There are countless things you need to become a country music star these days. Not only do you need an incredible voice and a memorable look, but you also have to have a cool backstory and a whole trunkful of luck.

Oh, and it also helps if Hoda Kotb is on your side.

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An avid country music fan, the “Today” host has long been a cheerleader for the genre. Her latest country crush looks to be a certain Mr. Russell Dickerson, who performed his current single “Yours” on the morning show July 10. And Hoda made her feelings known about Russell before they even went live.

“We were sound checking and I look over and Hoda is, like, waving and saying, ‘I’m so glad you are here’ and ‘I can’t wait to come talk to you,’” Russell told Rare Country during a recent interview in Chicago. “She is an angel. [Hoda and co-host Kathie Lee Gifford] are both so nice and so warm. I mean, I’m just a new guy and they were so easygoing with everything, and it was so cool to see how they were excited about me.”

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During the performance, the camera centered in on Russell’s wife, Kailey, who was watching from the side of the stage. “For a platform that big to acknowledge me and acknowledge my music and my wife …” Russell said, trailing off. “We just want to show what a good, healthy marriage looks like and, so, for them to acknowledge that, it’s really cool. Plus, it’s so crazy for people to pay attention to what we do,” he added. “I’ve worked for so long to get to a point where people finally care about the songs that I write and everything [we’ve] got going on.”

Tricia Despres is a senior correspondent for Rare Country, based out of Chicago. Join the conversation on Twitter at @RareCountry. We would love to see y’all there.
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