As you will momentarily see, the first thing I said to Liza Anne (apart from “I have seasonal allergies, sorry in advance…”) over the phone earlier this month was, “I fucking love this record that you’re putting out.” And I do. Absolutely zero bullshit statement. I truly felt like I was losing my mind a few weeks ago, and listening to Bad Vacation (which is officially out today) was such a seriously good respite. I sincerely hope you’ll give it a listen (and ideally download!) because it is absolutely the perfect Summer 2020 vibe.
Speaking of which, this has been an incredibly weird and terrifying and uncomfortable year in all of the ways; she and I talked all about that, so do feel free to internet-eavesdrop on our very honest conversation below (but first, catch her live streaming via Rough Trade NYC’s IG):
I fucking love this record that you’re putting out.
THANK YOU! Oh my god. I feel like you saying that reminded me that I’m a musician. This is such a weird year to do anything, so I’m like, “Am I making music?” It’s so crazy, so thank you for saying that.
It must be bizarre! From what I’ve read you wrote it in 2018, and it’s just now coming out, so I’m sure there are already levels of evolution in terms of your relationship to some of the songs without a pandemic in the backdrop. How has this weird time impacted your feelings about the record?
Well, I feel like I’ve gone through so many different phases of feelings. When this all started, I was like, “Should I even put a record out this year? But I’ve been writing it for three years and I’m so excited…” I had all the weird feelings wondering whether it would even be relevant, but just as a music listener, I realized that I’d want new music in a grim year, so I decided to keep pushing forward. You just see everything in a different light, though. When you’re going through trauma and grief together, I feel like everything else feels insignificant in the face of what we’re all going through. So there are parts of me that are like, “Why am I putting out music?” but there’s another part that’s like, “This is a healing mechanism for me, so I’m going to keep leaning into this process and hope that when people hear it they give themselves room to lean into their own feelings and edges.” We’re all being pushed to grow this year. No one I know is outside of that.
100%. It felt like I had kind of gotten a handle on the pandemic, and then of course everything happened with Black Lives Matter. These things have obviously always been there, and at least we’re able to sit and take time to examine our relationships to them, but especially being on the internet all the time, it’s been having to find that balance again of what’s healthy. I think you have to put your own oxygen mask on at a certain point, which feels weird to do when there’s a grief involved that you cannot claim as your own, at least directly/experientially.
You’re speaking to everything I’ve been thinking about. It’s this balance, even within political activism and this amazing, renewed moment for Black Lives Matter, it’s like, “I can’t fight this fight if I’m tired. How do I take account, take a fearless inventory of myself, and how I can use my specific body, my specific voice, my specific talents, my specific financial status…how do I use that in a way that’s healthy and not just running me dry to where I can’t be fighting this fight for the next…forever.” I think with social media stuff we get so caught up in these quick clips of activism that are really emotionally exhausting, and I think it’s important to wake yourself up to have these feelings. And if you exhaust yourself in the first week, it’s a disservice to the movement. I’ve been trying to balance activism with self-care, and it’s a hard thing. I love what you said about putting your own mask on; you can’t help anybody else if you’re not helping yourself first, and learning to do that was something I feel like I was learning before all this, and now I’m learning it again.
Absolutely. I was lucky enough to have access to a therapist for the past few years who I really clicked with, and we sort of amicably parted ways back in October since he was planning to start his own practice, and the place he was at got wind of it and fired him pretty much overnight. He didn’t have all the paperwork in place to accept insurance, so I was just like “Cool, if I need you desperately I know where to find you,” but I was feeling in a good enough place that I was ready to pause. But so two weeks ago I was like, “Okay, I will pay you whatever, I just need a lifeline.” And it was crazy expensive, and I’m so grateful that I was able to pay for it because it was incredibly necessary in that moment, but do you have any advice for people who don’t have funds and who need help? I read a piece where you wrote out some self-care ideas that don’t necessarily involve money.
That’s a good question. It’s interesting, because therapy is so expensive, and even though I’m a person who believes everyone should be in therapy, I realize it’s not necessarily possible for everyone. Something that’s been really helpful for me is I’m in a twelve-step group called ACA that’s kind of like Alcoholics Anonymous but it’s specifically for childhood trauma. It’s basically a recovery group to re-parent yourself, and it’s like AA for people that need to learn to love themselves. It’s unreal, and it’s free. So I’ve loved that. I still think therapy is important for specific situations; I’ve gotten to points in my life where I’ve recognized that I needed professional help – the history of sexual trauma that I have, or emotional abuse that I witnessed in my last relationship…there have been times where I’ve reached the point where I really needed professional help, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to pursue that through therapy. But, and “recommending” is hard, because it’s different for everyone, but something that’s worked for me is going to ACA. Like I said, it’s free, and it’s a twelve-step program, and it’s amazing; it’s making me grow in all of those uncomfortable, good ways, so I’d recommend it.
