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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, June 16, 2024

Annie DiRusso on friendships, clean rooms, her headline tour

annie-dirusso
Annie DiRusso is pictured.

Like many other recent college graduates, singer-songwriter Annie DiRusso has spent her year living with her friends (in her case, in Nashville) while also visiting her home state of New York. But, unlike most early 20-somethings, DiRusso is preparing to embark on a 27-show headline tour starting April 12, in addition to playing at Lollapalooza and opening for Ruston Kelly at four of his shows. DiRusso released her first EP “God, I Hate This Place”(2023) in February after years of releasing singles and embarked on a promotional tour that included appearances such as a musical guest spot on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” (2015–). 

The Daily had the chance to talk to DiRusso about what it’s like to be in this pivotal point in her life and musical career. 

“I feel like I go back and forth a lot historically on whether or not I feel good about a release, but I actually have been feeling so good about these five songs,” DiRusso said about the aftermath of releasing her EP. “It’s been a really, really sweet month.”

DiRusso’s success can be linked to her timeless rock sound and storytelling sensibility, giving her music a broad appeal that could easily go beyond just her Gen Z peers. But her songs draw a particular power from their ability to speak to the confusing feelings of growing into adulthood. DiRusso, in fact, started to garner attention for her music after posting a version of her song “20” (2020) on TikTok, describing anxiety about turning 20. 

Now 23, Annie DiRusso graduated from Belmont University in Nashville last year, where she studied songwriting. “God, I Hate This Place”was written in the midst of a post-grad transitional phase, moving between different geographic locations as well as different headspaces, and it explores themes of how places can be experienced differently in different periods of life.

“I wrote the EP mostly last year, which was my first year of touring,” DiRusso said. “I was on the road for probably more than half the year … and so it did bring about those feelings of thinking what it feels like to be home versus what it feels like to be on the road.” 

DiRusso provided advice for anyone hating the place they are in, a feeling she expresses throughout her EP. 

“I think the only thing to do is keep moving and keep working towards something,” she said, even if it’s something as small as cleaning your space. 

“It’s so much nicer to be sad in a nice space than sad in a gross space,” DiRusso said, bringing to mind visuals from her album such as the dirty room in the backdrop of her “Nauseous” (2022) music video. 

DiRusso also noted that the process of writing and then curating songs for an EP allowed her to gain a new perspective on the experiences she described.

“[I wanted] for the whole project to have this overarching meaning … and then slowly it crept up on me as I finished it up,” DiRusso said. “I was so happy when it all clicked.”

Though DiRusso’s work is full of self-reflection, relationships and connection are also a source of inspiration for her. 

“When you graduate, I feel like friendship becomes a lot more intentional, and that aspect of really considering relationships has been pretty big for me and my writing in the last year,” DiRusso said. 

In addition to personal friendships, DiRusso values creative partnerships, thanking the other Nashville creatives who helped her develop her EP, including her roommate, singer Caroline Culver, who shares a writing credit for DiRusso’s song “Nauseous,” or Josef Kuhn, a drummer for DiRusso’s band and a producer.

“I just feel so lucky to be here and get to be part of such a bubbling creative scene all the time,” DiRusso said about working in Nashville. 

For her playful but sometimes dark music videos, DiRusso works with directors to build out her visions for the concepts. For her music video for “Call It All Off”’(2022), for instance, DiRusso worked with director Moss Rios Rehm to create the feeling of the “Alice in Wonderland” rabbit hole. Rehm took the idea and ran, even including puppets modeled after DiRusso. 

DiRusso’s live shows, too, are a place for finding fun in her vulnerable songs. That starts with DiRusso’s set design, another collective effort with her friend and tour manager Bella Smith. Her last tour’s set design featured a trampoline, matching dresses with her band (originally bought for Annie by her mom) and blond wigs for her band to match DiRusso’s hair. 

“We’re adding some new setpieces. … That’s all I’ll say for now,” DiRusso teased about this upcoming tour’s set, noting that some of the pieces she is “modeling after some stuff in my life.”

DiRusso’s concerts provide a sense of release for the anger and frustration present in her songs, for both her and the audience. For her tour setlist, DiRusso said to look forward to “Body” (2023), a song about body image, as a song that would be “really emotional but really cathartic” to perform live, as well as “Hybrid” (2023) as a song that she’s “just excited to yell.”

Whether it’s lyrics about “her last clean pair of underwear” on “Frisco Forever” (2023) or her screaming “I cleaned my room for you” on “Nauseous,” DiRusso touches on sometimes intimate details about her life in her songs. DiRusso commented on whether she ever feels self-conscious sharing personal lyrics to a large audience.

 “I feel like it used to be more of a worry, like what will people think of this? But I think that the music I resonate with most is people saying things that I have done and want to say but don’t have the courage to,” DiRusso said. “Intense and unyielding honesty is what makes music the best to me.”