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I invite you to  join me in a weekly project which I will call "The Make Somebody Famous Project".

Every Monday, I will provide links to the website of an independent music artist that I like and I think deserves greater attention. I am asking you to share the links to this artist's music, videos, and gigs with your friends, thereby making them "famous" for that week (and, hopefully, beyond that).

Here's what inspired it: Following our house concert, with Caitlin Mahoney on February 27, 2016, one of the people in the audience was bemoaning the sad state of pop music that seems to prevail through established media outlets, in contrast to the stellar songwriting and awesome performance that they had just seen/heard from Caitlin. These folks asked "Why isn't she famous when there's so much crap out there?" I replied, somewhat facetiously, "I don't know, but if you figure it out, please let me know."

I woke up a couple of days later realizing that I do know the reason why Caitlin, as well as the many other talented songwriters and singers and performers that I know are not yet famous, and that is merely one very simple reason: people haven't heard them yet. So, here's my idea and I hope you will take on this challenge with me, and we, together, will make a change. Each week, I will pick a musical artist that is doing their thing independently and is someone I really like and I think you should know about. I encourage you to spend a week getting to know this artist's music. Give them a good, honest chance. Listen to them on Spotify or however else you stream several times. Listen to the all their recordings. Listen to them in the car. Listen to them at the gym. Listen to them on headphones at home without other distractions. When you like it, pay for the album. Go to their website. Check out their videos on youtube. Check out their tour schedule. If they wind up being in your town, go to their show (which will probably be a small audience at this point, so it will be really cool to see and hear them).

PERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THIS is SHARING this artist's music with your friends like you used to when you were younger and found that song or music that you really liked. And tell your friends to listen, download and watch and have them SHARE with their friends. We can fill each other's music players with awesome music and perhaps, make these well-deserved artists famous, least keep them able to do music as their day job. SHARING will help create the critical mass necessary for these amazing artists to be heard by more and more and more people. Laura and I love hosting house concerts because we feel these folks need to be heard, and these artists need your help to get heard to a greater audience. BTW—I encourage you to start your own “Make Someone Famous Project”. I will focus on music, and singer-songwriters in particular, but you could choose painters, actors, poets, or tennis players. The idea is to SHARE and get OTHERS to SHARE.

Since it was the conversation following her concert that inspired this idea, the inaugural artisit will be Caitlin Mahoney. Check back each week for a new recommendation for an artist that deserves to be famous (or better yet, get on the Dennis Russell email list by sending a message via my contact page).



    • Eric Taylor--Why I like Eric Taylor: The first time my wife, Laura Hemenway heard Eric Taylor's rich baritone voice and imagistic lyrics coming over the radio, she pulled the car to the side of the road for two reasons: first, she was so compelled and drawn in that she had to listen; and, second, she wanted to wait for the DJ to announce the artist, because she HAD to KNOW who created that music. She came home and insisted that I hear it, and I too became instantly obsessed with this songwriter. But recordings were one thing. The first time I EXPERIENCED Eric Taylor live (and I use the word "experienced" with great purpose here), I was moved to tears by the third song, and couldn't keep them back the rest of the concert. Rarely does an artist come along that busts your heart open with the intense depth of their performance, but Eric Taylor did that to me. Now...Eric Taylor has been around awhile and has had his songs covered by Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett, among others, so perhaps he's already famous in some degree. But...whenever I mention his name to others, they haven't heard of him, so let's make him better known. Recordings of Eric Taylor are great to listen to, but, in my opinion, his live show, which is often played to small audiences in house concerts and listening rooms, is, without a doubt, the experience of a lifetime. You should put seeing him on your bucket list. You will thank me later. As a prose story-teller (he is a master at the pre or inter song spoken extrapolation explaining the circumstances of the background of the song), combining the literary sensibility of John Steinbeck, Raymond Carver, and/or William Faulkner combined with the songwriting craft of his contemporaries, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and David Olny (or insert any other Texas-based singer-songwriter here). 


