“The truth is as a human you are gonna feel the absolute depths of sadness and the absolute peaks of happiness”: An interview with Liza Anne

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Far from her Nashville home base, singer songwriter Liza Anne is busy following the independent release of her second album, Two. I was lucky enough to have a pleasant chat with the very kind American songstress over morning coffee – her favourite being cold brew – a few days after her gig at The Slaughtered Lamb.

You have to forgive my morning voice, I’m like coming down with a cold so it’s like urgh but it’s okay!

Congratulations on your album Two! How does it feel to have it released and play it live?

Thank you! Ok, it’s one of those crazy things because releasing Two just feels like a whole another part of my brain ‘cause it was a whole other collection of stories, a whole other relationship that I was processing and dealing with so it’s just crazy! Like in the whole live set up, it’s like I love playing by myself like I did the other night with Communion, but in the same sense, like there’s something about these songs that I wrote for playing with the band, so starting to involve other creative minds it’s just one of the incredible things. So I love it, I’m really proud of it but it’s crazy!

Does playing the album live back at home feel different compared to playing it here in London?

Something about here almost in a sense feels more familiar, like the other night I just felt so at home on stage. I don’t know if it was because there were a lot of people there who I just haven’t seen in a while so it’s almost this whole like, “Oh! Look at the things I’ve done this last year! I can’t wait to show you this new song!”. But it just depends on the show, like, in America I still play shows just by myself and I really love it but in America I have the luxury of actually being able to play with the band and there’s just something about those guys, the people who play with me are just so talented! I feel like they are like my younger sisters, all of them are so cool, why would they want to play with me, but they do! It’s so weird but I love them!

I understand Two generated from some very intimate personal experience, it’s like a catalogue of the particular emotions you felt from these events. When you unravel them to people, do you feel like you are reliving the same feelings again or have they changed each time as you hear from listeners’ feedback and how they relate to what’s being expressed in the songs?

I just think every time it’s such a weird thing that I really am back to when I wrote it, which is nice because for me people’s opinions of things, people liking songs or not liking songs doesn’t really affect me. Obviously I’m thankful when people like songs, but when someone say they don’t like a song they don’t change my view. For me it’s still a special thing to me, I went through this, I’m glad I got to sing it. But it is weird like singing it it’s like an emotionally draining thing, going straight back to when I wrote it back in my room when I was just so sad. It’s so weird having my career be something where I just end up reliving a million painful things a million different times but it’s one of those things where I play a show and I walk away, one person feeling like, “Okay, I’ve been there too” it’s good and worth it but sometimes where I’m just like I’m so emotionally dead right now I just feel all these things 10 times over.

I like the touch where you hide secret messages in between the lyrics you put up on your website. Being willing to share and give away a part of yourself so raw and true do you feel you then get to resonate with what’s beyond what only you felt?

Do I feel like I can relate to them [other people who said relates to the experience in the songs]as well? I think there’s something for me in my songs and who I am, they are obviously related ‘cause my songs are coming from me but I feel like they are very separate things. Like if I saw someone else’s painting, it would be really incredible to feel like I could relate to this person but in the same sense in that painting is one tiny breath of that person so sometimes it is funny when you are singing really personal songs and people come up and they are like I just feel like you know me and understand me, and I’m like I don’t know if I do but I’m glad we have the same experience. It’s such a funny career to have something so personal. I mean we are all human, we all are going through the same insecurities, the same breakups more or less, we deal with the same other kind of people all the time so it is funny something like music can just thread ourselves together but it’s also so strange ‘cause I feel like in my head my songs are separate from what… ‘cause you know like, that song is one tiny second of like a million seconds of heartbreak so it’s just funny, I don’t know.

It’s like songs represents that feeling that connects different experiences together, and from different experiences people generate the same feeling, and it happens to be captured in that one song.

Yeah! Which is crazy that art in general that ends up threading us all together ‘cause it’s this tangible form of the feelings that we are feeling so I think it’s amazing! It’s so cool!

