I have only known Russ Burchell a couple years and have always known him just as the talented guitar player for his daughter Aubrey. But as with all great musicians and fathers, there was a life before children and being on stage. This article is the first in an upcoming series where you’ll read some of those stories. The first in this series is, titled ‘Humble Beginnings – Russ Burchell.’ If you’d like me to tell your story, please reach out.
Russ’s desire to play the guitar came from the 1985 movie ‘Joey‘ that is about a talented teenager who runs away from home in attempt to pursue his musical career. I was surprised to hear that his first guitar at 12 was not the electric Sears Harmony guitar his grandmother later bought for him, but instead was crafted in a junior high woodshop. Just that fact alone seems like a beginning of a Hollywood movie.
Music became a huge part of Russ’s life playing in bars like West Mifflin’s Someplace Else and Port Vues’ Spotlight Bar & Grill. He was part of a metal band at 15 named Demented Minds. At the time he started performing in public he had to wait outside the bar until it was time for his band to go on stage. Like young musicians today, there were not many places for them to play at that young age.
There were many early musical influences for young Russ, some of which were Motley Crue, Guns and Roses, MegaDeath and Slayer. Through the years famous guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Vai, Jason Becker and Marty Friedman have all been artists that helped to shape Russ’s musical talents.
A funny story we talked about was when Russ and his young band were asked to perform the bumper music for an episode of the Mitch Albom show on MSNBC. Obviously desiring to get national exposure they agreed and jumped in two vehicles to begin the long drive to Detroit where the show was being produced. Part way there one of the vehicles, the one carrying the instruments, broke down and was not able to continue on. So they piled all the instruments into one vehicle along with most of the musicians and continued the cramped ride to Detroit. They arrived at the studio and performed their song. As luck would have it, their performance got bumped on the east coast because all channels covered Dick Cheney being taken to the hospital. So everyone they told back home never got to hear them perform on their appearance on a nationally syndicated show.
When asking most artists who they compare themselves to, I always expect to hear them respond to someone I have listened to or at least someone I can Google. But Russ in his typical humble way says that he would consider himself to be like a studio musician. Someone not playing on a stage somewhere, but coming into a recording studio and helping an artist put together a song.
Well since those early metal days, life continued on with Russ and he has stayed involved in music over the years while raising a family and working a 9-5 job. If you see him now it will most likely be playing by his daughter’s side or you could catch him on Spotify as part of the band A New State of Mind with their new release ‘Greed’.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about Russ in ‘Humble Beginnings – Russ Burchell’ as much as I enjoyed interviewing him.