DELMARVA ALMANAC

Bryan Russo

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Many in our area know Bryan Russo as a radio journalist but he is also a popular blues artist who has opened for a number of big name national acts.


Bryan's passion for music began very early growing up in a musically inclined family. His mother wanted him to learn to read music so he began with piano lessons. By the second grade he was taking violin which he continued through his senior year in high school. Bryan decided to complete his education in Europe. But first he spent some time in Maryland where he bought his first guitar.

Bryan Russo:
"I went to the 28th Street pawn shop in Ocean City and bought a guitar for like a hundred bucks and just taught myself how to play." His musical background enabled him to pick it up pretty quickly. He says he is blessed with nearly perfect pitch. So he became a student of it.

"It was something different than what it was like to play with a symphony; because it is just you. And, I just loved being able to express myself not only with music but writing songs too."

"When you have the audience it's a brilliant thing. There's that moment right after you've finished a song where that last note hits and before the claps start That is the most gratifying, I think, for me. It's that moment of "how'd I do?" Ya know? And you know pretty quickly. And that moment is what hooked me from the first time I ever played on a stage when I was in third grade, to what I am doing now. And that doesn't matter if it is just a cafeteria with family and friends or a thousand people opening up for a huge legend or a national act. It's that moment before the claps. It's not the claps. It's that moment before."


Bryan sites song writers like Bob Dylan, Tom Waites, and Leonard Cohen, among others as those who influenced his love of lyrics. In part because of his training as a reporter, he says it is the lyrics first for him.

Bryan Russo:
"For me as both a musician and a songwriter, and a journalist, I mean, I think it is all story telling. You know journalism and songwriting are both story telling. In journalism you're telling someone else's story. In song writing you have the option to put your story somewhere between the second verse and the hook, or the bridge."

"It's thinkin' music. It's drinkin music. It's fun but if you really sit down and spend some time with the lyrics, it's social commentary. And, I feel like, you know, there's not enough of that anymore."

"I think I am more of an artist than I am a rocker, ya know? Some people build houses, and some people create business, and that's their legacy. And I just want to write a song that is remembered long after I'm dead."


Bryan has appeared as an opening act for the Black Keys, to G-Love & The Special Sauce, Vintage Trouble, Shooter Jennings, and rock legend John Mayaw.

He has also gone from being a solo act to forming a four piece band called the Tragic Figures with himself and Brett Conaway on drums, John Sybert on bass, and Mike Noyes on mouth harp.

That education in journalism Bryan's father wisely insisted on provided him with a day job as he built his reputation as musician. Bryan covered sports in Philadelphia for the Associated Press, and up until recently had an award winning radio show on WAMU covering a wide range of topics about Delmarva. Though the show was dropped due to budget cuts Bryan continues his work as a storyteller both in his music and on independent documentary projects.

Bryan Russo:
"I'm doing this web series now called 'Curtain Call - Historic Theater of the Eastern Shore.' It's basically trying to tell the story of all these old historic theaters in Delaware, Virginia, Maryland that used to be the hub and the location that people would go on a Friday night or Saturday night to get arts and culture and how those rooms are struggling and almost dying off. There are passionate people who are trying to keep these things alive. I want to tell their story."

Bryan is currently bringing his two creative passions together working on a documentary and a companion album that has its roots in Delmarva's musical heritage. Researching that project brought him into contact with some fascinating and wise individuals such as the person who inspired his song "Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen" which you can listen to an accoustic version of in the second clip on the left.

Find out about upcoming dates that Bryan Russo and the Tragic Figures are playing, and Bryan's documentary web series Curtain Call at bryanrusso.com