Today we bring you an interview with Chris Russo of the band Highwind. Highwind is the pop-rock passion project of New Jersey singer-songwriter, Chris Russo. Highwind’s aim as a pop-rock act is to tell an honest, relatable story by means of catchy hooks, colorful guitar parts, and infectious rhythms.
After working with producers such as Adam Cichocki (Kaonashi, Soul Blind, Gatherers, Like Pacific, and more) and Connor Hanson (Halogens, Mandancing, Latewaves, and more), and performing with acts such as Young Culture, Homesafe, Handguns, and Shallow Pools, Highwind is ready to take their stories to your stereo and to your stage.
What was the last TV series you watched on TV?
Straight up, it was Yu-Gi-Oh GX. I really don’t watch a lot of TV, Hulu, or Netflix. If I do, chances are it’s some form of anime. I LOVED Yu-Gi-Oh growing up, and still have decks of cards ready to play and games that I play to this day. I remember feeling super nostalgic after playing Yu-Gi-Oh: Legacy of the Duelist on my Switch one day and said, “screw it, I’m watching this again.” And I watched all of the English dubbed seasons of GX over the course of a couple of weeks. Before that, it was definitely Sword Art Online: Alternative. One of my best friends introduced me to Sword Art Online, and I loved it so much to the point where I wrote a song about it, 2023. So, a while after the spinoff, Alternative, was put on streaming services, I binged watched it over three days or so.
What’s your most expensive piece of clothing?
At the moment, it’s a pair of limited edition Nintendo themed Vans. I bought them when I was working for a shoe retailer back in 2015, but back then they were just $60. I still have them to this day, and now they cost around $200 if you can find them online.
If you could learn any language fluently, what would it be?
Japanese. I would learn to speak and read Japanese solely so I could import video games from Japan and play them. I mean, I want to visit Japan more than anything, so learning the language to visit would be extremely helpful. But the real motivation behind learning Japanese is so I can play imported video games.
What’s your favorite board game?
I absolutely love board games and card games. There’s a few I really enjoy. I really like playing Chess, but I’m not great at it. Gomoku is a traditional Japanese board game that I have loved playing recently. I play a lot of Connect 4 and Uno with my brothers as well. I’d say Uno and Gomoku are the top two. Does Uno count for the question?
Do you have any lucky items, objects, or traditions?
While I wouldn’t consider these things lucky, I do keep a few specific things with me wherever I go. I keep my ear plugs in a Van Halen guitar pick case that my dad gave me, and the picks that came with it are still wrapped and inside. I keep a couple of specific dollar bills in the back of my phone case. One says “I LOVE YOU” on it. One of them I won in a bet against my brother while we were playing Kirby’s Dream Course on the SNES. And then one has my name on it. I also keep my very first Yu-Gi-Oh card, The Dark Magician, in my wallet, as well as a few polaroid pictures.
What first got you into music?
I’ve been into music for as long as I can remember. I remember being somewhere between 3 and 5 years old, listening to *NSYNC in my bed using a CD player. I’ve always loved the soundtracks to video games like Gran Turismo, Splashdown, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and still love playing games like Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero. I was also introduced to a lot of alternative bands at a young age like Paramore, Taking Back Sunday, and The Used. When Palladia was a TV channel, I used to just sit, and watch concerts all day when I wasn’t doing homework. Music has always been around me in some shape or form and I am very thankful for that.
Who inspired you to make music?
Paramore and The Dangerous Summer are definitely the big 2 that gave me my push to start writing and playing alternative music. I remember listening to Anberlin radio on Pandora and coming across The Dangerous Summer. I was so excited and so interested in this new style of music I had come across, so excited about this band that had this catchy style of rock music. So, I started digging and finding bands that sounded similar. And Paramore had been in my life since I was introduced to Riot! when it came out. So, this mixture of being interested in the sounds that these bands were creating really made me want to try it myself. As It Is are also a huge influence in what I do now, and they really gave me the big push to start songwriting and singing these songs I was creating.
Are you finding the isolation of the pandemic conducive to your writing or is it hindering the experiences you can write about?
It really depends on the day. I wrote and recorded an entire album and more in the midst of the pandemic. But some days I really just wanted to do absolutely nothing because I had no energy to do anything. I still have those days. Being at home and having the time to write and record was so freeing, so it felt really good to use some of that time to create and prepare the next era of Highwind. Some days I was just so mentally exhausted that I needed to just shut down and play video games. I don’t think I’m alone in that either. There was and still is so much going on because of the dangers of COVID, that I still don’t know what to do with myself some days.
What lead you to become a music artist and what advice can you give to others aspiring to make a hit?
At the end of the day, it’s all about making yourself happy by creating art and music. If you aren’t happy about doing it, then I don’t see a point in doing it. If I could give any advice to other future and potential music artists out there, it’s do it for the love of music. Music is about expression and emotion. It’s what gets so many people through their day. I started doing it because I loved playing guitar and wanted to express whatever feelings I had using words and melody. If you’re reading this and looking to do the same, just know that you have my full support.
What sets your music apart? What is unique, or at least uncommon?
In my head, there is no consistency, and that’s what keeps my music refreshing. I don’t like sticking to one specific sound or style. I’m inspired by a lot of different artists, styles, and sounds, and I love incorporating all of my inspirations into the songs that I create for Highwind. No two Highwind songs or releases are alike, and there’s something special to me about that. There’s something for so many people to enjoy, and I hope everyone finds that special piece of the Highwind discography that they love and hold on to.
If we were to look at the artists you are listening to, who would be on your playlist?
I’ve actually been keeping up with a lot of new music recently, which is weird for me because I’m normally really bad at that. My recent listening has been the new album from The Band CAMINO, the new KennyHoopla record, the new Kaonashi record that came out a few months back, Turnstile’s new album, 5ever’s new EP, all of the new singles from As It Is, the new Pale Waves record that came out early this year, Vera Kay’s new single, ‘I Would,’ Cayley Spivey’s new EP…The only things I’ve been listening to lately that are new are a lot of Anberlin, K. Flay’s Solutions album, this band called PLTS that doesn’t exist anymore, another band from Japan called See You Smile, and Now, Now’s album Saved.
Of your own music, do you have a favorite? If so, can you pin down why?
Out of the songs that are released. Easily the last two songs I just put out, Reds & Blues and Never Sitting Pretty. Those songs are a labor of love, and a work of passion. Lyrically and musically, they are my best stuff released to date and I am so proud of them. There are a couple of songs that aren’t released, however, that I truly love and adore. I am proud of every song I have recorded for the next release, but there are two in particular that I honestly have a hard time believing that I wrote.
If we were to peek over your shoulder, what does your studio look like? What gear do you typically use?
As far as guitar gear goes, I have a few guitars at my disposal. I play a Fender Powercaster, a modded Squier Jazzmaster with Lollar pickups installed, a modded Epiphone Les Paul with Seymour Duncan pickups thrown in, and a Fender Mustang bass. I also own a Taylor acoustic that I got as a graduation gift. My pedal board, from front to back, is a DigiTech Whammy, an MXR Analog Chorus, JHS Morning Glory Overdrive, Supro OverDrive, BOSS DD-7 Delay, BOSS RV-5 Digital Reverb, and a Donner DT-1 tuner. All of that goes into a Supro 1624T combo amp. For bass tones, I literally just use BIAS FX2 for bass amp sims and pedal sims. The in-studio gear definitely differs from where I’m at and who I’m working with, but that right there is the gear I own and use when demoing or playing live.
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