Allison Russell Live from Apogee Studio.
Video directed by Angie Scarpa, all photos by Larry Hirshowitz

Allison Russell: KCRW Live from Apogee Studio

Intimate performances, fresh sounds, and candid conversations with a view.

Montreal native Allison Russell has spent her career collecting serious Americana bonafides. From her early work with alt-country hybrid Po’Girl, to her folk collab Birds of Chicago with partner JT Nero, to her tenure with roots music supergroup Our Native Daughters, Russell has built a foundation as a guileless songwriter, a playfully spirited interpreter, and a skilled multi-instrumentalist (banjo, guitar, ukulele, and clarinet, to name a few).

In 2021, Russell struck out on her own with her solo debut Outside Child. It’s an unflinching reflection on childhood abuse and lingering trauma, shot through with resilient bursts of joy — at once spare and raucous. For this, she received three Grammy nominations, including Best Americana Album. 

More: Allison Russell on telegraphing her journey out of abuse with ‘Outside Child’

On 2023’s The Returner — up for four Grammy Awards — Russell levels up yet again by getting downright funky. See: “Stay Right Here,” with its echoes of Irene Cara’s iconic theme song for the musical Fame, and “Demons,” with its fierce music video directed by Ethan Tobman (creative director of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour and set designer of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, nbd). 

More: Will Beyoncé and Taylor Swift save the movie theater?

“What gives me joy right now — in the midst of everything that is so traumatic for everyone, all this loss, this uncertainty, this fear, and violence — is my circle of chosen family,” Russell tells KCRW’s Anne Litt. “I survived my childhood because of chosen family. I thrive as an artist because of chosen family.” 

She explains that The Returner is volume two in a spiritually linear trilogy, with a third installation forthcoming. 

Outside Child, volume one, is reconciling the past. The Returner is present, it's re-embodiment,” Russell says. “Reach your arms out and hold your circle close. And grow it, and grow it, and grow it.” 

More: Natalia LaFourcade: KCRW Live From Apogee Studio

Russell and her band — Elenna Canlas (keys), Ganessa James (bass & guitar), Megan Coleman (drums) — bring their combined starpower to Bob Clearmountain’s Apogee Studio. Get into the session video above for Returner highlights “Springtime,” Eve Was Black,” and “Demons,” and click into the interview video for more on Russell’s expanding creative process and the many folks that continue to help her along the way (Kermit the Frog included).

This KCRW Live From session was recorded and mixed by Brandon Duncan at Apogee Studio. Learn more at

KCRW Music Director and Interviewer: Anne Litt
Director, Editor, Color: Angie Scarpa
Directors of Photography: Dalton Blanco and Vice Cooler
Camera Operators: Dalton Blanco, Vice Cooler, Angie Scarpa
KCRW Engineer: Katie Gilchrest
Executive Producer: Ariana Morgenstern
Producers: Anna Chang and Krissy Barker
Broadcast Editor: Zeke Reid
Digital Producer: Marion Hodges
Digital Editorial Manager: Andrea Domanick
Art Director: Evan Solano

More from KCRW

Another streamer? In this economy?

from The Business

We don't need an excuse to eat chocolate or cookies. Neither should you. And these are some of the best.

from Good Food

Data scientist and psychologist Gloria Mark shares the latest research on our diminishing attention spans and explains why our increasingly distracted lives can impact our health and…

from Life Examined

Critics review the latest film releases: “The Taste of Things,” “Lisa Frankenstein,” “Skeletons in the Closet,” and “Suncoast.”

from Press Play with Madeleine Brand

Filmmaker Sam Pollard shares how exposure to jazz greats like John Coltrane and Horace Silver in his youth opened up worlds of creativity.

from The Treatment

Surprise, new Little Simz! "Drop 7" is out now and we're putting the killer first cut, "Mood Swings," directly into your ears.

from Music News