With fire-engine red hair and a diverse wardrobe of argyle sweater vests, doc martens, long skirts and graphic tees, Annie DiRusso’s personal style is shared by countless indie music listening college students across the country. Her approachable style only adds to her stage charisma, which is strengthened by her ability to work a crowd–much like one of her Nashville rock predecessors, Hayley Williams of Paramore.
Contemporary media tends to forget that Nashville is Music City, and not just country Music City. Between music students at local colleges like Belmont University (DiRusso’s alma mater) and eclectic venues across East Nashville, the city maintains a thriving indie rock scene that first took off when Paramore formed at nearby Franklin High School.
DiRusso’s debut EP, titled God, I Hate This Place shows nothing but love for her newfound home in Nashville, and her hometown of Croton-on-Hudson, New York. The lyricism present in the project depicts the nonlinear journey to healing several forms of trauma, from body dysmorphia to leaving bad relationships behind. The place DiRusso actually hated most was a state of mind.
Annie’s Favorite Places
The EP has all the angst of a pop-punk album, but the introspection and guitar riffs of a grunge album. The influences of fellow Nashvillian Soccer Mommy (who was in turn influenced by the Smashing Pumpkins) are clearly evident across the lyrics of the EP, but DiRusso’s ability to deliver a sad song in an upbeat and energetic fashion are what make her an intriguing artist to watch.
Much of the EP is rooted in her childhood experiences, which she also referenced at the EP release show at Q Prime South’s unique Nashville urban-gothic style office. The opening line of “Emerson”, which is named after the street DiRusso grew up on, in which she sings “baptized by a pedophile” in a tongue in cheek reference to Catholicism was delivered ironically in a building adorned in stained-glass windows.
“God, I Hate this Place is not talking about Croton. It’s talking about more of a state of mind. I actually love Croton so much, and I shot a lot of the photos for this EP up there. I thought it was really symbolic for me to be in places that I love,” said DiRusso. She fondly remembers several local spots in her Hudson Valley hometown that hold a special place in her heart. “I love the Blue Pig Ice Cream, I worked there from the ages of 14 to 19 scooping ice cream. It’s the best ice cream and the best people. I love the parks too. It’s really such a beautiful and peaceful place that I’ve come to appreciate even more since moving away, as often happens.”
Following her high school graduation, DiRusso moved away from her idyllic suburban community and onto a bigger challenge–music school. Much of her EP was written over the last few years of her education at Belmont University, which has produced several successful artists over the years. Technical training aside, it was the strong sense of community and Nashville’s emphasis on songwriting that really had an impact on DiRusso’s EP.
“Moving to Nashville for school had a huge effect on my style, and mostly my songwriting. It became my main craft. It’s the most important tool that allows me to be sure that I’m saying exactly what I want to say,” said DiRusso. “I also met most of my best friends who are all musicians.”
The Creative Process
DiRusso has had a meteoric rise that began during her Belmont years. Her track “Nine Months”, which reflects upon the toxicity of a relationship after it was already over, went viral on TikTok amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a time when viewers felt like they were stuck in their heads and their homes, DiRusso’s brutally honest confessional songwriting made them feel less alone. The song continued to resonate with audiences once DiRusso and her locally sourced band were able to play it for live audiences years after its release.
I love this sound it’s iconic & whoever said that ^^ I love you have a happy day
“‘Nine Months’ taking off on TikTok was very surreal and crazy and a bit unexpected. It was cool for me, because that song is about some pretty heavy stuff. And I was able to connect with a lot of people over that, and once things opened up, we got to connect about it in person at shows,” said DiRusso. “I’m talking about specific things, but I think they’re pretty universal feelings at the core, so you can only hope for those moments.”
On God, I Hate This Place, DiRusso feels the most vulnerable on “Body”, a contemplative track in which she describes her long and complex relationship with body image. The track was co written with fellow Nashville based artists Caroline Culver and Kennedy Wilde.
“Each song was challenging in different ways. Emotionally, ‘Body’ was probably the most challenging to write. That was the only one I didn’t write in 2022. I wrote that song in 2020, and I’ve been sitting on it for a while. And I just realized, if I didn’t release it with this project, I probably wouldn’t release it. I realized it was something that I really wanted to say,” said DiRusso. “I finally feel ready to say it, even though it’s really scary.”
The Community That Started It All
Prior to the EP’s release, DiRusso opened for indie giants Declan McKenna and HAIM, and also toured with Samia and Sara Kays. Aside from the musical inspiration that these artists gave DiRusso, she feels that they also taught her a lot about having a work-life balance, and prioritizing making music that they are personally passionate about.
“I’ve learned so many different things from so many different people that I’ve been on tour with, about taking care of yourself on the road and how to sustain a life of touring and just connecting with the people around you,” said DiRusso. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot just from watching people and watching their shows every night. I love opening for people, because I love to get to watch some of my favorite artists do what they do best every night and it’s so inspiring.”
Much of God, I Hate This Place’s lyrics tackle hard conversations, and DiRusso hopes that it offers some support to any listeners who relate to it. “I can only hope that maybe it helps them feel less alone and move towards self acceptance,” said DiRusso. “I think what’s kind of interesting about music is you don’t really have a say in how people internalize it, which is a little scary. But I think it’s also really powerful that the songs take on a life of their own with whoever’s listening to them.”