Liza Anne is one of the most genuine artists I have had the pleasure to listen to in a while. She is currently on tour to promote her latest album “Fine, But Dying;” an intensely emotional outpouring of Liza’s internal struggles that will make you want to dance and bawl your eyes out all at once. Liza is so completely down to earth and inviting, as are her lyrics and storytelling.
Although I realized that I would not be able to attend the concert upon my arrival to the Great Scott on Friday night (curse not being 21+!), I was lucky to be able to sit down with Liza for a short interview before she was set to perform. I picked her brain about the creation of her latest album, her life as a young artist, and her battle with her panic disorder over the past couple of years.
BIRN: “Fine but dying” is quite the title. Can you speak about where that came from? What is the main thing you want people to get out of this album?
LA: Yeah so I kinda find that with something really negative and heavy, there has to be some kind of lighter side to it for you to embrace to feel fully human. I think if you’re just embracing the fine part of life, you’re dehumanizing yourself to an entire other side of existence, and if you’re just experiencing the dying part, its a pretty terrible way of going about life. So i think with my panic disorder, I spend a lot of time existing either trying to disembody myself from the hard part, or just relishing in the hard part in a really sort of terrible way, so i kind of found with this record a way to exist in both extremes of emotion while sort of giving each its space.
BIRN: You clearly write in a very personal manner – do you ever feel like your revealing to much – where do you find the line? Or is there even one?
LA: I definitely don’t think there should be a line, however, I have started to kind of lose my sense of private self within this release of the album because it is so personal. It’s been weird – everyone kind of has a door into very difficult, specific moments of my life now that I wasn’t really talking about before. So I think in some sense, there’s a balance of maintaining a personal sense of private self when you’re releasing stuff that’s this personal, and I don’t necessarily know yet how to balance that out. I think that I would never want my art to be any less personal, but i kind of need to work a little bit harder to create a sacred, secret space for myself that feels like a door that no one knows a way into. I think with this record, its been so rewarding, but its also like “oh, f**k, everyone knows everything about this, what is my own anymore?” – but also, it is my own and i feel very in control of it and I made the choice to put it out.
BIRN: Do you find it hard to co-write with other people?
LA: Yes. Absolutely. I mean I don’t mind it; a lot of this record was technically born in a co-writing space, but its not like the traditional [process]. I come in with what i am going through and its a very therapeutic [process] where someone is sort of helping me pull out some of the things that I couldn’t necessarily pull out on my own that quickly. I don’t understand how people can write something thats not their own, or perform something thats not actually a lived experience. Maybe theres a time and place for it, but just not in my experience. Are you a writer too?
BIRN: Yes I am! I go to Berklee.
LA: Thats so cool, do you like co-writing?
BIRN: I feel like its so hard, for me personally to be honest with you.
LA: Well, because its your baby! I’ve had moments in writes where the lines that hit the most home are the lines that the people in the room are like, “I don’t know, that a little bit too….” and I’m like, “It’s not your song! What on earth!?” Its just weird because you can’t really hold anything too loosely, and collaboration is such an amazing form of creative power because you get to invite someone into something. If its a good scenario, which this person Trent Dabbs, who i wrote a lot of this record with – it was a flawless scenario. I felt so safe, I felt so spoken for, I felt like I had room to just grow and experience and also learn from him. But if its a bad situation – I mean if you’re [writing music] for your own emotional sanity, why on earth would you put yourself through a bad situation?
BIRN: How do you feel about/how have you handled touring in new places and doing high pressure appearances? You talk a lot about your panic disorder – how has that translated in your success? Has traveling been stressful or theraputic?
