Paul Russell on major breakthrough single Lil Boo Thang: "I was working a desk job 6 months ago"

We chat to the US star about his debut Top 20 hit, and his plans on not becoming a one-hit wonder.
paul russell lil boo thang interview

On Lil Boo Thang, ascendant star Paul Russell has managed to bottle happiness. Or at least, that's what it sounds like. 

The song - which has so far reached a peak of Number 20 on the Official Singles Chart, and marks Paul's first ever entry on the Official Chart - has unequivocally changed his life. 

From uploading a short snippet of the song to (where else?) TikTok last year, Paul signed a major label deal with Sony RCA and sent his little ray of sunshine into the world. Lil Boo Thang is an infectious funk jam, inspired clearly by the work of some of the greatest artists of the '70s; Stevie Wonder, The Jackson name it, you can hear it in the song. 

Getting your first is not easy. But something that's even harder is following up that first, career-altering single with another. Hot off the heels on Paul's new single release Say Cheese, we caught up with him to talk his breakthrough success, his ongoing plans for an upcoming project and, most importantly, how to enjoy and live in the moment.

Say Cheese, your brand new single, is out now. How does that feel?

I'm feeling great! People seem to really like it! I'm just excited to have more music out and be able to tell the story of who I am as an artist and having more than one thing [out] that they know. I love it, I like Say Cheese a lot because I made it on my birthday right after Lil Boo Thang came out. It was me at the moment when I [realised] my life had changed.

Being able to make something that's celebratory about that moment just felt cool. I've gotten a lot of good feedback.

I heard that you actually wrote Say Cheese on the day you quit your can definitely feel that feeling in the song

Hey, that's amazing! I'm glad. I was working a desk job six months ago. It was really boring, it was in finance at a tech company. I was just in Microsoft Excel. Super math-heavy, it's very weird to go from doing that to...I wouldn't say I was a creative, but now I get up every day and I make music! I perform! I think I'm ready for it now. I can do it as a job and enjoy it! 

Why was Say Cheese the perfect song to follow-up Lil Boo Thang? It's no easy task!

I think it taps into the same stuff. Lil Boo Thang is a very happy, upbeat song. Say Cheese feels like it lives in that same world, sonically. it's very 70s-influenced. I wanted to release something that took the same elements but did them in a different way.

The goal is to make an album, so I've been making a lot of music in general. We've been trying to figure out what makes sense [in the release schedule] and we just kept coming back to Say Cheese. For me, it gave me the similar feeling that Lil Boo Thang did too. 

You can't shock people too much, Russell, this was never going to be a screamo track

There you go! Who knows, you might hear screamo from me one day, but not now.

paul russell lil boo thang interview 1

Are you feeling the pressure to follow Lil Boo Thang up?

I've definitely gone through phases. At first, I definitely felt the pressure a lot. Not just finding the next song and releasing it, but also figuring out the timing and all the pieces of me not seeming like a one-hit wonder. So much of it is things other than just releasing new music; creating a brand, figuring out who you are as an artist, collaborating with other artists...

At first, there was so much pressure that I felt from myself. I wanted to capitalise from the success. But over time, I've got more comfortable. I never even planned on releasing Lil Boo Thang, I hadn't even written the full song when I first leaked it.

It all happened very organically and accidentally. When I start putting a lot of pressure on myself and planning everything, I remember the times that I've done that are the times where I haven't grown the most.

How is work on the album going?

I'm super excited. Right now I have 7 songs. I want 10 or 11, I don't want a super-long project. The process has been just figuring it out. At first, I worked with a lot of different producers - like right after Lil Boo Thang came out - but honestly, the stuff that I liked the most and is making up the majority of the album is stuff that I did with a producer called Sean Cook, who worked on Lil Boo Thang.

There's something special about working with the people you came up with. A lot of the music is similarly very happy, but the goal is I want to tell the story of who I am a bit more. It's been fun going through this process. There's stuff that more radio-friendly, but also a lot of stuff about me talking about this moment in my life. I really want to communicate, that's my favourite part of it. Telling a story.

Is there one song we haven't heard yet that you think people will really like?

Ooh! There's a song called Eat Pray Love...I'm very excited about it. It's more of a disco song. A lot of my friends want me to play it for them, people are randomly putting it on when I'm around!

I'm seeing Julia Roberts in the music video...

Yes! We need to get her in! Julia, call me.

Lil Boo Thang and Say Cheese by Paul Russell are out now via RCA.

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