The story so far…
“My music really is about inspiration. These instrumental songs speak without words and can be understood as the universal language that music is. You really can make these songs your own and apply whatever meaning you give them.” says Russell Nollen (pronounced ‘Nah Lynn’ – like flower pollen from Holland, not stolen from Poland). “This album does tell a story. More importantly, you can incorporate these songs into the story of your own life.”
Indeed, this album of music does easily find it’s way into the listener’s heart and soul. Primarily led by acoustic guitar melodies, these compositions contain a wide range of music elements from various styles (much like our emotions) , yet remains cohesive in it’s delivery (much like the fact that we are who we are, regardless of what’s happening to us).
Russell spent the first twenty years of his life in music primarily as a student. “I still practice and learn to this day. I’m very passionate about music.” he says. “As a young child, I learned singing, piano, then eventually French horn and mellophone with the school’s concert and marching bands. In my early teen years, I got to play what I’ve wanted to for so long – guitar!”
“My career as a professional began when I was only seventeen as I started teaching private guitar lessons at a music school, and then performing live with professional bands. I only quit taking formal lessons when my student roster and performance schedule took up most of my days and nights.”
His ambitions would lead him to be the most in-demand guitar teacher in the Des Moines area at the time. As a passionate, ambitious musician, he would also go far beyond the standard habits of performing musicians in the area. “I was often told things like, ‘You’ll have to cut your hair, get a day job, perform covers on weekends’ and ‘no one here makes a living with long hair and a guitar.” He would eventually teach guitar lessons at the largest music store in Iowa from 10:00-6:00, then travel to gigs to perform – six days a week – all with long hair and a guitar in his hands. At times playing covers, sometimes originals, “Occasionally we’d just jam or improvise right there on stage during a paid gig.” he confesses. “I did get to play with some amazing musicians and sit in on a few recording sessions.”
Having already accomplished what they said couldn’t, wouldn’t and shouldn’t be done, he set his sights on bigger goals. “My main band at the time dissolved. It was terribly difficult then to find musicians of better caliber in that area who were willing and able to tour as performing, recording artists. Rather than make the move to Los Angeles as I wanted to do a few years before, I realized that it would have been a culture shock moving from Iowa to California at that time.” Taking a leap of faith, he instead followed a colleague to Kansas City. “It was a much bigger area, had many more opportunities, and was still relatively close to my family in Iowa.”
Expanding on his career, he would continue teaching guitar lessons, performing with bigger bands, touring, working with recording artists and learning the music business more thoroughly. “I learned a lot then from pros of all kinds that just didn’t exist in Iowa at the time; agents, studios, publishers, music business attorneys, full-time performers, and more.”
At the time when Russell’s performing career was at it’s zenith, he was about to welcome a baby into his life and start a family. “Bands come and go. Tours begin and end. Students come and go. Family is forever. Those days were like a roller-coaster ride in the dark. Lots of ups and downs, and never truly knowing where and when they were. My family needed something a bit more stable, and I wanted to be present.” He would soon end his touring days to work a day job at a music store. “If I had to ‘settle down’ and get a day job, working in a music store for a stable paycheck was a good choice. I was able to keep my hair, teach a few guitar students on the side and still play an occasional gig.”
Throughout the years, that lifestyle remained. “Keeping a family together was very important to me, and so touring for months at a time wasn’t a good option then.” Working in the music store during the day, teaching guitar lessons in the afternoons & evenings, playing an occasional gig or recording session became the norm.
Russell would transfer that new lifestyle back to Iowa in order to be closer to his family where he resides currently. Fast forwarding through the years with all of their little and big events, the career events remained relatively unchanged. Although, as he recalls, “At some point, after having performed and taught other people’s music, it came time for me to put out my own. I had thought about it off and on, having jotted down several music ideas on paper and recordings on tape over the years. The catalyst came when a friend asked me to record some of my acoustic guitar playing for her. I was actually a bit reluctant at first, but thankfully, she was persistent with her requests. If I was going to give her some recordings, I’d prefer that they be quality, professional recording of my own compositions. So, I started simply expounding the ideas that I already had until they were completely written and recorded as demos. One song led to another, and eventually I contacted a recording engineer friend to help record, engineer and co-produce ten songs, all of which ended up becoming the album, I.”
These days Russell has since retired from teaching and performing professionally in order to focus more on his artistry in music production. “I’m very blessed and grateful to be spending these days producing music that I love. I’m happy to share it with you!”