As a child, Russell Jones Jr loved music, especially the classics like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, and watching his father perform, but it was a surprise to Russell, and everyone else, when it became his career.
Now, Russell is using the gift his late father passed down to him to brighten up people’s lives, from supporting charities helping children with dyslexia or experiencing bereavement, to performing ‘doorstep concerts’ for vulnerable or unwell people.
Russell shares his story with Dorset View of how he became a performer and why he believes music is so powerful.
Q. How old were you when it all began?
A. It all started when I was around 16. I just picked up a microphone one day and started singing. I always had a love of music and always had headphones in listening to something, but I’d never had the confidence to go out there and do it. Then I went to cover one of my dad’s shows, he was a performer, when he couldn’t make it. I was only going to play a bit of background music to keep the show going. Without really thinking, I just picked up a microphone and started singing Fly Me To The Moon. My mum was so surprised! She kept saying ‘I didn’t know you could sing like that, you’ve kept this quiet!’.
Q. So your father can take some of the credit?
A. It all came from my dad really. He used to play the old classics all the time. I used to watch him perform and absolutely idolise him; it was amazing to me how he could make people so happy with his music. That’s why I grew up loving old music, like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, and why I love to perform them now… although with a more modern twist. Sadly, my father passed away 10 years ago, around the same time I first started singing. It was a difficult time and music definitely helped me through, especially listening to the songs my dad loved. Singing was my escape from the thoughts of ‘I can’t believe this is happening’ and how I coped with life being turned upside down.
Q. After losing your father did you feel compelled to carry on his legacy?
A. Although it was hard to go through, I think losing my father pushed me on to achieve my dreams. I feel he left me his legacy to carry on, I’m even carrying on his name, and I want to use the gift he gave me to make people happy, just like he did. As much as I wish he were here to see what I’ve done in my career, like singing on the X-Factor or performing with Only Boys Aloud, I know he’s looking down and watching.
Q. Would you say music helped you through bereavement?
A. Music has helped me so much, and I want to use it to help others. I’m working with the NSPCC to help raise money for children who need support, particularly children going through bereavement. I feel I can relate a little to what they’re going through, I actually had a few kids talk to me and really open up about their lives, and it was quite an honour that they trusted me. So, I really want to help them however I can.
Q. Are there any other causes close to your heart?
A. Yes. Another cause with a particular place in my heart is supporting children with dyslexia and special needs. I grew up with dyslexia and found school a real struggle. I was always in the bottom sets and had teachers tell me I’d never amount to anything or be anyone. That voice really gets into your head and that’s why I never thought I’d be able to follow my passion for music and be a performer. I hid my dreams because I didn’t have the confidence to believe in myself. When I did start singing, it made such a difference to my confidence. Singing songs that I love and knowing I’m making people happy, makes me feel happy.
I want to make sure that other children with dyslexia and special needs never feel the way I did. Whether a child wants to be a footballer, or play the guitar or sing, nothing should hold them back from their dreams, especially not their special needs. I want to raise money to help support these kids, but I also want to be able to show them that they can do it. I’m a boy with dyslexia from a small town in South Wales and I’ve sung in front of Simon Cowell and performed in front of hundreds of people doing what I love to do. I want these children to see me doing that and know they can do it too.
Before signing off, Russell said, “At the end of the day, I really think it all comes back to music. Music has so much power to make people happy. If you think back to being lockdown, when everyone was stuck at home, music was one of the things we still used to cheer us up. In fact, during lockdown I started performing doorstep concerts for people who were vulnerable and couldn’t leave the house. I was getting messages from people asking if I could pop round their nan’s or their neighbour’s house and put on a concert for them, so I did! It was such a lovely thing to do and I think I want to carry it on. So, that’s one positive thing to have come out of the past year at least!”
To see more of Russell’s performances, visit his Instagram page @russelljonesjr96.
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