The country star opens up to PEOPLE about his new role supporting the CMA Foundation and life on the road with his 8-month-old son Remington

By Brianne Tracy
May 03, 2021 10:00 AM
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Russell Dickerson is ready to do "Something Good."

The country star, 33, has been named the newest Artist Ambassador for the CMA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Country Music Association, PEOPLE can exclusively reveal. He joins a collective of Artist Ambassadors including Maddie & Tae, Lindsay Ell, Jimmie Allen and Ashley McBryde.

As an Artist Ambassador, Dickerson will use his voice to inspire students and teachers across the country and spread awareness about the healing power of music education — a topic very near and dear to his heart.

"My mom not only taught piano lessons after school, but she was also my fourth grade music teacher," Dickerson tells PEOPLE. "I'm sure I was a lot to handle at that point, and I didn't get no special treatment or anything. There was one time I walked up to her, and I was like, 'Mom, I have to go to the bathroom.' She was like, 'Nope, you need to go sit back down. It is not an emergency.' I was like, 'Mom!'"

"Then when we moved to Nashville, she taught K-through-third music for years and years and years," he continues. "So that is the lens that I view this through: 'This is going to help my mom. This is going to help incredible teachers like my mom all over America.' I'm all in on this thing."

Russell Dickerson and his mom
Russell Dickerson with his mom as a kid
| Credit: Courtesy Russell Dickerson

With the CMA Foundation, Dickerson — who will visit with band students at his former high school, Centennial High in Franklin, Tennessee, in the coming weeks as one of his Artist Ambassador engagements — hopes to "change the [minds of the] decision-makers and shift their focus to music education and how important it is."

"It's just as important as math and geometry," he says. "Honestly, even more important. I'm not using that stuff! I feel like a lot of people are still using music education that they've learned from all the way back."

For Dickerson personally, he's still using all that he learned about music from his mom, as well as his dad, who was a choir director, and he is starting to pass it down to his 8-month-old son Remington Edward, whom he shares with wife Kailey.

"He's going to be in all the music classes," he says. "He's going to have piano lessons. If music isn't his thing, then that's a hundred percent fine. But I'm definitely going to lay out the path. I'm going to put as much music in his path that I can and just see where his passion leads him."

russell dickerson baby
Russell and Kailey Dickerson with Remington
| Credit: Spencer Combs

Since giving Remington a set of baby instruments for Christmas, Dickerson says he has taken a big liking to the drums.

"He's a drummer," he says with a laugh. "He bangs on everything. You just hold him, and he's got these little drums, and he just plays for forever and ever."

Earlier this week, the "Love You Like I Used To" singer set out on the road with Remington and Kailey to play live shows for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic sent the country into lockdown last year. So far, Dickerson says, Remington has been "crushing the road life."

"He's got his own little bunk that's got a little zipper on it to keep him in there," he says. "He's loving it. He's so attentive and he's so aware, and I feel like he's already really social. Anybody can pick him up and hold him and he's smiling."

"He loves to hear my music," he adds. "It's crazy — he just knows my voice. In the live situation, it's been calming and soothing for him."

But while Remington has been loving life on tour, having a baby on the road has been a bit of a learning curve for Dickerson and his wife.

"It's so funny because we're like, 'Oh yeah, we're just going to go out and play golf today,'" he says. "Then it's like, 'Oh wait, we have a baby. How are we going to do this?' But really, our motto is, 'We'll figure it out.'"

Through it all, Dickerson says he and Kailey feel lucky to have support from their fellow musician friends who are also parents, like Thomas Rhett and Lady A.

"We're like, 'Please help! Give us any and all tips,'" he says. "And we've been watching for a few years, now. It's been on our radar to have babies. We watch Thomas Rhett, and how they do it. And when we were on tour with Lady A, we watched how they do it. They bring help, they had a nanny on the road. But they also had three kids on the road. We just have one, but we definitely scoped any and every situation on the road. All the tips and tricks, everything."

To have the opportunity to perform live again, Dickerson says it feels "surreal."

"I've done so many Zooms, and after you finish a song on Zoom, it's just like, silent," he says. "Then here, in the middle of the song, you can hear the woos, and the claps, and the people singing along. It's not delayed like over Zoom. It's just so awesome to be in that environment."

Russell Dickerson
Russell Dickerson
| Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty

Dickerson recalls how before the lockdown, he and his team had been grinding for seven straight years. Then it all came to a stop.

"We worked our tails off," he says. "Then to just have everything completely come to a halt was so out of our wheelhouse. But we knew that this was our year to just completely shut down. I barely wrote any songs, and I just took the time to really rejuvenate and really refocus and recalibrate and just refuel myself."

"I knew that as soon as we got back, it was going to be just as fast-paced, if not even more," he continues. "Because in 2020 I had my biggest single ever, 'Love You Like I Used To,' and so with that comes tours, and everything just keeps getting bigger and bigger, which we're so grateful for. To go from 2020 to being completely shut down to now, we're really ready for that next step higher in 2021."

Part of that next step includes Dickerson's upcoming third studio album, which he says "is just about done" writing-wise.

"As far as writing songs go, 2021 has been a crazy year," he says. "I rented a whole separate studio, separate from my house, and that's where I've been writing out of. It's just been a huge inspiration, to be able to have that free creative space. The songs we've been getting out of that studio are just next level. So I might be over speaking, but record three is very close to being written."

Until the album's completion, Dickerson will have plenty of live shows to hold fans over, including his performance at the Grand Ole Opry on May 8 in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, which kicks off on May 3. Along with Dickerson, the show will also feature performances by Chris Lane, Steve Wariner, Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser.

The show will benefit the CMA Foundation, which has supported music education across the U.S. since its inception in 2011, and it will be live-streamed on Circle TV's Opry Live and various other platforms. Viewers can donate to the CMA Foundation by texting TEACHERS to 707070.