Liza Anne Talks Mental Illness and Romance on Newest Album: 'I Won't Really Be Misunderstood Anymore'

Brett Warren
Liza Anne

On her third studio album, Georgia-based indie rocker Liza Anne decided not to hold anything back. In the past, she kept themes of mental illness and depression muted, only occasionally referencing her own struggles. On her new album Fine But Dying, out today (March 9), Liza Anne decided it would be time to share her internal thoughts with the world.

On the unapologetic Fine But Dying, the folk-rock singer-songwriter explores the ideas of falling in love while dealing with mental illness -- she outlines her struggles with her anxiety on “Paranoia,” and details the brutal aspects of a panic attack on the haunting third track, appropriately titled “Panic Attack.” The lyrics “I’m fading in and out of consciousness/ I never learned to pull myself out of my own damn head,” are quietly sung over a heavy bass line.

Even though the album explores dark themes, Liza Anne wants fans to be able to identify with and embrace them: "[It's] is really all I could hope for a piece of art I was a part of -- just to give people more of an understanding of themselves." 

Billboard spoke to the singer-songwriter about her album, and what it means to her.

Your album has a lot of references to mental illness. How did those things affect your writing?

Honestly, I’ve spent so much time in my writing only hinting at those sort of things, and then with Fine But Dying I decided to basically just sit across the table from my panic disorder and depression and try and put it to words. Once you write it down and create it into a thing, it becomes less isolating.

Do you ever hear feedback from fans who tell you that your stories help them?

I think there’s this weird insecurity when you start writing about things like that, that you’re worried people are going to think you’re making some sort of comic approach to depression. Who knows what people will perceive it to be? But so far, people are really taking it in as I would have wanted them to. People are using it as a sort of mirror into themselves, which is really all I could hope for a piece of art I was a part of. Just to give people more of an understanding of themselves.

Who do you listen to in order to find a part of yourself?

Oh gosh. It’s different all the time, but I always come back to Joni Mitchell, St. Vincent... that whole realm. Recently, I’ve been into Broadcast a lot. I just think there’s something so refreshing about a woman who isn’t scared to take up space. I think that’s the common denominator between music that I find myself in. Just fierce females who have worked hard to get to where they’re at, and haven’t sacrificed any of their voice in order to be there.

Have you ever felt like you had to sacrifice your voice?

I never did, thankfully. I definitely felt certain pressures -- I was told when I was about 19 that I should be a little bit softer or easier to take in. I was like, “That’s weird, you wouldn’t tell a man this.” It was just a strange moment. I think I come across immediately as a very kind and light person, so sometimes people are confused about the themes to my music.

In the past, I have kept my panic and anxiety very quiet. I never really let people know the dark place my mind would run to. So I think people were confused at my music, and were like, “Why don’t you write happy songs?” I think there were moments where people wanted something from me that I could not give without sacrificing a part of myself.

When I started writing Fine But Dying, I was like, if people don’t understand me yet, they will walk away from this album knowing me in the way that only I can know myself. I walked away from this record feeling like I knew myself better. I won’t really be misunderstood anymore. That’s the 14-year-old in me -- like, “No one understands!” But I just want people to understand me in a better light.

You were on Conan recently. How was that?

You know, it was the best thing. I think I was mentally prepared that day for a really tough day. I’ve never done anything like that ever, so I was prepared for the worst, as far as my head space. But I felt so good. I felt very present and happy and accomplished. I felt really proud!

What else do you want people to know about this record?

The further away I get from the record, the more I feel like I know what it’s about. Really, this is the record I wrote upon falling in love with a human being. And I think that’s crazy for me! You imagine yourself becoming this lighter, more soft version of yourself when you fall in love. Truly, what it did to me was...it just opened me up, shoved itself into the deepest bit of my being and pulled out all of this stuff I had buried. In the best possible way.