BEHRINGER Artist Russell Wolff: 365 Days, 365 Songs for Cancer Research

BEHRINGER artist Russell Wolff is no stranger to the music business. He has opened for acts like Michelle Branch, Sugarland, and LeAnn Rimes, and can be seen playing his guitar in Martina McBride’s video for “Wrong Baby Wrong.” Most of the time he can be found in the studio recording and producing new music. His latest project reaches beyond the music industry to help a greater cause. Wolff has committed to writing, producing, and recording one song each day for 365 days. His project is in honor of a childhood friend who is battling stage IV cancer. He already had the desire to do something that would help others, and when he found out about his friend his purpose became clear, he would write songs to raise money for cancer research. Writing, recording, and producing a song all in one day is no easy task, but it is a task Wolff finds rewarding as a songwriter. 

Wolff is already over 100 days into his project, which began on December 20th, 2010, and he hasn’t slowed down yet. He took some time to chat about his work and his life as a producer and musician.

Can you talk a little about your 365 project, who it’s for and why you are doing it?

Well, the journey actually started on New Years Day 2010.  I felt the aching need to do more to help the world around me.  Just being involved in the creation or performance of music wasn’t enough anymore.  I had to put my skills and talents to work in a way that could bring meaningful change to people’s lives.  By December, 2010, I settled on writing and producing one song a day for a year in hopes of inspiring others to do something each day to help someone in need.   I also wanted to raise awareness and money for a charity.    Six days into the project, I learned that my childhood friend Dana was very sick with stage IV oral cancer.  I immediately let her know that the project would be in honor of her, and that cancer research had became the cause I had been searching for.  We ended up locating a good charity in Atlanta where she has been getting treatment.

Is it hard to come up with a new song every day?

Some days it is.  But most days, life writes them for me.  I am constantly surrounded by characters.

What inspires you to write a new song?

Under ‘normal’ circumstances, BREAKUPS!  Let’s be honest here.  But this year, for the sake of this project, I have found myself writing about all sorts of things… the excitement when you first meet someone new, the disappointment when it doesn’t work out, Dana’s fight in the hospital, rude people with lousy attitudes, my old boss, an egg sandwich, and yes, even… Charlie Sheen.

How can people support what you are doing?

Helping us spread the word is great.  Donating is wonderful as well.  We have a page on Facebook as well as the main site. People can “Like” us on Facebook, listen to the songs for free, then click the link to donate whatever they can.  The more people know about the project, the better this year will be for cancer research.

What do you hope to do with the songs?

Some of the songs are already being performed by other artists, some might make it into soundtracks, radio, etc.  I have performed some of the songs around Nashville in the interest of the project.  We have discussed taking the best 12 to 24 songs and making an album at the end of the year.  Proceeds of course, would go to the charity.

You moved to Nashville to focus on production and songwriting after releasing your own albums, what made you make such a big change to your career?

I have always been fascinated with producing music, even as a kid.  My first recording studio experience was cutting vocals at age 12 in New York City for a Broadway Show demo.  At home, I was making fully ‘produced’ demos on a little 4-track cassette recorder with tons of vocal and instrument arrangements.   Producing has always been a part of me.   So, shifting from artist to producer was a very natural progression.  I had a wonderful touring career as an artist and the best fans in the world.  (Shout out to my fans!)   But I knew I could do far more good at this point by producing and touring with other artists.

What are some of the highlights of your music career?

There really are so many.  I am very lucky to wake up each day and do what I love for a living.  Here are a couple of recent highlights…

- playing guitar with Martina McBride (“Wrong Baby Wrong” video).  She is wonderful to work with.

- While opening for Sugarland, the singer I was on tour with was having a rough night and dropped the key of her first song a half step on guitar.  I didn’t transpose the keyboard in time… So, we started the song a half key apart.  I stopped and made a joke about it.  There is something truly magical about having thousands of people laughing WITH you, not at you.

Who were some of your influences as a musician?

My uncle bought me my first album when I was a kid.  It was Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon so, that was a good place to start.  Growing up, I was into musical theater, then Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and 80’s-90’s alternative.  I learned guitar by listening to Floyd, REM, & the Indigo Girls.  Overall, I have been more influenced by great performers and songwriters than by great technical musicians.  Performers like Michael Jackson and Garth Brooks, writers like Freedy Johnston and Jonatha Brooke, producers like Rick Rubin and Butch Vig… and oh yeah, the Beatles.

Learn more about Russell at his official website.

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