Photo by Phoenix Johnson
By Kenneth Cox
Liza Anne is a singer/songwriter who isn't one to mince words. With her vivid lyrics and cathartic vocals, she has become an artist with fans across the country. Ahead of her headlining show at Great Scott this past month, Liza Anne talked to WERS Staff Writer Kenneth Cox about her newest single, "Devotion," touring life, and the process of developing self-love.
Kenneth Cox: You've just been on tour opening for Lucy Dacus, and you're currently on your own headlining tour, how has the road been so far?
Liza Anne: It's been really amazing! It's been really long, and perfect, and I have like, equal amounts of exhaustion and gratitude nearly every second. It's been such a densely packed four weeks, and I think finding any sense of grounding in every day has been a sort of mode of operation, but it's been really beautiful!
When you're on the road trying to find that sense of grounding, what do you look for to do that?
LA: Well, because every city is so different, it's hard to really have any sense of routine, which I really struggle with because I actually love routine. But, taking long walks is such a nice thing, reading books is such a nice grounding thing. It's like, any sort of thing that doesn't take me being too expressive, you know, kind of just letting life hit me instead of feeling like I have to add to the noise is such a nice feeling.
Just a few weeks ago you released your newest single, "Devotion." What was the process of making that song like?
LA: It was amazing! We went out to Los Angeles and recorded with Justin Meldal-Johnson. Writing the song was a completely different thing. I wrote the song about a year and a half ago, and it was one of those that took five minutes and it was done, which is crazy, and not normal for me at all. I normally just groove over something for a while. But the making of it was sort of just as quick. We got there and Justin was this amazing, collaborative, energetic sort of force that really helped us realize that, as a band, we have a good thing going, and we tracked most of it live. So yeah, it was amazing, it was electric, it was perfect.
That song, and also the music video, has a very throwback, psychedelic feeling. What made you want to get into that?
LA: Things hardly feel like a choice once you start to move in one kind of direction. Songs are sort of like children, where you have this initial idea, and as they start growing into their own feeling, the best you can do is give them the space they need. So I feel like as the song was made, even in the initial demo, where it's just me and my guitar, it feels like it's leaning so much into that psychedelic, very nostalgic feeling. Once we started playing it as a band, it leaned more into that. Josh Gilligan, my partner, and also my video collaborator, came up with the idea of drowning it in crazy psychedelic colors and movement, and came up with that video concept. So, it was really amazing. One thing led really easily into another.
Lyrically, the song has a really powerful message of self-love, which is something that doesn't really happen overnight, but takes time to get to that point. What was the process of reaching this point of self-love like for you?
LA: I love that you said "this point" because it is such a journey, and I feel like no one ever really arrives to it, and it's something that I'm still learning. Like, how on Earth do I do this? People's internal dialogues, speaking from personal experience, feel so dark all the time. I think I've learned that through songs, when I'm touring and singing songs hundreds of times a year, that writing something like "Devotion," and something that powerful, that spiritual sound, like it's coming from some really deep well withinside me, even if I don't sometimes know how to tap into it. So, for me, singing this song has been a very real door to realizing the love I can hold for myself, but creating that space for myself is something that I'm still learning how to do. You can't really buy or sell self-care, it's such a weird trend right now. But I'm still learning how to be slow, and tender, and give myself room.
The way you sing about self-love on the song feels very defiant, do you think that self-love can be this act of defiance in a way?
LA: I think it can be that, like, self-love can be defiant if you're surrounding yourself with a lot of people that are making you feel that loving yourself is wrong, or that something about you is wrong. For me, and the situation I was in, having self-love was a direct opposite reaction to the way I was being treated by someone, so it did feel very much like a reclaiming of self. But, I think that the healthier your communities and the healthier the people you're surrounding yourself with, the less self-love feels defiant, and the more it feels like an extension of the way people are treating you.
It's like that idea where "you are the people that you surround yourself with."
LA: Yes! People are just mirrors, and if you're viewing yourself for years through a really cracked mirror, whether through your childhood or through your adult-childhood formations of self, we don't really realize how much the people around us are giving us these stories about ourselves. And "Devotion" for me was breaking a pact with a really negative story about myself that was being told to me.
Your last album, Fine But Dying, marked a point where your writing became much more introspective. After the release of that album, do you think your writing has changed in any way?
LA: I think everything leads into and falls into the next thing, so I think it will be constantly expanding. I can't always trace the exact moments in each record that opened up room for the next one, but I think sonically, expressing myself in a more direct, loud sort of way led to, lyrically, things falling into that same way.
Recently, you put out this really incredible line of "Emotional Health 2020" t-shirts, what was the idea behind that?
LA: It started as a funny thing that I was just saying. I felt that, with all this expectancy towards 2020, and everything going on politically, there's nothing but anxiety leaning towards where everything is going. So, I kind of started kind of speaking these things over life in general, like "No Ceilings 2020!" "Emotional Health 2020!" Just saying these sort of phrases, because 2020 began feeling like this sort of catch-all. And I always like having merch that's kind of playful but holds some sort of weight to it. But, yeah, I felt myself turning into a healthier being and decided to put it on a t-shirt.
Well, hopefully, it will help people get on that journey towards emotional health next year, as I'm sure we all definitely need to. [Laughs]
LA: Totally! And I feel like, emotional health, you can't argue with that! It's like, the least divisive way to express all of my opinions at once.
So, you have "Devotion" that just came out, and you're currently on tour, what can we expect from the future?
LA: Just lots more expansion, and a lot more growth, and a lot more of me growing in real-time. Whether that involves music, or releasing, or live shows, or poetry, I feel like I'm constantly trying to push myself, and invite other people into that growth too.