I adore both of your Daytrotter sessions, you did the most recent one on the eve of you turning 21st? Daytrotter sessions tend to have this way of bringing out a bit more to what’s on recording or even a live show, how was the experience?

I LOVE Daytrotter with every single inch of my being, I’m obsessed with them. I feel like I can’t talk about Daytrotter without literally just feeling butterflies inside. They are like a family, truly like my family, I just love them. Absolute obsession with them!

So the first one I did was me and my guitar and my friend Molly sing with me, which was crazy and I also was so young like 19 which is only two years ago. We hadn’t even finished recording The Colder Months really, it was just like I was about to release it. My friend Bryan who does PR for me was like, Daytrotter wants to do a session and I was floored because I was like, I’ve been listening to Daytrotter for a long time, this is crazy, I don’t feel I’m cool enough! So doing that first one was the first time I really feel comfortable and truly capable of singing the songs in the way that I wanted them to be sung, which is cool. There was no one else involved other than me and the guitar and Molly.

And then with the second session, it was the first time I ever heard what I sounded like live with the full band. Obviously when I play live I hear it through the monitors but I don’t really know the energy that we’re putting out, I don’t know what we really sound like, just thinking in my head I know, so hearing it was like this crazy moment something put to my head where I was just like, I never wanna stop doing this. Every moment in my head reminds me this is what I’m supposed to be doing, I’m made to be doing this. I trace it back in some way to Daytrotter which it so cool but I’m obsessed with them. I’m literally obsessed with them!

I’ve found so much different good music and people that I think I would never came across in any other way; sometimes you listen to one session, then another and it goes on and on!

You have to listen to Holly Miranda! When I was at SXSW last year I hung out with the Daytrotter guys, my friends Jacklyn, Cody and Sean Moeller who is Mr. Daytrotter. He’s so cool he was just texting me this morning I freaking… anyway, once I started talking about them I can’t stop so stop me!

But when I was there for SXSW we were just out doing a barbecue in the backyard but you could hear who was recording a session inside, and me and Jacklyn just heard this voice which was just the most angelic thing so in between her songs we snuck in and just sat at the piano and just watch her record the session. Her name is Holly Miranda and SHE IS SO GOOD! She has a George Harrison cover and it Rips. Me. To. Shreds. Anyway, side notes, but you gotta do that, she’s so good!

Listening to your songs and reading between the lyrics, I gathered you are a perceptive and observant person, in your Facebook page bio it reads, “I feel things deeply.” Do you happen to read a lot?

Oh yeah, too much so I think sometimes! I wish I read more. Sadly, I’m one of those people that read four pages of a book and go like that’s my favourite book but I only read four pages which I hate that about myself but I have a really hard time finishing things. Thankfully I have a lot of really intelligent people in my life who will be like you need to read this book and it’s just great! I think it’s between Tom and my boyfriend Ryan, literally since I started dating Ryan he just gives me books and he’s like read this, read this because you know what you read translates into what you write and for me before this past year it was less reading and more of the other music I was listening to, or poets. I read so much, SO MUCH poetry and my two favourites are Wendell Berry, who is incredible, and then I read a lot, a lot of Sylvia Plath which I read all the time. There’s something about it that’s so intriguing and so sad. But it’s funny ‘cause before this last year I feel mostly it’s like, “What do you listen to, what do you read that inspires your writing?” and I was like, “Well, I really just listen to a lot of music.”

 I think that’s a difficult question to answer. ‘Cause everything you see, even just like people watching on the street, something just gets into you and it became part of you. I don’t know if that inspired me or it is just a part of who I am now.

Yeah it’s crazy! I think my songs just end up being ways of me trying to process how I deal with things so even if my songs are about other people, it really is just about how I dealt with that person…how…

How I was, with that experience?

Yeah, for me songs are just my favourite therapy. Rather than sitting with someone in a big chair and tell them how I feel, I sit with my guitar and I TRY my hardest at fashioning out, “Why do they deal with this this way?”, “How come I’m so fucked up right now?”, all those things I end up just dealing with through songs. I’m glad I have a release outside having to talk to another person.

