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Interview: Highwind's Chris Russo

Updated: Jul 31, 2019

Interview by: Ellie Gressman

How did you get influenced by music in your early life? What made you want to pursue music?

If I'm being honest with you, I don't really remember the reason I, like, wanted to pick up a guitar when I was, like, twelve. I started listening to music by ear, and I stopped and was like “what is this? I love this, I need more of this.” That’s kinda how I started playing alternative music, and that was back in 2012. I’ve been playing alternative music since.

Since Highwind was founded in Asbury Park, what can you say about the New Jersey local scene? Do you think your music would be different if you weren’t in Jersey? 

The New Jersey music scene is wild, if I’m being honest. It’s weird and I love it because it’s sectioned off almost. I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of singer/songwriters in North Jersey, Asbury is such a big alternative scene, South Jersey is very much an alternative scene. While it’s not like “we only have this here, we only have this here, we only have this here”, there’s nice little bits and pieces spread out all over, like hardcore is all over New Jersey. It’s really cool to me, different people getting influenced by the people around them in that specific part of Jersey. I don’t think my music would be that influenced because I’ve always been influenced by the music I listen to and not so much by what’s going on around me. I think I would still be playing the same music to this day even if I was born in like California or Florida or whatever state you can think of. I do have a very big appreciation for the New Jersey scene though because it’s definitely helped me meet some of my closest and best friends too. 

So, you come up with a concept and an idea for a song, what’s the first thing you do? Any pre-writing or pre-recording rituals?

I’m still kinda figuring that out with Highwind if I’m being quite honest with you. The “How’ve You Been?’ EP was different because I took a lot of time to record it, like 9 months. Some of the songs were written like two years before the record was even thought of. Usually what happens with my songwriting is I get an idea from some situation or it just pops into my head because of a situation, I write down whatever part is in my head, and I just finish the song from there. Sometimes it’ll take 15 minutes, sometimes it’ll take a full day, sometimes it’ll take two weeks. I just write the song as it comes to me. And while every song has its own writing process here and there, like Afterlife I wrote in one day after my best friend passed away and didn’t finish the chorus until two years later right before I recorded it. Wednesday, 2 o'clock is on the record, it was the night before I was seeing a therapist and I just wrote that 15 minutes right then and there. Bi-Polar, I rewrote that three times until I was happy with it. Most of the time, I get an idea and I just let it happen overtime. Every song is a little different here and there. 

Speaking of songwriting, how has the writing process differed when writing “How’ve You Been?” How has it differed from other bands you’ve been in?

“How’ve You Been?” was just me. The only other person who has a hand in the writing process was my producer at the time, CJ. Even then, he didn’t really change much, like I took these songs and I just played what I heard and I just let it happen naturally as opposed to other bands and other people I’ve written for. Like with my old band, My Lonely Heart, we would come up with these ideas, we jam the song a few times, make changes here and there, and that was it. We didn’t really take time perfecting. I’ve written for other bands here and there, they bring me a song and I write the guitar part over or I write lyrics for them and that’s about it. With “How’ve You Been?” I literally took my sweet ass time. 

Some of your previously said musical inspirations include As It Is, Yellowcard, etc, but do you have any influences outside of music that have an effect on what you create, and if so how have they influenced you?

My friends are a big support system, like my best friend Adam before he passed away. He’s still a big influence because of his personality. He was so bright, so warm, so welcoming, so energetic. He’s still a big inspiration in my life. CJ, his brother, who was also my producer, is a very talented musician. Seeing what he can play and hearing the songs he can write definitely inspires me to do what I like to do. Basically just the friends I have are a big inspiration and drive me to do what I do. The feeling of this is therapy to me and it’s what I love doing, it helps me feel better when I’m not feeling too great, that feeling drives me to do it. It’s a self driven thing too. I guess those are the two main influences.

What is your dream collaboration? Are there any on your radar?

I don’t have any collaborations on my radar currently, not yet. I would love to, I’m hoping I could work with some of the people on my dream list. My dream list would obviously include Patty Walters [of As It Is] because he’s like the reason I sing. Alex, the singer and songwriter of Selfish Things, I love his work. I see the Waterparks flag on your wall, I would love to work with Awsten, his songwriting is mindblowing to me. Those are the big collaborations and people that I’d like to work with one day.

Following up on that, do you think collaborations affect your song writing/creative process in a more positive or negative way?

Definitely. I would say a positive way for the most part. If you’re writing a song with someone, you see how your writing is coming together. If you take a songwriter from another band and bring them into your work environment and collaborate on a song, you can instantly feel how different the process is. You can see that you get a totally different product. It’s definitely nice to see what you can come up with with at person. Prime example being I sat down with my friend Guy from a band called Idle Wave a few months back and we wrote some killer choruses and some killer verses. We sadly never got to use those, but I still have them tucked away in my back pocket in case I ever want to bring them out again. We sat down, came up with a cool product, and saw what worked.

What would you be doing right now if you weren’t a musician?

That’s really hard because I don’t actually know! Well, right now I work at a coffee shop, so I’d be doing that full time, I’m going back to school in the fall so I’d probably be doing that. As far as a career, I guess I’d go back to doing photography, I did that for awhile. So I guess photography would be it, that or just in my freetime playing video games. 

What can you say about the future of highwind?

We go back to the studio this Tuesday [July 23rd] to work on a brand new single that we’re hoping to release in the fall, planning another tour for the fall, towards the very end of the year we’re gonna start writing a new record. I have another little surprise for everyone coming out towards the end of the year, I’m gonna keep that one a secret because I’m really proud of that one. Now that Dan is apart of this as well, he’d definitely being incorporated into the songwriting and the production. There’s a lot in store between now and the end of the year, but all I can really say is follow the social medias. Follow our instagram and Facebook, I don’t take Twitter seriously at all but if you want entertainment I guess follow that, and keep on the lookout because we have a lot in store!

Bonus Question: Would you ever design a video game?

If I knew how to do it I would try my best. I don’t think it would be a good product but I think it would be a good time, because why not?

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