Annie DiRusso is the raw Nashville indie rocker who manifested a fall tour with Declan McKenna
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Scroll through TikTok and you’re more than likely going to hear one of Annie DiRusso’s deeply vulnerable, raw songs about the complexity of relationships.
DiRusso went viral on TikTok with her rock anthem “Nine Months” after downloading the app at the beginning of quarantine. The earnest indie artist (think Lucy Dacus’ signature raspiness with a healthy dose of rock guitar) was attending Belmont University in Nashville at the time.
Her friend and then-guitarist Daniel Nunnelee had been encouraging her to post on the app all summer. In August 2020, she finally decided to try it, filming a stripped-down version of her song “20” in a black dress with eyeliner on.
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“The whole day Daniel and I were like, ‘Expect it to flop. Don’t get your expectations too high,” DiRusso tells Alternative Press. “I posted it that evening and really didn’t expect anything at all and kind of forgot.” Overnight, the video received 250,000 views.
“It felt like a movie,” DiRusso says. “My phone was blowing up, and all these notifications were coming in from people and musicians I really admired.” DiRusso described her first brush with internet fame as “very out of body” and admits she “had butterflies.”
DiRusso’s songs are raw — anyone who has been in a confusing relationship (so, everyone) will relate and just might get chills listening to how relatable her lyrics are. She says it’s sometimes difficult performing her more unguarded tracks, including “Nine Months” and “Infinite Jest,” live.
But over time, she’s found that playing “Nine Months” is “very cathartic” and “actually quite healing singing it every night with a crowd.” For “Infinite Jest,” “she could cry” when she remembers everyone singing along to “these really vulnerable words that I had written, almost if they had written them.”
DiRusso moved to Nashville in 2017 when she was just 17. During freshman year, she started listening to Big Thief, Jade Bird and Lucy Dacus, and was “so inspired by the honesty in their songwriting.” She calls songwriting in Nashville “the craft of the town” and says she’s “learned so much” while living in Music City.
Playing her first show after blowing up on TikTok at The Basement East in Nashville was an unforgettable experience. DiRusso called it “the coolest night ever” and “the first time I ever had fans show up to a show.” Prior to COVID-19, the crowd mostly consisted of friends and family, and this was certainly a departure.
“There were people singing the words to my songs, which had never happened before,” DiRusso says. Naturally, she was “freaking out.” She’s since toured with Sara Kays and Samia, and is often approached by fans who found her music on TikTok. She went out on her own for a headlining tour in the spring and quips, “I feel like I've been touring for years even though it's been about a year.”
The Westchester native graduated in December 2021 but found herself balancing her music with classes at the beginning of her career. She missed a month of school to tour and called it all “a lot to juggle.”
“I almost did fail out,” DiRusso admits. Luckily, her “professors were cool about it for the most part.” During her first headlining tour, she thought she’d have plenty of free time. Instead, she realized “there's always something else you could be doing and a lot of distractions.”
“If you’re staying with people on the road, you want to be a good guest in their house and hang out with them. And if you’re in a city like San Francisco, you don’t want to sit in an Airbnb or hotel and do homework. And then it’s time for soundcheck!” DiRusso explains. “Inevitably, there's so many obstacles you have to navigate your first tour, which made it so I didn’t get any schoolwork done and almost didn’t graduate. But I did, thank gosh, and am so happy to be done with school. It was keeping me up every single night.”
With the August release of “Call It All Off,” a single she’s been working on since December 2020 with pal Briston Maroney, she’s set to skyrocket.
[Photo by Anna Koblish]
“I had just gotten out of a relationship, and I was reminiscing and processing it,” DiRusso says. She started by reflecting on what her ex was up to now and then wanted to highlight “the feeling of getting out of a relationship and having to reenter the world as an independent person after losing yourself in something so all-consuming.”
And like her other breakup songs, it’s as vulnerable as ever. “I lost my sense of reality while in this relationship,” DiRusso admits. “A lot of the song talks about the fallout from that and trying to reconnect with people in my life that I lost touch with and regain the knowledge lost.”
Now, she’s preparing to embark on a fall tour with English musician Declan McKenna, who she’s been a fan of since she was 15, when his inescapable hit “Brazil” came out. This tour has been a long time coming, with DiRusso manifesting it when she was a teen fan.
“I remember being so obsessed with that song and the songwriting, and then figuring out he’s around my age, it blew my mind,” she raves. She emailed everyone on his team in hopes she could open for him when he first started touring, writing, “Hi, my name is Annie DiRusso. I am a 15-year-old songwriter, and I would like to open up for Declan McKenna on tour because I am such a big fan.”
With this upcoming tour, her teen dreams are coming true. DiRusso calls it a “crazy, full-circle moment” that was six years in the making.
FOR FANS OF: Lucy Dacus, Samia, Maude Latour
SONG RECOMMENDATION: “Call It All Off”