So you come from Georgia, based at Tennessee…

Nashville, yeah, I have a Tennessee tattoo on my arm. [She shows off her tattoo, which is the state of Tennessee]. Me and my best friend Sam and our other friend Kris Platt from Ireland got them!

You have also been in Europe this time last year for three months? From your Instagram feed you looked like you had a lovely time in Paris! How do you connect with each place you go to?

There’s just something about movements in general that I just need almost, I don’t know if it’s a healthy need or it’s just me becoming extremely restless when I’m in a place longer than couple days! [Laughs] But for me it’s like my hometown was such an incredible place, it was just so small, everyone knew everyone but then it almost fell like I was under a magnifying glass so I left. Then I went to Nashville, started writing in a way I‘ve never written before. Nashville was almost like this strange Renaissance in my mind of like learning to create again. And then I got really restless in Nashville so I’m like, I’m just gonna go to Europe, literally knew no one here and I planned to go last summer for three months and I ended up having the Communion guys reaching out for me to play something for them last year.

There is just something about even just the simple-ness of sitting in a place and just watching people on the street, like it’s not different than Nashville in a sense but in the same way there’s something about sitting alone on public transportation in a place I don’t know and walking into a bookstore, sitting at a coffee shop and all of a sudden creating this routine in a place you don’t live that just ends up just inspiring me so much. And it’s funny ‘cause when I was in Paris I still just found the coffee shops and the bookstores, the things that I would find in Nashville or wherever I go but all of the mundane things you end up doing when you travel are my absolute favourite. When you go to a new place and experience new things, there is something about traveling, there’s lessons I feel like you can only learnt when you’re traveling. Some people don’t like it, some people don’t like that feeling of being in a place and not knowing anyone or knowing that you won’t see anyone you know for an entire day, that’s terrifying for some people. But I’m obsessed with it!

I’m willing to take that risk!

Me too, me too! It feels so good!

Like people say, traveling is a particularly revealing way of self-discoveries and self-learning. ‘Cause when you put yourself in a different place, you start to consciously see yourself do those things you might have been doing all along but were just unaware of, simply because you were in a different environment.

That’s so good! I’ve never thought of it like that! That’s incredible! Like you were saying earlier I’m very perceptive and I’m very observant, because of that I always overthink things so I’m always wanting to be very self-aware. It’s funny ‘cause with my songs it’s me trying to figure out like how I deal with situations. Traveling is almost like the same thing, this tangible form of, “I know no one and I have no money and I have to get from this side of the city to the other how am I gonna do it”, you learn, you just learn.

One thing I loved that I read about you is when you said, “There’s no way not to grow.” Would you elaborate on that?

I think there’s something about movement, it’s so necessary, as a human. Whether it’s you grow up and you grow in and out of relationships with people and you move from primary school to uni, you move through everything. Everything’s movement, you don’t just sit still. So I think there’s something about that that’s just necessary for growth, whether it’s just spiritual growth, like knowing more about yourself and how you are in the universe and what your idea of god is, whether it’s just creative growth like learning new words, or reading or seeing how someone else deal with something, people watching and making up stories about them. I think everything good come from growing, you can’t grow and it’d be negative. When you are moving and you are surrounding yourself with beautiful things and beautiful people, you are growing in this positive way of your mind set of the world is just expanding. I think it’s really cool.

Sometimes people say they will never change who they are, in a way I think it’s true as in you have your personality and what you believe in at the very core of yourself but then somehow you can’t help but change yourself. You learn about different things, you go to new places, you do change, you can’t stay entirely the same; you just can’t stop yourself from absolutely not changing. ‘Cause you have to change in a way to find out more of who you are, sometimes you don’t know from day one who you are and you have to learn and see and change to find more of yourself.

It’s incredible. That’s such a cool thought, I haven’t thought about it like that, that’s amazing.

But do you like to carry a token from home as an anchor to remind you of something?

