Bryan Russo
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Bryan Russo

Berlin, Maryland, United States | SELF

Berlin, Maryland, United States | SELF
Band Blues Singer/Songwriter

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"Review of Bryan Russo's Next Big Thing EP"

Review of “The Next Big Thing EP” 11/6/08
By Cara Dahl Maryland Coast Dispatch

Each song of the four brims with observation, human nature and foibles. Each is fresh and culturally relevant, but never condescending or obtuse. Every song is infectious, and gets better with each press of the play button. Russo writes about celebrity and religion with the same ease as he writes about love and failure. Topics are both contrasted and interwoven, hitting both the brain and the gut. These songs are personal, rooted in human experience good and bad, but there is plenty of room for the rest of us too.

Russo is a versatile and engaging songwriter who knows how to write catchy lyrics that are also intelligent and carry emotional truth.

While the beginning of "The Next Big Thing" is under-produced, the effect of the transformation to a more polished sound grabs your attention and deftly illustrates the lyrics. The contrast between the 'next big thing' of the entertainment industry and in human relationships is never heavy-handed, rather exhibiting a playful irony that never lets the listener forget that music can have a point and still be fun.

I think "Smokey Cafe" might be my favorite of the four, a ballad that abounds in clever phrases, all housed in a classic ballad structure. The lyrics takes on the modern cafe culture, chiding participants for spending years talking about life, not living it, but at the same time poking some fun at the singer, who has obviously spent years in those same cafes and longs for more.

Songs with religion are not often intended to grab the listener and drag them along for the ride, but "Lord Lord Lord," takes hold and refuses to loosen its grip. The contrast between God and Mammon has never been so much fun. The song, an exuberant rocker rife telling of the struggle between faith and religious reality, showcases Russo's versatility.

The meditative and thoughtful "Highway One" breaks into surprisingly emotional territory,
"Highway One" takes the metaphor of the road and marries it to mediations on a failed relationship, with lyrics at turns rueful and truthful, but not ever repentant.

The music never overwhelms or diminishes the words, but nor is it simply wallpaper, with the instruments enhancing and supporting the lyrics.

Russo is a refreshing voice in an industry which is overrun with self-consciously clever wordsters and songwriters who mistake bombast for profundity. Most important of all, he has something to say, and people will listen.

- Cara Dahl (Maryland Coast Dispatch)


"Musical Genius Shows Through From Bohemian Family Man on East Coast"

Review of the Next Big Thing EP from Slade Vegas, freelance music critic from Las Vegas, Nevada. November 15, 2008

The musical genius shows through from bohemian family man on the East Coast.

But who is Bryan Russo?

Soulful, Powerful, Heart felt and satirical are the constant thought running through a listeners mind when dealing such a talent. The tracks of his latest EP are like driving on an old abandoned high way on route to greater things; a sound track of hurt, anger, smiles and memories. It seems he can open the door to his life through his lyrics while entertaining a crowd on guitar, piano, or any other instrument her picks up in some smokey bar or café. The talent is undeniable.

Ocean City, Maryland is where Bryan bases his roots, wanting to settle into a family driven atmosphere for his wife and children while still creating mused influenced crowd pleasers such as “Highway 1”, written in 2001, “The Next Big Thing”, “Smokey Café” and my personal favorite, “Lord Lord Lord.” His creations don’t just keep to one feel mind you, when listening to “Lord Lord Lord”, we get the country roots aspect of the writing process along with the up beat sounding vocals. You can actually catch the hidden feel for what his message is in this particular song. Bryan Russo states in a conversation had lately:
“It just never sounded the way I wanted it to till now.”

With the assist of Brett Conaway on ‘kicks, beats, hi-hats and assorted percussion,’ Bryan Russo has been able to form a style of music that is appealing to a broad range of listeners publicly. With influences ranging from this generation’s indie top bands all the way back to the classics of southern blues artists who Russo comments on as being a huge influence in his writing style:
“I probably will never relate to these musicians other than the fact that I dig how much emotion and soul is expressed, I will still try.”

You can’t help wanting to get up and move when you hear his music. Whether you are watching his live performances locally or sitting in your cubical watching the clock tick by slowly, your toe is tapping and your hands seem to generate movements that don’t correlate to sitting and waiting. You are actually drawn into his performances and your involuntary reactions are just a side effect to your listening enjoyment. Who else in today’s music can put the words into a song stating Manic Depression and still have the listener rocking their head in an approving manner?

