During the 1990s, contemporary Christian music vocalist Russ Lee became known just as much for his enthusiasm as for his voice. After several years as lead singer of the hitmaking CCM band Newsong, Lee embarked on a solo career in the late '90s. In addition to his Dove award nomination for Best Male Vocalist and his hits with Newsong, Lee found success with his solo debut, Words in Time, which included a rousing song that was soon to become the anthem for Lee and many CCM listeners, "Live What I Believe."
Born in Cleveland, TN, Lee grew up in the small Smokey Mountains town, hitting hard times during his teenage years, as he cared for his younger siblings while his mother struggled with mental illness and his father battled with alcoholism. In his early teens, he began working outside the home, too, seeking independence and stability. Lee first got into music playing guitar in a bar band, and got involved with drugs around the same age, but became increasingly dissatisfied with his life. Lee eventually reached a breaking point, began attending Church, and turned his life around.
His enthusiasm for ministry (Lee is an ordained minister) and his love of music eventually led to Lee singing in the Christian group Truth, then joining popular CCM band Newsong in the early '90s. As lead vocalist, Lee toured and recorded several albums with Newsong. In the late '90s, Lee decided to pursue a solo career and moved from Atlanta, GA, back to Tennessee, this time with his wife and children.
They moved to Nashville, and there, Russ Lee embarked on his solo career, signing to EMI's Christian label, Sparrow Records, and working with producers Brian McCloud (Sheryl Crow) and Glen Rosenstein (Caedmon's Call) on his debut album, Words in Time (2000). This album features all original material -- with the exception of Lee's cover of a Mike and the Mechanics hit, "The Living Years" -- that melds his pop music influences with his message. The opening cut on Words in Time, "Live What I Believe," quickly became a favorite on Christian radio, and was even more enthusiastically received at live performances, becoming a kind of anthem for Lee and his Christian listeners. Late 2000 found Russ Lee on tour with vocal group Avalon, and preparing for his role as King Herod in a musical about the birth of Jesus. ~ Joslyn Layne