Paul Russell Breaks Down New Project ‘Once in a Dry Season’
Paul Russell dropped his debut solo project, Once In A Dry Season, under Kings Dream Entertainment on March 29th. He was kind enough write an exclusive (not to mention a thorough and extensive) track-by-track breakdown of every song, and touches upon anything from production processes, real-life events that inspired the tracks, and goes deeper into the themes he explores. Be sure to bump the project after reading this breakdown.
Paul Russell Provided the Following:
In “Kimbo Slice,” I wanted to capitalize on shock value (the style – quick rapping over a gritty trap beat – is far from my usual sound) and introduce some of the ideas to be discussed throughout the project. As you’ll hear, I briefly touch on my changing relationship with the idea of becoming a hip hop artist. This journey of accepting the gifts God has given me and the call to use them is an undercurrent of the entire album, mentioned explicitly in songs like “Good Things” and implicitly in songs like “Renfro” and “Feels like a Dream.” The ending, where my sister talks about my childhood, was a surprise addition to the song that Ruslan threw in during the mixing and mastering phase. When I say surprise, I mean really a surprise. Before I heard the final track, I had no idea he’d ever spoken to my family. Sneaky.
“Open Road” is about moving away. When I wrote the song, I’d spent a few months in California and was getting ready to go back home. The time I’d spent there was, as I’ll explain later in this piece, important to my life and my story. To return to the same-old-same-old of regular life was devastating to me. That feeling of leaving behind something or someone you’ve grown to love, or just leaving your comfort zone, is something we’ll all feel at some point and I think above all it’s an opportunity to trust God with whatever he has for us. For many of us, the decision to take that step is a major decision in our walk with Christ, so I decided to include it in the album as the start of its narrative.
Often in our journeys with God, we encounter seasons of confusion immediately after taking what seems to be the right step in our lives. In “Osmun Place” (named after the street of my college apartment), I tried to give a snapshot of what my life was like as I was in this sort of situation.
A year earlier, I had, for the first time, truly felt that God was calling me to do something. That something, it seemed, was to apply for summer internships in Southern California. Once I arrived, unexpected doors started opening. While I was there, I got more connected with Kings Dream and eventually signed my record deal. I fell in love for the first time, and I got a glimpse of what I wanted my life to look like in the future. I followed God and it came with a few life-altering blessings, so I felt like I was living the dream.
When the summer ended and I came back to Ithaca, everything changed. It didn’t feel like God was speaking as much, and though some new doors were opening, others were closing. I was lost. It was in that aimlessness and confusion that I wrote “Osmun Place”. In the song, I talk about the trivial day-to-day experiences going on around me, I repeat the advice I’ve been given, and most of all I cry out to God. Sometimes it feels like that’s all you can do.
In many ways, “Renfro” is a comparison between my current life (on Osmun Place) and my life years before (on Renfro Street, a street from my town in Texas). In the song, I reflect on how my motives and dreams have become more complicated and confusing. I grew up wanting to be a politician, but now I’m striving for attention and money as a musician. But who knows? Maybe it was always about attention and money. Maybe this is what I used to do on Renfro too.
The Rules ft. BreeKay & Kasari
“The Rules” is the story of my relationship with my girlfriend. It’s a departure from the general narrative of the album, but still important to my story. When we first met, I considered her to not be ‘my type’. That year, I was obsessed with finding someone with everything on my list of characteristics, and though some of the criteria I mention in the song are a bit exaggerated, they largely represent my idea of the type of woman I could be happy with at the time. But as time progressed, I realized my list didn’t capture what really mattered in a relationship. I saw that the girl who would later become my girlfriend was incredible and that our differences made the relationship more exciting and interesting.
45th Avenue Interlude ft. Ruslan & Jon Keith
This song serves two purposes: first, to show that my relationship with my girlfriend is critical not only to the story of my love life but to my story as a musician (she was there when Ruslan and I first met, and later she would convince me to sign my record deal), and second, to represent the influence of Ruslan and Jon Keith in my decision to consider pursuing music at all. Before Kings Dream, I would hardly consider myself a musician. I was just a guy making songs for the sake of catharsis.
I view “Good Things” as the climax of the album. Overall, it’s about how, in light of how powerful and good God is, we have no reason to be afraid or upset about the path he’s laid out for us. In the first verse, I’m worried about the difficulties that would arise even if my wildest dreams come true. If my music spread across the globe and made me rich I’d struggle to stay connected to the average American and I’d have to raise privileged kids. This is a real fear, and a testament to the fact that no matter how much we think we’ll stop worrying once we reach our goals, our propensity to worry has nothing to do with our situation.
In the second verse, I bring up another worry: that by pursuing music I’m not actually following God’s leading, but instead I’m throwing away my education and giving in to a stereotype because I don’t want to work a job like everyone else. The final verse is God’s response to my worries, reminding me he’s in control. In many ways, this truth resolves the uneasiness brought up in Osmun and Renfro. My dreams are blurry and life is difficult, but I can rest in knowing that it will all be resolved either on earth or in heaven because God has a plan for my life and for humanity as a whole.
Gave You The World ft. Montell Fish
In “Gave You The World” I expand upon the ideas brought up at the end of “Good Things.” I talk about how I began to understand how big God is and how I began to see that the fact that he has a plan makes my worries unnecessary. Plus, the song features Montell Fish, who I’ve admired from afar for a long time. I think his verse brought the song to a new level and added even more layers to its meaning.
Kalamazoo ft. Jon Keith & TROSSTHEGIANT
In “Kalamazoo,” I live out the implications of the truths described in “Good Things” and “Gave you the World.” I can realize my humanity. I can have joy, and I can talk about my uncertainty about the future all at the same time. Jon Keith and TROSSTHEGIANT came in to help me make the song as fun as possible. The video made it even better. It was filmed by Miguel Lugo with some help from Zach Sperazzo. Fun fact: I’ve never been to Kalamazoo.
Feels Like a Dream
In the final track, I look back on my story as it pertains to music. A year ago, I would only perform at small hometown shows or at Karaoke while on vacation. I had no intent to be a musician, but God had different plans for me. Now I’ve met so many amazing people and I’ve gotten an opportunity to use my words to have a real impact. This wasn’t my dream at the start, but it certainly feels like one.
Paul Russell really broke it down! Make sure you read this while listening to the album when it drops. Be sure to purchase project and get merch bundles here.
Purchase or stream here.