Neil Shukla


Annie DiRusso Makes Indie Rock For Your Growing Pains

Hear her new song “Emerson” exclusively on NYLON.

The period between your late teens and mid-twenties is a weird time. You’ve graduated college, maybe left home for a few years, and then suddenly you’re back, plopped back in your childhood bedroom again which feels mostly familiar and also extremely foreign. No matter how hard you want to convince yourself — and your parents — that you’ve changed and have Grown Up now, you can’t help but revert back into your 15-year-old self. Have you really changed? Can you really change? Don’t you want to get out of this room? These are the feelings and questions that roil throughout Annie DiRusso’s staggering new song, “Emerson” — and spoiler alert, she doesn’t have any neat answers either.

The 23-year-old musician is a scathing songwriter and on her latest single, whose music video is debuting exclusively on NYLON below, she writes with a serrated intensity about pains of growing up. Take the song’s intense opening line, “Baptized by a pedophile in a church that reeks of oak and death” as a taste of just how un-sugarcoated her lyrics are. Yet, despite the heaviness of its content, “Emerson”— named after the street she grew up on — feels like a huge wave of relief rolling off of her shoulders, its driving guitar line like an exit conduit for her boiled-over grief. At the end, the song gathers into a pool of catharsis as she admits, “Guess I’ve only ever been who I was.”

“The song, for me, is about that feeling of accepting your past self and your present self and your future self, and a thread in between all those different versions of yourself,” DiRusso tells NYLON.

Its accompanying music video, directed by Neil Shukla, encapsulates the song’s coming-of-age themes with DiRusso performing the track in a recreated set of her actual childhood bedroom.

“Emerson” is the lead single of DiRusso’s forthcoming EP, God, I Hate This Place, out Feb. 24, whose five tracks forcefully probe other topics like body image, relationships, and desire. Hear “Emerson” below, and read on for a conversation with the musician about songwriting, growing up, and the community of fellow young women songwriters she’s found in Nashville.

Your EP is called God, I Hate This Place. Are you talking about your hometown or a physical place?

So I'm definitely not talking about a physical place. I think that it's funny too, because I did all of the promo photos in my hometown. But I love my hometown and I took photos in a lot of places that I love. The place that I hate is a place inside my head that makes me feel this way.

Where did you grow up? Tell me a bit about your childhood.

I grew up in Croton-on-Hudson, which is up the metro north on the Hudson line from the city. And it's this very cute, quaint river town. It's mostly just commuters into the city but it's a lot of really creative people. I would say, out of all river towns, Croton has a lot of creative people that work in theater or lighting and stuff like that. And I grew up on Emerson Avenue, which is why the song's called “Emerson.”

I grew up around a bunch of kids. There was this whole crew of kids, maybe almost 15 or 20 of us, ranging from, I was on the younger end, up to people who were 10 years older than me. And [I] had a really I feel like classic childhood where we would be out in the street playing all day. We did a lot of creative projects. We would make movies and stuff like that.

I loved growing up on Emerson. Neither of my parents were musicians, but my dad is a huge fan. He's a very classic born-and-raised in Brooklyn. He loves the Yankees and he loves Frank Sinatra. And then from my mom, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, stuff like that. They're both fans of music but no one in my family's a musician. So they didn't really understand it when I first wanted to do it, but they have always been really supportive of it.

Have you showed your parents your songs on this EP? On some of it you do talk about your childhood and living at home.

Yeah. I have shown them. They like it. I mean, there's always things that maybe are not their favorite lyrics, especially when I talk about maybe more explicit things. My dad's always really funny about it. He's like, “I can't send it to my friends now.” And I'm like, “Oh, sorry.”

You shot the “Emerson” music video in a recreated set of your childhood bedroom. Were you able to bring any artifacts from your real bedroom to put in your fake bedroom?

Oh, there's my bed and then books from my bedroom. There were posters, a lot of posters and art that I have for my bedroom. Yeah, some stuffed animals.

Did performing in it stir up any emotions?

I feel like the song itself is always very cathartic for me to play. I played it on the last tour I was on and there's something really cathartic about it. Even though it is heavy, the thesis statement of it is: I've only ever been who I was. And that is really limiting in so many ways to realize you are only who you are and you've only been who you were. But it's also really liberating. I always feel at the end of that song very cathartic being able to play it and accept myself through it.

You’re good friends with a lot of other great musicians coming up around the same time as you like Nell Mescal and Samia. What's it like to just be around this community?

It's been very, very, very sweet. Samia also lives here in Nashville, [and] it’s really special how tight-knit the artist community here is. Touring can be really hard and also really exciting, so it's nice to be able to be with people who do the same thing.

I think a lot of the music industry feels very scary because a lot of it's really unknown. Just having people that are going through the same thing and hearing their experience has been so helpful. People have been so kind to give me advice and help me out when I need something in terms of whether it's how to tour very sustainably and feel good when you're on the road. Stuff like that where it's really nice to be able to check in and understand it a little bit more from the outside.

Annie DiRusso’s ‘God, I Hate This Place’ is out Feb. 24. See her on tour spring 2023.