Toronto’s bubbling R&B scene continues to expand in growth with the latest addition to the ever-evolving pool of talent. The newest artist to enter the playing field goes by Heather Russell, an 18-year-old singer-songwriter hailing from Toronto who is already gaining industry experience on the other side of the border.
Early on in her career, at the age of 10, Heather was discovered by the legendary Simon Cowell, who signed her to a major label deal with Syco Records – Zayn Malik, One Direction, Harry Styles, Fifth Harmony, to name a few. Soon after signing her label deal, Heather moved to Los Angeles but her love and dedication for hip-hop, as well as her desire to be more than just a pop star has brought her back home to the busy streets of Toronto.
With over 15K views on her Rojo-directed “This Ain’t The End” (Prod. 80Empire) visuals, as well as an impressive performance at Yamaha Canada, Russell recently pulled the the “This Ain’t The End (Remix)” which was released on Sept. 21, 2018.
I had a chance to sit down with Heather to discuss her music, the new album My Metropolis, and what’s next for the promising Toronto talent. Check that out below along with a stream of My Metropolis.
Q&A: Heather Russell
HipHopCanada: My first question for you is when did you first get into singing and the creative arts?
Heather Russell Singing and music in general, and writing songs and doing all that, has been something that I kinda was born into because both of my parents are musicians. So my dad is a huge influence on me, especially cause he plays every instrument and writes songs and had bands all the time. So when I was 3-years-old instead of him taking me to the park, he’d take me to the studio and we’d write music. So it’s kinda been something I’ve been born into and, as I got older, you know – going through different things in school and stuff – music really became a heavy outlet for me in terms of expressing myself.
HipHopCanada: Who are some artists that influenced you earlier on in your career, in terms of songwriting and how you approach putting together a song?
Heather Russell I think one of the biggest besides my dad, because I wrote a lot with him, but the biggest? I’d say is Alicia Keys, I love Alicia Keys, she’s been my idol for the longest time. Just in terms of her credibility, in terms of how she writes her songs and the way she performs. You know, just her and the piano, it inspired me so much, which is partially why I use the piano. Paul McCartney is another huge one, he’s probably the second biggest influence, those two are primarily the biggest.
HipHopCanada: What was the learning experience like working with someone like Simon Cowell and what are some important tools you took from that experience?
Heather Russell Simon Cowell is an amazing guy, I think the biggest tool I took from him is his work ethic. Meeting him because, he’s a hard worker… he has so many shows that he’s working on, I remember the second time I saw him in London when we were signing contracts, he gave me a goal in terms of practicing. He’s what really encouraged and motivated me to practice my piano chops and all of that. Another one would be honesty and kindness, he was always honest and didn’t try to sugarcoat anything. Most people know that, but over all, probably those things. He’s an amazing guy and it was a great experience working with him.
HipHopCanada: I realize the Canadian and American markets differ when it comes to the industry, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced since returning to Canada?
Heather Russell First of all, shout out to the underground art scene here, in Toronto especially. The hip-hop art scene and all of it in general is something I’ve really come to love. Moving back here, I’m friends with so many underground artists who are making their way. I think the biggest issue – well, it’s not even an issue it’s more of an obstacle but it’s not something you can’t overcome – is breaking out into the US and other parts of the world. That would probably be the biggest obstacle, but it’s not like it’s impossible if you have a good team behind you. People who believe in you. And, being able to believe in yourself.
HipHopCanada: With the rise of so many talented singer-songwriters in the hip-hop community here in Toronto, how do you see your style and sound standing out from the rest?
Heather Russell For me, it’s not something I really worry about. As an artist, I believe that I have a unique sound, especially working with the Rezza Brothers (Sate, k-os, Ali Vegas, Kool G Rap), which is who I wrote my whole album with. I’ve been able to be myself this whole album, I think the things that stand out for me are, it’s very experimental with this album My Metropolis it’s got so many different elements to it which I think people will be able to relate to. I’ve got trap elements in there, different hip-hop elements, R&B elements, you know what I mean? I stepped out of my comfort zone but I still stayed true to who I am.
HipHopCanada: Talk to me more about the album, how did you approach putting it together
Heather Russell Making this album was a fun time, I didn’t have a plan. I met the Rezza Brothers, we went into the studio and I brought in an idea I had. And the chemistry we had was a blast, we ended up knocking out songs every other weekend. I think the main goal behind this album was to finally create something that I’m fully proud of. In the past, with stuff that I made before, it was never stuff that I was really in love with because there was ulterior motives with past teams. But with this, I had full control over the music.
HipHopCanada: My very last question for you is, what can the hip-hop community here in Canada expect from Heather Russell?
Heather Russell This album, My Metropolis, I’m really excited about the album and promoting it as much as I can because I’ve never been this excited about a project before. I think it’s got a lot of different elements people are going to be able to relate to and use as an outlet. Definitely that, and different performances coming up in Niagara and Toronto.
You can follow @HeatherRussellOfficial on Instagram.
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