Switching beats completely to the piano accompaniment and vocal ranges relating to Elton John, Smokey Café is not only relatable but also progressive enough to show its true ballad like form musically. The feeling of wanting to move on from where we have all once been is a key point to the relation of the song. Yet, even if that message isn’t received, we are able to still rock back and forth to the melody and enjoy sitting in our own smokey café.

The call to action for a response to such an artist is now. Bryan Russo has been able to produce such a reaction by his countless hours of dedication to his own and many others art form of communication in his scene and city that to ignore it would be blasphemy.
Through written word and sung he conveys a message of hope and a driving force of dedication and love into making everything worth singing about.

- Slade Vegas (Freelance Music Critic, Las Vegas, NV)


"Ocean City Singer/Songwriter Back with a New EP"

Ocean City Singer Songwriter back with a new EP
By Roger Hillis special to the Beachcomber
Published Dec 5, 2008

Singer-songwriters are a rare breed when it comes to the Ocean City, Md. music scene, but Bryan Russo is hoping to change that.
A journalist by day, Russo is an accomplished pop-rock musician who has released a four-song disc called "The Next Big Thing EP." He plans to shop it to record labels and eventually release a full-length album.
He'll play a 9 p.m. set Tuesday at the Steer Inn Tavern in Berlin as part of the venue's weekly "3 for Free" series of triple bills.
As a youth growing up in the Pittsburgh area, Russo was a classically-trained violinist who spent 15 years mastering the instrument. He learned to play guitar while overseas taking college courses in Scotland; he was soon busking on the streets for spare cash. "I had my guitar and a bottle of scotch and I'd pass the hat," Russo said.
When he returned to America, a planned internship at MTV fizzled; instead, he spent his first summer in Ocean City. "I didn't have the money to move to New York," Russo said. "I came to Ocean City and paid $1,000 to stay at a place on 75th Street; I lived on a couch that was the size of a chair."
It was in OC that he met his future wife, Andrea. They moved to Philadelphia after the summer season and Russo juggled his day job as a music journalist with nights on the town jamming at open-mic sessions. As a reporter, Russo interviewed rock stars including John Mayer and Black Crowes vocalist Chris Robinson. "I certainly picked up a lot of information about the music business," Russo said.
When the couple had a son six years ago, they moved to the Ocean City area permanently. "People work all year to visit the beach for a week," Russo said. "I figured, why not live there year-round?"
Kevin Frank, who is the drummer for Philly-based hard-rock band Silvertide, produced the new EP and also played drums in the studio. Bass duties were handled by Philly's Greg Maragos (Forward Thinkers, Quick Step John). The song "No More Crying (From White Boys)" addresses the vapid lyrics displayed by radio pop tarts, while "Lord, Lord, Lord" tackles religion.
"You want to say something with your lyrics and also make a statement sonically," Russo said. "But the lyrics almost come secondary in a lot of pop music."
For the last couple of years, Russo has had a Wednesday night residency at the Galaxy 66 restaurant and nightclub in Ocean City. While it is technically an open-mic night, it has also allowed Russo to showcase his original material in a live setting on a regular basis. He has been on hiatus from the Wednesday shows since the September birth of his daughter; his friend Nate Clendenen, who is also an Ocean City-based singer-songwriter, is hosting through Jan. 1.
"Playing in Philadelphia is definitely a lot different than playing for tourists at the beach during the summer," Russo said. "People who are on vacation mainly think of live music as background music, but I've played a lot of fun shows during the summer. If I'm going to play my originals in those situations, I'm going to make sure they're songs that are driving and catchy; songs people can bop their heads to."
A handful of cover tunes make their way into Russo's set lists, but they are often songs written by his influences. "I try to turn people on to some of my favorite singer-songwriters, like Martin Sexton or Jeff Buckley," Russo said.
Russo switches between keyboards and guitar on stage, and he is often joined by drummer Brett Conaway. "We can add a bassist or guitarist to make it a trio or quartet show," Russo said. "I've been lucky to have been accepted here. I try to make it a show instead of just a guy sitting in a corner with an acoustic guitar.”


- Roger Hillis (The Beachcomber)


Discography

Next Big Thing (EP)---2008
The Demos EP--(2006)
Live on Grape Street (2002)

Next Big Thing EP (all six tracks) get regular radio play on WOCM 98.1 FM

"Smokey Cafe", "Lord, Lord, Lord" "The Sting", and "Next Big Thing" chosen as Featured Indie Rock Hook Up on WOCM 98.1FM
"Smokey Cafe" and "Next Big Thing" on "The Graduates: Volume 2 Soundtrack"

"Lord Lord Lord" has appeared in surf film (Due East: Volume1)
Smokey Cafe has appeared in Award Winning Internet TV Series "Deleted: The Game"
Wrote two songs for Indie Film "The Graduates"
"Lately" and "Where the Summer Never Ends"
Songs have also appeared on various other radio stations around Mid-Atlantic region.

