By Ezlyh Gutierrez
David Russell is a 24 year old musician living in San Marcos, Texas, who was born and raised in Austin. Russell attended Texas State University, graduating with a double major in Communications and Spanish. Russell is a major part of the local San Marcos music scene being involved with many groups such as The Real Hands, Moon Dunes, Rusty Dusty and the Pat Thomas Project.
Russell’s path through music began at a very young age. In kindergarten, his teacher would tell his parents that he was constantly playing air guitar in class. Come third grade, the air guitar was replaced with a real one, a baby Taylor that he still owns to this day. In junior high, he formed a few bands with friends to play various talent shows. In high school as a freshman he began taking an advanced guitar class offered through the school. The class was taught by the school’s choir teacher, Phil Ajjarapu, who persuaded him to take choir the following year. Russell did join choir his sophomore year and continued throughout high school constantly expanding his understanding of music theory and vocabulary. The bands he was playing in began to get more legitimate, practicing and gigging around Austin regularly. Russell was unsure about what he wanted to do with college when his choir teacher directed his attention to the Sound Recording Technology (SRT) program offered through Texas State University. He had always wanted to learn the science of recording listing Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys as a major influence.
In the fall of his freshman year, he began working in the SRT program and making connections in the music field. Unfortunately, the program never really clicked with him. The intensive work of both the SRT program and other classes he was taking was taking away time from what he really wanted to do, write new music. Russell made a friend through the program who had a small recording setup in his dorm and began regularly getting together to record. Their first recordings began in Towers dorm but would eventually move to the Fire Station Studios on Guadalupe. Over the winter break that year Russell decided he no longer wanted to pursue SRT so he switched to undecided. In the Spring he began work for KTSW working on the promotions and music staff. Russell was also taking choir class where he met a student named Johnny Brantley who approached Russell about starting a band. The two would write songs in the lobby of College Inn. The duo eventually added another member, Bryce Brown, and began performing under the name, I Am Geronimo. The group would gig regularly around San Marcos at various open mics throughout the Spring.
In his sophomore year, Russell was admitted into the university’s honors college and continued taking a full course load. Due to his and Brantley’s hectic school schedules I Am Geronimo was forced to disband. With any free time Russell could muster together he began booking sessions in the main studio room of the Fire Station Studios with his friend Adrien Waterman. Russell eventually got back in touch with Bryce Brown and began bringing him along to help record new guitar parts for Russell’s recordings. Through the honors college Russell began taking a class over the songwriting of protest movements throughout American history taught by John Hood. In the class Russell met another student, John McAlmon, who Russell brought into play bass. The trio continued to get together over the semester writing new songs and eventually adding in a drummer into the mix and calling themselves The Real Hands.
Going into his junior year, Russell continued playing with The Real Hands and began writing the group’s first EP. The group began playing shows around San Marcos at house parties and Triple Crown. In the spring the group began to record the EP, Real It In, at a studio in Austin called Eastern Sun which was opened by Russell’s old high school choir teacher. The project was completed by the end of the summer and put out online.
The next year, the band would continue to write new music and gig around Austin and San Marcos whenever they could find any free time. In the spring, the group had enough new material that they decided to pursue making an album. Russell was finishing up his senior year at the time and the only thing between him and graduating was his thesis paper for the honors college. With the window to get it completed closing Russell decided to take another year and add a Spanish major. This gave Russell more time to stay in San Marcos to work on the album the group was putting together. Over this period the band spent the majority of their time doing sessions for the album at Good Danny’s in Austin on East 3rd St. By the end of the Spring of 2016 the album was finally fully recorded. Russell sat on the album over the summer fine tuning bits of it to make sure everything about it was perfect.
Russell and the rest of the group finally decided to release the album entitled Cicada in October of this year. Both Brown and McAlmon had moved away from San Marcos but came back for the album’s release party at Tantra. Russell being the only member of The Real Hands left in San Marcos and being fresh out of school decided to begin trying to pick up as many new instruments as he could learn eventually developing a talent for lap steel guitar, bass and the drums. Russell began getting together with Travis Roper of the San Marcos based band Rusty Dusty and writing music. Roper invited Russell to start playing the lap steel with Rusty Dusty. Russell was also approached by his close friend, Stephen Hurdle, about forming a group on a trip to Oaktopia Music Festival in Denton. Over the weekend the two would write music in the town’s courthouse lawn before going into the festival. By the end of the trip the two had the beginnings of what is now known as the Moon Dunes.
Russell’s goals going forward are to continue to perform as frequently as he can with both Rusty Dusty and Moon Dunes. He is also working on a solo project he hopes to record in the coming spring. The project consists of a variety of songs he has been writing since the age of 16. His goal with the project is to mix and match various artist he has become friends with in the San Marcos and Austin area to fill out the sound of different songs.
Featured image courtesy of David Russell.