LA: Well it used to be really hard to manage, I used to have about four panic attacks a day – almost three years ago now that it was that bad. But honestly, this is such a small thing, but I changed my diet, I started doing yoga, and literally now i have maybe one panic attack every three months. I mean there are other times where they just come out of the blue, but I just think that obviously, my panic disorder took a lot of things from me and stressed me out and borderline shut down my life for a while, but in the end it just gave me another door into my body. I feel like I would have spent a lot of time outside of myself if I didn’t have something forcing me to fight to be inside my body. So really, at the end of the day, as much as I wish I knew what it was like to exist without impending doom constantly, its just a constant reminder that every day is a new lesson about how to inhabit yourself.
BIRN: And you wouldn’t have the art that you do without it.
LA: No, I really wouldn’t! If my brain wasn’t this way, I would have no need. Its such a a necessary thing to write for me.
BIRN: What was the first song or artist you heard that made you want a career in music?
LA: I don’t know the first one, but I know that to this day, my favorite favorite song, and I think one that just really catapulted me into myself, is “Feel it All” by Fiest. She just lets you feel every emotion and sit there as long as you want, you know what I mean? There’s a door into every form of humanity through her. She’s not all sad, or all happy – she’s all everything, all the time. I think that was the first time I realized you could be all things at once. You know, as a woman you didn’t just have to be soft, or just have to be the sad emotional girl. You can be all of it. I think she was one of the first people I saw do that.
BIRN: And going off of that, how do you think being a woman has influenced your career? I know you’ve been really active in supporting other women, and touring with other women in the past.
LA: You know, so many of the artists that have taken chances on me have actually been male artists, and the few of them that have been women – it is the most rewarding thing to experience space with other women that you both have had to fight in order to get to. I think it becomes this really celebratory, sort of sisterhood kind of thing where, because one person fought really hard, we all get to experience this thing. I think that that especially all played out a lot when I toured with Margaret Glaspy because she just claims her space. She takes up a room and people experience her and her universe and from the outside, it doesn’t seem like anyone else has has a hand in what Margaret is doing but Margaret. I think that whenever I toured with her, it felt so powerful to be in someones universe that is so clearly theirs. And it just kind of gave me space to realize, “Oh, I can create my own universe and exist in that and then invite people into it and give them a door into creating their own universe. Its this ripple effect that – who knows which woman started it – but now we all get to have our own doors and our own power.
BIRN: How do you think growing up in the south has influenced you as an artist and also just as a person? How has each new place inspired you?
LA: I think growing up in the south was a weird thing, and I don’t think I fully had an answer to that until the last few years of my life when I started to realize the things that were taken from me as a kid. You start to have this really nostalgic and also question mark over your childhood where you’re like ” Whoa, is that something I really believed?” And it wasn’t until recently that i realized how repressed being a woman in the south really felt. I was always encouraged to be softer, quieter, sort of don’t-speak-unless-your-
spoken-to kind of thing – just weird little things you never realized you learned until you have to unlearn them. I think that really influenced my art i n the beginning, but then more so in the last few years I’ve really started to claim my space in a more aggressive way, and I think if I grew up in a space where I was allowed to be like, *screams*, I don’t know if I would have ever felt the reclaiming of space in the way that i do now because I have to reclaim something because it was taken from me. And then, traveling and stuff I guess – like I said before with my panic disorder – traveling just gives me a million and one doors into my body every different day. Theres a lot of places that I have learned a lot from, but its just the act of moving I think that makes me thing how crazy it is that i do this as a job. Its so weird, and its wonderful and tiring and beautiful
BIRN: Whats next? Are you working on any new albums and will the next theme be?
LA: Yeah, I’m writing a lot right now. I’m writing a lot. Normally – i mean, normally, I don’t know what normal is, I’m 24 I don’t have a normal way of doing things yet – I wasn’t really expecting to write this much during the touring of this record just because this record was such a mile stone for me emotionally that i kind of just expected my body and mind and voice to slow down for a second, but I have been writing a lot for whatever the next record is. It feels like [it will be about how] I thought I knew myself, and now I’m like “Woah, what are these things coming out of me, this is beautiful.” Its just a tool of self learning I think.