  • Monday, April 4, 2016--Steve Key--Why I like Steve Key: Steve Key reminds me of a stereotypical Southern Lawyer. His style is humble, casual, and easy going, but underneath it all is tremendous amount of intellect, attention to craft, and detail of delivery. Steve's songwriting takes the best from the Northeast folksters, the Nashville country cats, and the Texas troubadours and rolls them into his own unique storytelling voice. Not only is Steve a talented singer-songwriter, he's one of the most hard-working and active promoters of acoustic music on California's Central Coast, with Songwriters at Play hosting several songwriter showcases each week. There's lots of opportunities to hear him play live, as he typically opens each showcase performing a set. a well-deserved, talented guy who spends a lot of his own time helping out a lot of well-deserved, talented people by sharing his music and making him famous this week! BTW--I wouldn't have found out about two of the prior Make Somebody Famous Project artists, Caitlin Mahoney or Alice Wallace, had I not met them through a Steve Key show, so the guy has great ears for talent himself!


  • Monday, March 21, 2016--Alice Wallace--Why I like Alice Wallace: I was introduced to Alice Wallace on December 6, 2016. I will always remember this date, because I was playing at Sculpterra Winery in Paso Robles as part of Steve Key's Songwriters at Play weekly showcase and I was scheduled to play immediately following Alice Wallace. She, backed by one of the tastiest bands I've heard in a long time, performed a great set of original country songs. As she announced her last song. I went around the corner to tune up, already dreading following such a great performer,  and I heard her start "I Want to be a Cowboy's Sweetheart," yodeling better than anyone I've ever heard live. After a verse,  the band stopped, and started again, even faster with even more amazing yodeling. Another break, and even faster yodeling--pitch perfect, rhythmically precise. AMAZING! I've been at this a long time, and I've never been hesitant to follow any performer, NONE, but dammit, Alice Wallace made me want to reliquish my playing time and put my guitar in the case for the afternoon. She blew me away.  If the place would have had a roof, it would have blown off. She was THAT GREAT! I played my set, gotta do what you gotta do...the show must go on...and all that jazz (and hey, I turned in a pretty solid set, but I'm no Alice Wallace). After my set, I made it a point to compliment each guy in her band, and I made it a point to congratulate her on her performance. I bought her CD Memories, Music and Pride and it was the only music I played for  the next week straight (which included two road trips from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo).  Alice is on her way up. I'm just hoping that more of you will hear her and she'll become one of your favorite singers, just like she's become one of mine. 


  • Monday, March 14, 2016--Matt Armor--Why I like Matt Armor: Ok, I'm probably best known as a primitive-acoustic-singer-songwriter-type guy, but those of you who are tight with me know that I have immense appreciation and often a downright need  for a little roots/rockabilly/alt-country to get me through a day and Matt's music fits that bill perfectly. He's got some great originals and imaginative reworkings of cover songs. I like 'em all, so I can't make a singular recommendation. Play 'em all! over and over again! Plus, his band is killer too. Matt is already pretty famous in Santa Barbara, but you friends in the rest of the world need to make him famous beyond the borders of CA's central coast.


  • Monday, March 7, 2016--Michael McNevin--Why I like Michael McNevin: All of Michael's songs are immaculately crafted. His lyrics exemplify expert storytelling through poetic lyrics containing original metaphors and turns of phrase. His voice gets to the emotional center of the song, and his highly skilled guitar style is impressive as well. His facebook page has the most up to date info on his live shows and the songwriting circle he runs in Niles, CA.


  • Monday, February 29, 2016---Caitlin Mahoney--Why I like Caitlin: Caitlin has great songs and incredible vocal delivery. On her website, she's compared to Adele and Fiona Apple, and she delivers. Profound music, but with a sense of humor and a smile. I'm not sure if Caitlin's original sound is pop music with depth, or folk music with great pop sensibility. She's a Joni Mitchell fan and... she's a Bruce Springsteen fan, so, if you go see her live, yell "CAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTT!!!!!" really loud between songs.




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