Actor, TV personality, and musician Russell Johnson has recently released his single “Sarah,” which follows the trials of his friend, Sarah, who lost her battle with depression and drug addiction. With a comforting melody, the artist hopes to envelop his listeners with a warm and tight embrace.
He was barely eight years old when Russell Johnson realized his love and gift for music. Excited at his discovery, it didn’t take long before he was strumming guitar strings and belting out his favorite hits.
Soon, Russell began playing solo and in bands all across the Midwest, jumping from one standing ovation to another. He was living his best life under the spotlight until fate dealt him a lousy hand, and the young artist was roughly shaken awake.
In 2009, Russell’s father was killed in a plane crash. He was only 15 years old at the time, and before he could get his bearings, he was shipped off to a military boarding school where he spent his solitary days grasping at anything that could make him feel whole again.
“It wasn’t long after that when music saved my life,” he shares. “I started to hear music differently – not as passing melodies, but an escape for a broken teenager whose world was shattered.”
A few months later, Russell wrote his first song. The piece became the key to the vast, prestigious doors of the Berklee College of Music. With a scholarship and his burning passion rekindling within, Russell Johnson once again felt the tickle of soft sunlight seeping through the clouds.
With his songwriting degree still in hand and not yet even out of his toga, the musician received staggering news. A terrible breakup left Russell shattered, and the clear lines of his future’s map began to fade. With nowhere to go, he ended up living on his friend’s couch, who later motivated Russell to go to New York and live the life that was meant for him.
Armed with nothing but a suitcase and a guitar, Russell left to make his dreams come true in the New York City. However, as reality often goes, it wasn’t all flashing lights and a busy career that awaited Russell Johnson. Living in New York, he struggled to find lodging and went from couch to couch before a friend of his graciously rented him a room.
Russell soon got a job teaching archery and spent most of his time playing at all the NYC famous spots, wooing the audience with his unique sound. With a growing crowd in each venue, entrepreneurs everywhere were leaving their doors open for Russell Johnson. One day, the celebrated musician found himself standing on the sets of well-loved movies, TV shows, and eventually even, “The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart”.
As he was living the time of his life, Russell had the shock of knowing that his close friend, Sarah, had decided to end hers. Devastated at the turn of events, he turned to his music. “I just felt moved to write a song that shares Sarah’s story and acknowledges depression, mental health, and suicide as real issues that people deal with daily.”
With honest, raw lyrics, and an aching melody, the song carries Russell’s memories with Sarah and his hope to help everyone amid a struggle, just as he had been before, feel less alone.
“The idea was that someone can relate, or can remember a lost someone, or, just maybe, reach out to someone who’s struggling.” Widening his embrace, Russell decided to further his reach by making an NPR Tiny Desk video for “Sarah” and releasing it on social media. It was eventually picked up by “Time Out” as well, and shared on all platforms.
The immediate response was overwhelming. People started reaching out to him, sharing their story, and joining him in the fight against addiction and for mental health. His heart warmed at the thought of thousands everywhere listening to a song that he had longed to hear at 16 and have the memory of Sarah kept alive.
Listen to “Sarah” and join Russell Johnson as he offers a big hug through his music. Learn more about the musician by visiting his official website.
Photos: Liz Smalls.