keith.

Goddess, a mixture of catchy pop-country and soulful ballads, was met with overwhelming praise from critics and has lead to much radio play. Shawna was among the Country Music Association’s “Who New to Watch in 2008” and the album was named a finalist in the country album category by the Independent Music Awards.

The album’s first single, “Goddess,” was a success. Shawna recorded her debut video for her second single, “Should’ve Been Born With Wheels,” which is a study on her life as a traveling musician. The video reached #1 on the yallwire.com “Top 100”, and also remained #1 on the “Yallturnative” chart for four weeks in spring of this year. The song reached #21 on the Texas Music Chart, #16 on the Texas Regional Radio Report and #40 on Music Row. Her third single, “Fire in the Desert,” was released to radio in March.

The acclaimed “Should’ve Been Born With Wheels” video was shot in two arduous days in November 2008. It was 40 degrees outside with winds at about 30 mph with everyone wearing parkas between takes. “It was freezing,” Shawna says. “It took a lot of work. It was done so fast that I didn’t really have time to get nervous, so it was a great experience for me, other than the cold—the bitter, bitter cold.”

Shawna says her rise to success was spurred by her tenacity and focus. “I’ve never given up and I’ve never lost that passion,” she says. Shawna considers her album to be a major accomplishment. “I’m so proud of it, and I really put so much of my heart and soul into it,” she says.

With Goddess, Shawna caught the attention of the music world. In response, she’s gathering steam for the next round. She’s filling up her 2010 calendar for next year’s travel in her new tour bus, an ’87 Eagle previously owned by Willie Nelson. “It’s a really cozy bus and we’re ready to get it out on the road,” she says. “I love what I do and I’m always looking forward to the next step and getting my music out to more people, and I hope that’s what happens next year.”
For more information and to hear her music for free, visit www.ShawnaRussell.com.
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