Yeah, there’s no replacement for a professional, but that’s a great tip. I wish so much that it was more affordable in America (any form of healthcare, really), but unfortunately that’s not the case at the moment.
Yeah. Also, there’s an app called BetterHelp; that’s who I see my therapist through, and it’s not free, but they do sliding scale and will mark your therapy down a lot if you can prove your financial situation. And that’s been unbelievably helpful, because before all of this pandemic stuff I was traveling a lot. On my record I have a song called “I Shouldn’t Ghost My Therapist”, and I kid you not, I’ve gone through like eight therapists in the last ten years of my life. I just get to a point with them where I’m like, “Ooh, you know a little too much, and I think it’s time to move onto someone else who tells me I’m funny and doesn’t really help me deal with my stuff.” Therapy’s like dating, and you just have to find that person who’s going to laugh enough with you, but also not put up with your bullshit.
It’s SO TRUE. And it’s one of those things where I think some people don’t realize that going in, so if they have a bad experience the first time, or if the therapist just isn’t a good fit, they think, “Well, that didn’t work,” and then they just quit. I can’t imagine trying to approach it during this time, because in a lot of ways it’s much more difficult to not be in the same room and be able to read the other person’s body language. There’s also a gamble based on it. But I have heard of other people using BetterHelp, and I think that’s a really great option to test the waters. It’s like the weird Tinder of therapy; if you don’t click with someone, you can easily switch it up.
Yes. And you don’t have to feel overly…like, for me, I get so much anxiety about letting people down, which is why BetterHelp is nice; I’ve found a therapist now that I really like, but it took a minute to get there, and it didn’t feel like I had to break up with anybody along the way. It felt very hands-on in a good way. But with any therapy or emotional health work, you were asking what a free version of that is…the reality is that when you start processing your stuff and growing, it’s one of the most uncomfortable things, because rather than just one area of your life starting to light up, it’s like everything becomes clear where you can push yourself. I think this year, 2020, I think every part of where we can grow as a whole has lit up at once. And I think the most important part of growing within all of that discomfort and all of that feeling out of control is surrounding yourself with people you feel safe with, that you can be that vulnerable self with. It’s hard to be growing and still be performative. You have to kind of just be surrounded by people who understand.
Completely. So for you, aside from how challenging all of this has been from a mental health perspective, what has it done for or against your creativity, and the fact that that’s your profession, and potentially feeling more pressure to create? I saw you talked about how you’d taken up drawing and cooking more, too, which I think is interesting since your creativity is obviously manifesting in some new ways that aren’t necessarily music-related.
It’s so interesting. I feel like with everything this year I’ve just gone through phases; I started out stressed, and then I started drawing and that felt better, and then I got really sad again, and then I started taking antidepressants, and then I started feeling stressed about like, “Do I have to write ten albums during this time because everyone’s saying we have so much time…” My brain went through all the possibilities, but the reality of my experience is I think all of this stuff was becoming really clear to me.
I’m really enjoying just being a person. I mean, I miss performance so much. There’s nothing else that holds that sort of body/emotion catharsis for me in life, so I miss that side of performance and experiencing things with a group of people in one room at one time. I miss that. But I also am thankful in so many ways for how I’m able to be with my person-self, not my performance-self, not my artist-self. And what I’m learning is that in spending time with me, and with my partner outside of being on tour together, is that I’m reuniting with a version of myself that I think is capable of writing for the rest of her life. Whereas I think the version of myself that I’ve been attached to for six years is like, “You have to make music or you’re going to be irrelevant. You have to do this. You have to do that.” It was so pressure cooker that I never let myself realize how much I loved it, and I think I’m remembering now how much I love it, what I think about it, but also just realizing and meeting myself outside of all that again, which is where I think good writing comes from. So I don’t know, it’ll be interesting to see where we all go after this.
Yeah. And traditionally we’d likely end this interview talking about upcoming shows, which are obviously not on the table at the moment. I know I’ve read things where you’ve said that performance for you is like an action of emptying out and filling back up. Have you thought about that in the context of this record, and not being able to do that in the usual way, at least for the moment? How are you coping with that?
It’s so sad, yes. I’ve thought about it so much, and I’m actually trying not to think about it; I wrote this record to be performed. This wasn’t just a studio built thing that we were later going to figure out how to play live. It was written within a setting of being alive, playing it live, being in a room with people. It was such a product of that energy that I love about touring, and it was the first record that I wrote that way. But it’ll happen; we’ll tour it at some point. I honestly have such a firm belief that there’s a reason we’re all stopping right now. I’m way more excited about the way we all grow collectively than just me playing a couple hundred shows in 2020. I could play shows in 2021, or whenever, and I’ll just be better at that point.
Catch Liza Anne at 1pm ET today via Rough Trade’s IG Live!