I do! I have this letter that my dad wrote me right before I left from last summer. It was just this most encouraging thing that I’ve ever been given. He basically was telling me basically how proud he was of me, then saying he hoped that while I was traveling that I would find even more of myself. Which is cool because that’s what I wanted to do but obviously you always wonder at the back of your mind are my parents proud or do they wish I was doing something else but my parents have always been just over the moon proud of me. So getting that letter from my dad before taking that huge step and going to Europe where I knew no one last summer is like, like I have it with me now, I always travel with it, it’s like I take it on tour; it’s just really special.

You featured a bit of the London underground in ‘Ocean’. Have you always been collecting field recordings? Was it something you always do or did it just come out from your last trip?

No, I do it pretty much everywhere. Sometimes I forget but last summer I had things from Norway, Ireland and every country I went to. I obviously had the London tube but I lost a lot of those recordings because my phone crashed. So then Tom Crouch recorded the tube for me which is awesome for that track. Wherever I am the mundane sounds like the tube, I mean you ride the tube every day, even the sound of all the cars passing by or the other night there was is awful thunderstorm and I just got my phone out and recorded it. Those sounds are just the Earth writing a song so I’m always like, “it’s so pretty” but I loved it.

Tell me about your lucky shoes! Have you got them with you?

No! You know what?  They are my favourite shoes in the entire world! When I was coming over I was packing…basically last summer it was the only shoes I brought. I’m so bummed I didn’t bring them. They are Doc Martens so they take up a lot of space, and they are heavy and I didn’t bring them ‘cause I don’t ever wanna keep them in my suitcase to carry them, so actually this is the first time. It was so funny, we were getting ready to leave that morning in June to fly to Paris and I literally sat there for a minute and I was like, should I just take them like, as leading up to leaving I was like why didn’t I bring them and now I’m just so sad. But I just got these new shoes but they’re not as lucky! My Docs are the luckiest shoes, I’m telling you everything good that has happened to me in these shoes!

I hope something good happens when you wear these new shoes! Two pairs of lucky shoes!

Two pairs of lucky shoes! All of my shoes are lucky! But those are my tour shoes and even like this summer was less of a tour so I don’t feel as sad not having them but…

These you are wearing can be your travels shoes and the Docs stayed your lucky shoes!

Personally I resonate so much when you said, “I just want people to not feel alone in those super dark places.”

The truth is as a human you are gonna feel the absolute depths of sadness and the absolute peaks of happiness and because we feel both of those extremes we gonna feel crazy ‘cause we are like today I’m feeling great, yesterday I was very low and now today I don’t really feel anything. I think when people ask you to explain what you are feeling that’s like literally asking someone to explain God, you can’t. Some people don’t get it and some people totally get it, some people wanna put it in a box but you just can’t. I think humanity and being alive is a hard thing, there’s no way you’re supposed to explain it, it’s there and it sucks. Sometimes there are moments when we’re feeling understood and sometimes there are moments when we don’t.

That’s why I think it’s nice that through art, through music, it’s nice to be understood even just for the length of a song.

Yeah, I totally get it!

Lastly, what’s next for you in terms of being a musician and also a traveller?

Very soon next I’m going to Berlin for a day. Very excited. My boyfriend’s studying there and I just booked a plane ticket. When I get back to the states, I’ll be doing a bunch of random stuff like I’m doing something with Daytrotter again in August, oh I’m so excited. I have a lot of songs I wrote around the time of writing Two that I just don’t know if I’ll ever like probably release so I think I’m just gonna record into a Daytrotter session. Because I like them as they are I don’t wanna produce them, I just want to put them out so I might do that in August. Then I’m going on tour with a guy named David Ramirez in November. He’s incredibly moving, just all of his songs are so sad but so good, not even sad they are just true. Some of them are just positive but still so true, he doesn’t beat around the bushes: this is what life is. So I’m going on tour with him for two weeks and then literally just trying to plan the next time I get to come over here already! Even though I’m sitting here right now! I wanna move, someone let me move!

After the questions, Anne told me she never had interviews with questions like these before, to talk about all that she did. She has some very lovely insights of various subjects and she is definitely a very capable singer songwriter in her ability to express and word her emotions. Her album Two is available now.

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tea & coffee fueled lifetime music fanatic and avid gig lover

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