‘It’s just how I want to express myself’: Cedar City teen violinist set to release debut album

CEDAR CITY — Russell Nielson, a 16-year-old violinist, is set to release his debut musical album, a self-titled collection of a dozen instrumental tracks, Tuesday.

Nielson, a junior at Canyon View High School, said he composed most of the songs on his own, with some elements, such as backbeats, being done in collaboration with other artists. 

“These songs all have a similar theme. They are all based around some kind of otherworldly or extraordinary thing,” Nielson told Cedar City News.

After starting with the viola in his sixth grade orchestra class, Nielson tried playing other string instruments, including the cello and bass, before ultimately settling on the violin as his favorite.

Nielson said he approached Canyon View High music teacher David Jordan at the beginning of 2019 and asked about switching from viola to violin.

“I talked to Mr. Jordan and asked if I could use a violin,” Nielson said. “And so, that’s when I started really working on violin music and decided that’s what I wanted to play.”

Album cover art for violinist Russell Nielson’s self-titled debut album, scheduled for release Sept. 22, 2020 | Image courtesy of Russell Nielson via Instagram, St. George News / Cedar City News

“When I got into freshman year of high school, I decided to write my first song, which is ‘Confrontation,’” Nielson said, adding he received assistance from his mother and other collaborators in putting that first piece together.

“After that, I just started slowly learning to write music and produce my own backing tracks,” he said. “I decided to make videos of it because that’s like, just a fun way to share the music.”

Nielson’s YouTube channel currently features 13 videos, many of which are of songs featured on the new album.

The video of “Confrontation” features Nielson moving purposefully around the Adams Shakespeare Theatre in Cedar City, alternately dressed in white and black as he plays the dubstep song. The original piece, which was co-written by Nielson’s mother Bonnie Nielson, is meant to suggest the idea of facing one’s inner fears and demons and conquering them, he said. 

“Confrontation” is the eighth track on the album, while an acoustic version of the song serves as the 12th and final track.

Nielson’s album, which was about a year in the making, features tracks with titles such as “Blood Moon,” “Lunar Tides,” Embers,” “Through the Dark,” “Tribal Chant” and “Lullaby of Shadows.”

A full listing of the songs on violinist Russell Nielson’s self-titled debut album, scheduled for release Sept. 22, 2020 | Image courtesy of Russell Nielson, St. George News / Cedar City News

“All my songs from this album are a different style and different story, and I hoped to incorporate that sound into the songs,” he said. “I try to incorporate modern styles in my music as much as possible because I want it to be enjoyable for any type of audience.”

One of his favorite melodies on the album, he said, is a song he composed called “Spark of the Phoenix.”

“I have always loved the stories of the Phoenix and how it dies and then comes back from the ashes more powerful than ever,” he said.

Nielson said although he thought of other names for the album as he was putting it together, he ultimately decided just to use his own name for the title.

“I decided to call it that because it’s just all me and it’s just how I want to express myself through music,” he said.

The album “Russell Nielson” is available for purchase for around $10 starting Tuesday via digital download on popular platforms such as iTunes, Google Play and more. Listeners can also hear individual tracks on Spotify or watch the videos on YouTube

At his home in Cedar City, Utah, violinist Russell Nielson records a track for his self-titled debut album, scheduled for release Sept. 22, 2020 | Image courtesy of Russell Nielson, St. George News / Cedar City News

Nielson said he also plans to produce a batch of physical CDs for those wanting that option, although they are not available yet. 

Bonnie Nielson said she has enjoyed watching her son develop his musical talents over the past few years.

“It didn’t take long for his orchestra teacher and his parents to see that this was much more than a love for music — Russell had a gift,” she said. “Russell took to the violin like it was an extension of himself and he has never stopped playing. He began to listen to the greats and emulate them, from Bach to Lindsey Stirling. All he had to do was listen and he was playing.”

“His skill level and ability to read all musical clefs and play multiple instruments continues to excite and baffle all who know him,” she added. “He also has taught himself to dance while playing his violin and has taken leaps and bounds towards an amazing stage career.”

Russell Nielson also enjoys performing theatrically and was cast in one of the lead roles in Canyon View’s upcoming school musical. 

He said his love for performing and his desire to share that passion with others is what drove him to make the album, thereby enabling him to reach an even wider audience.

“I’d like to thank everyone for supporting me and my music,” he said. “I’m just excited for everyone to hear it. And I hope you all love and enjoy this album as much as I do.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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