Photos

Bio

“Soulful, Powerful, Heartfelt and Satirical. His talent is undeniable.”—Slade Vegas, Las Vegas Freelance Rock Writer

Bryan Russo is an acclaimed songwriter and performer whom, over the course of the past six years, has made a name for himself as one of the top original voices and songwriters in Ocean City, MD and the Mid-Atlantic region.

The irony in it all is that he's built a passionate audience and received high praise in an area (Ocean City, MD) historically unlikely and often unwelcoming to original songwriters and artists.

Russo is a throwback to songwriters of perhaps a greater time in music as he doesn't cast the message and the meaning to his lyrics aside and simply fill in the blanks with soaring choruses and tales of lost cul de sac love that you may hear in coffee shops or on mainstream radio.

Songs like "Lord Lord Lord" "Next Big Thing", "Smokey Cafe" and "No More Crying (From White Boys)" are statements that he is an artist and a songwriter that has something to say and he is willing to get up and challenge people to listen to it.

Russo is a student of songwriter legends like Dylan, Lennon, Waits, Cohen, and Buckley and has found a way to bridge some sort of a gap with his songs that convey the strong "say something" messages in Indie music and puts them into a pop-rock formula that will simultaneously captivate listeners moving to the backbeat or searching for lyrical enlightenment.

There are thousands of white-boy singer songwriters out there today, and although the aesthetic shoe may fit, the sonic one does not.

He's worked seemingly a hundred different jobs, he's played under Maestro Lorin Maazel with the Pittsburgh Symphony (as a violinist) and he's been a door to door salesman. He's tended bar, and he's worked as an industrial painter. He's been a sports writer for the Associated Press covering the Philadelphia Flyers, and he's also been a stay-at-home dad.

The one constant in his journey has been that Russo has always documented his world-wide travels and often small town solitude by writing songs...good songs, the kind of songs that have turned the heads of thousands of locals and tourists who visit Ocean City, MD each year expecting to hear their favorite cover tunes and inadvertently discovering a rare talented artist in the most unlikely of places.

His ability to take the idiosyncratic moments of his life and turn them into relatable, intriguing, and catchy soulful tunes could be one of his greatest gifts..perhaps second only to his powerful voice, which is sometimes sweet and soulful and brash and biting at others.

After penning his first songs in Scotland while living in the UK in 1999, Russo, a classically trained violinist and self-taught guitar and pianist, came back to the states and moved to the rich Philadelphia music scene and started to turn a few heads musically speaking as a writer and a performer at “songster” mainstays like the Grape Street Pub, Dawson Street Pub, and later, World Café Live.

He quit playing live for a year in the early part of the decade after the birth of his son in 2002 to concentrate on family, but the music never faded.

Now, several years and hundreds of songs later, Russo’s originality has set him apart from the normal cover band scene in Ocean City, MD, and almost daring people not to take notice.

Russo is a former rock writer, critic, current political (albeit in a beach town) journalist, father of two, loving husband, and a likeable bohemian who is as interesting to speak with as he is to listen to.

At first listen, you may deem Russo as a songwriter that you can get excited about again.....someone who you can hang on every word and expect to be enlightened, challenged, and moved...both lyrically and musically.

Simply put, Bryan Russo is a songwriter that actually has something to say...and it just might move you.

Here's what some other's have said about Bryan Russo.


“Russo is a versatile and engaging songwriter who knows how to write catchy lyrics that are also intelligent and carry emotional truth.”
-Cara Dahl (Maryland Coast Dispatch)

“Russo is a refreshing voice in an industry which is overrun with self-consciously clever wordsters and songwriters who mistake bombast for profundity. Most important of all, he has something to say, and people will listen.”—Cara Dahl (Maryland Coast Dispatch)

“The call to action for a response to such an artist is now…to ignore it would be blasphemy. Through written word and song he conveys a message of hope and a driving force of dedication and love into making everything worth singing about”. Slade Vegas—Las Vegas rock writer

“(Russo) is a breath of fresh air in today's generally dull world of music writing. His innate depth of thought is apparent in all his songs and sparks an appreciation for its originality among listeners. People need to hear these songs loud and clear, as Russo is a rare talent.”—Steve Green (publisher MD Coas