On Serendipity and Vulnerability

An Interview with Nashville indie star Annie DiRusso

Photo Creds: Neil Shukla @neilshuk
Photo Creds: Neil Shukla @neilshuk

I love songs where the artist just screams at the end” I text to my friends in the summer of 2022 whilst desperately pleading for them to listen to Annie DiRusso’s ‘20.’ My comment, though shallow, serves as a testament to the cathartic nature of her work. Between tracks such as ‘20,’ ‘Nine Months,’ and ‘Infinite Jest,’ DiRusso displays an unwavering willingness to be authentic in her story telling. Through earnest and vivid lyricism backed by equally expressive instrumentals, DiRusso creates an all-encompassing world for her listeners, one that welcomes its population to participate in the intimate act of screaming along. 

DiRusso’s latest project, the EP entitled “God, I Hate This Place,” is perhaps her most vulnerable work yet as she reflects on the emotional transformations as well as the standstills that follow her throughout changes in time and place. The release of the EP was followed by the announcement of a highly-anticipated North American tour cleverly titled “God, I Love this Tour,” which began on April 28th in Madison, Wisconsin. I had the honour of speaking with DiRusso about the writing process behind her new EP, as well as her feelings towards the ongoing tour. 

Going into this tour, was there a song that you were most excited to play live? Has it been everything you dreamed it would be? 

DiRusso: I would say I’ve been most excited to play three songs off of the EP, ‘Body’, ‘Frisco Forever’ and ‘Hybrid’ and those have been my favourite to play. I think Frisco Forever is for sure one of my favourites. 

Obviously a lot of your songs are very personal and intimate, especially off of the new EP. Was there a song that you were more hesitant to play live? 

DiRusso: Yeah, ‘Body’ for sure I was nervous to release. I wrote that song 2 years ago and I never really thought I was gonna release it because I thought it was just like ‘Ok I’m happy I wrote that but I never wanna hear it again or release it’ because it’s so personal and it’s really intense for me. Through some encouragement and thought from the people around me I decided to put it out & I’m really happy I did. It’s been very cool to see other people connecting with it and it’s incredibly cathartic to perform - it feels very liberating in a lot of ways.

After playing songs from the EP or prior to the EP live, has there been a song that has been reshaped from being played or from hearing stories from fans about what that song means to them? 

DiRusso: I would say ‘Infinite Jest.’ I released that song and it’s definitely a slower, more intense song - I kind of thought of it as my deep cut, but then when I play it live it’s the one that everyone knows the lyrics to. It’s like this very very present experience playing that song with people around and it kinda changes that song for me it made it more about healing than about heartbreak. 

Do you have a favourite lyric from the EP? How did it come about? 

DiRusso: I really like the lyric in ‘Emerson,’ ‘Guess I’ve only ever been who I was.’ and I also really love the second verse of ‘Frisco Forever’ where I say ‘Some pills I can’t pronounce, three times a day by mouth to help me breathe. Too bad I threw ‘em all out so you’ll think of me. Do you ever think of me? I’m kidding, I took all three.” because that’s very me I would not ever ignore doctor’s orders but I would wonder what it would be like. 

How important was writing the new EP in terms of working through and reconciling with the emotions that are being expressed in it?

DiRusso: I think it was really important - a lot of the time I say things in songs that haven’t ever really said out loud before or admitted to myself. I learned a lot about myself through that process. I think if I wasn’t writing songs I would avoid my feelings in a way that wouldn’t be good. I think that while writing the EP I was able to focus on very specific feelings because this is my first project. It was really really really helpful for processing a lot of different aspects of my life and kind of the way I operate in friendships and relationships and in my own world. I’m still learning now but I think the EP was definitely a very big learning experience.

Photo Creds: Neil Shukla @neilshuk

The core of the album revolves around you delving into your own psyche - with the place that you can never escape being your own mind. Could you speak to how that motif came about? Was it something that you were aiming to put together or was it just a missing string that tied every song together? 

DiRusso: It wasn’t incredibly intentional - a lot of the time things just end up working out naturally in terms of meaning and what they are supposed to be just while working on them. I didn’t start writing the project with the idea in mind of ‘I want everything to tie together’ or with a specific narrative in mind. I remember when I had four of the songs picked out, I started to piece it together and I was like ‘wait, these do have a very common string.’ ‘Hybrid’ fell within that too. That was a very affirming and beautiful moment for me. I think a lot of the time if you just make the art that you want to make and that feels natural to you there’s going to be a common thread or message. I just think that things done with intent can be so so so cool but usually the way I work I just make what I wanna make and the intention or the meaning and the message that strings through it kind of just happens because I’m a person making art with specific tastes and specific feelings. I think it was really cool when it all clicked and I realised that it all had a very cohesive narrative.

Indeed, ‘God, I Hate This Place’ is as cohesive as it is resonant - it is a body of work that is so profoundly intimate it is sure to strike a chord. Just as with my friends in the summer of 2022, I urge you to listen to her music, you won’t regret it!