From Fathom Events and Fuseic Entertainment comes the compelling documentary “Russ Taff: I Still Believe,” chronicling the multi-GRAMMY® and Dove Award-winning star’s unparalleled musical journey and behind-the-scenes battle with alcoholism.
Playing in cinemas nationwide October 30 at 7:00 p.m. local time, this one-night inspirational event is not-to-be-missed. Immediately following the film, theater audiences will have the opportunity to view a special acoustic session with Taff and his friend, multi-GRAMMY® Award-winning singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman.
Acclaimed director Rick Altizer (“Chonda Pierce: Laughing in the Dark”) traces Taff’s iconic four-decade career, and for the very first time, uncovers the secret life Russ was leading at the top of his career as he tried to overcome his traumatic childhood that included addiction and abuse.
Unable to overcome his shame for many years, Taff turned to alcohol, distancing his family, threatening his career and jeopardizing his life. In “Russ Taff: I Still Believe” the award-winning Gospel singer candidly reveals how a tumultuous past fueled his own addiction and the ultimate healing he embraced in the power of Christ’s love and forgiveness. “I Still Believe” also shines an important spotlight on Taff’s wife of 42 years, Tori. Her tough love, fervent prayers and unfailing devotion helped her husband find freedom from his past and let Jesus heal and inspire Russ to a fuller life and deeper relationship with Him.
The film includes appearances from such legendary artists and entertainers as Amy Grant, Mercy Me’s Bart Millard, Michael W. Smith, Newsboys’ Michael Tait, Bill Gaither, and comedians Mark Lowry and Chonda Pierce.
About Russ Taff
Russ Taff was the fourth of five sons of a fire-breathing Pentecostal preacher father and a gospel music-loving mother. He learned early on that when he sang, people sat up and responded. Some of his earliest memories are of being held in church by his mom while she sang with the congregation.
When Taff moved to Arkansas in his teens, he began listening to popular music for the first time in his life, and found inspiration there, too. Contemporary Christian music was gaining prominence and the traditional lines between ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’ were starting to blur. Russ formed a local band called Sounds of Joy and began writing songs of spiritual truth that sounded like the music of his generation.
Two years after his band served as an opening act for the legendary Imperials, Taff was invited to join them as lead vocalist. With the Imperials, he toured extensively and gained recognition as ‘The Voice’ behind award-winning songs and albums that successfully completed the group’s transition from traditional to contemporary Christian.
Eager to experience and explore all aspects of music, Taff left the Imperials after four and a half years to pursue a solo career.
He captured the imagination of the industry by successfully releasing a series of innovative works that delved into his musical heritage while pushing the boundaries of contemporary Christian music. With lyrics often co-written with his wife Tori, Russ’s recordings and live concerts draw from all genres- rock, pop, blues, Southern gospel, Black gospel, country, even big band. “I guess I’m just not a right-down-the-middle kind of guy,” Russ cheerfully admits. “I’ve been influenced musically by so many styles that I try to never place restrictions on myself. If it moves me, I figure it will probably move other people too.
In 1991, Russ was invited by Bill Gaither to be part of one of his Homecoming videos. Soon after that, Russ began making guest appearances at Homecoming concerts. He eventually became a regular artist on the Homecoming Tour and joined the Gaither Vocal Band as a baritone in 2001. He toured as a member for almost three years. Early in 2004, following the deaths of Vestal Goodman and Jake Hess, Russ decided to step down from the Vocal Band and return to his solo artist status on the tour.
His music has won him not only a wide audience and critical acclaim but a total of 6 Grammy awards and 18 Gospel Music Association Dove awards. Billboard Magazine has called him “the single most electrifying voice in Christian music.”
About Tori Taff
Tori Taff is the wife of one of Christian Music’s most awarded performers, Russ Taff. But she is so much more. Tori is also one of the most respected women in the Christian Music industry, though she has never recorded a song, run a record company, or signed an artist. The world will discover why when the October 30 Fathom Event, Russ Taff: I Still Believe debuts in close to 1,000 theaters. The movie depicts Russ’ lifelong struggle to come to terms with the damage caused by an abusive childhood, shame, depression and alcoholism that almost destroyed his career and ended his life. But the film also spotlights the strength, stubborn love and faithfulness of a woman who refused to be a victim and instead was the glue that held a family in crisis together.
Tori was born in Arkansas, the youngest of six children, and married Russ there in 1976. The couple spent the next 15 years on the road together, traveling with the Imperials and then building and sustaining Russ’s legendary solo career. Tori became a familiar face on tour during the concert encores when Russ would introduce her on stage and have her join the back-up singers. “I was usually just mouthing the words,” confesses Tori, with a laugh. “I made sure to share a mic with the loudest singers. Then it looked like I was belting it out… and I sounded great!” One of Tori’s biggest contributions to Taff’s’ years in the blossoming genre of CCM music was her work as a songwriter, co-writing lyrics on all of Russ’ projects, including his Grammy winning “Walls Of Glass” album and the Grammy nominated albums “Medals” and “Russ Taff.”
Ten years into their marriage as Russ’ career continued to soar, he was diagnosed with clinical depression, and Tori discovered that he had been secretly self-medicating with alcohol. After a stint in rehab, Russ began counseling to deal with issues resulting from his turbulent childhood, and it seemed as if life was returning to normal.
In 1991, Tori left the road to start the Taff family. Maddie Rose was born in 1992, then Charlotte in 1996. Throughout their childhood Tori continued to co-write music with Russ, and launched a career as a ‘mommy-blogger’ with the Tennessean newspaper, which led to her own award-winning blog “Babybloomr.com.” She also authored a book, “100 Greatest Songs of Christian Music: The Stories Behind the Music That Changed Our Lives Forever,” and became a popular columnist with Homecoming Magazine, and a on-air personality for Homecoming Radio.
But Russ’ struggles with alcohol were far from over. Despite long periods of sobriety, eventually the hidden wounds of his past would overwhelm him, and the destructive cycle would begin again. Tori walked with Russ through numerous relapses, treatment centers and extensive therapy but still his life was in a downward spiral. Exhausted, desperate, and on the verge of ending the marriage, Tori finally persuaded Russ to enter a facility in Santa Fe, New Mexico that dealt specifically with the connection between shame, trauma, and addiction. There Russ confronted and finally understood the life-long emotional and spiritual effects of his past and began the path to healing that continues to this day.
So, with the help of God and a strong, loving wife, one of the most iconic voices in Christian music is now a grateful, recovering alcoholic— enjoying his life and family, and recording new music for the first time in a decade. They are a testament to the power of grace, mercy and forgiveness to redeem even the most broken among us.
Russ and Tori live in tiny Bell Buckle, TN in a creaky, 113-year-old late Victorian/early Arts and Crafts farmhouse with one yappy dog and three grateful rescue cats.
Russ and Tori’s story, Russ Taff: I Still Believe, will be in select theaters nationwide on October 30. For more information and tickets, go to RussTaffMovie.com.