Photo provided by Billions Corporation

Until two years ago, Oakland’s Nic Russo was a talent known mostly among his close circle of friends. He’d played in bands since high school, but had never taken it too seriously; most of his music still lived at home, in half-finished demos on an old four-track. His friends on the other hand, took note. One had accumulated a hard-drive full of Russo’s music, from shared demos to live recordings, and another had recently started his own tape label, Vacant Stare Records. With some encouragement, Russo put together enough songs that they agreed to split it into two collections, Nashville Dreams and Sings the Blues, and Dick Stusso, his barbecue-stained alter ego was born.

The tongue-in-cheek lyricism of his debut painted Dick as aspiring country singer whose dreams weren’t working out, resigned instead to day drinking, fantasizing about big money record deals and skipping town, plagued by a seemingly doomed desire for something more. Ironically, the late-twenties ennui, barely hidden beneath the Stusso persona, made for a piece of work so charming that he’s spent the past two years opening for big name indie acts like Whitney, Alex Cameron, and Lord Huron.

The attention’s landed him a record deal with Sub Pop imprint Hardly Art, home to rising artists like Chastity Belt and Tacocat, where he’ll be releasing his sophomore album, In Heaven, this year. The record’s first single, “Modern Music,” is a bare-boned, plodding excursion into the Stusso universe. Over blown out bass and drums, Stusso seems to take stock of his new position and what it means for him, observing the “future fading into darkness.” Despite his changing luck, there’s still plenty of doubt about what it all means, but Russo seems content to ride shotgun. Just as he offered bits of cynical honesty on his debut, we get the sense that In Heaven will see the Stusso veil lifted even further.

Dick Stusso, Mall Walk, Grace Sings Sludge
Cafe du Nord
February 22nd, 2018
7pm, $12, 21+