Liza Anne is a singer-songwriter based out of Nashville, Tennessee, and the “it” she’s talking about is her new album Bad Vacation, which dropped on July 24 via Arts & Crafts. While the idea of spontaneous, intuition-based record-making is not unheard of, it is a new technique for Anne, who used the process to expand her sonic palette and emotional awareness. In the past, she’s been sorted into the “indie folk” bin, but on Bad Vacation, a more determined and creatively liberated Anne steps into the spotlight.
“If I made the same thing every time I put out a record, it would be so false,” she says. “I’m just trying to push the walls out … err, maybe it’s not ‘pushing the walls out,’ but finding a room in the house that nobody knew about yet so I could say, ‘Ha! This is here!’”
In a purely technical sense, Anne’s growth on Bad Vacation manifested in the form of unconventional song structures and ambitious arrangements which capture the energy of her live band. With eclectic synth lines weaving in and out of chorused guitar parts and a rhythm section that feels akin to a 2020s version of Talking Heads, the record approaches “A-genre” territory, blending Anne’s indie-folk sensibilities with a uniquely modern, alternative sound. But beyond its technical advancements, the writing process of Bad Vacation spurred a significant psychological breakthrough for Anne.
“I started working on this record when I was touring my 2018 album, Fine But Dying,” she says. “I was dealing with a break-up and was still in the middle of the chaotic emotions which came from the Fine But Dying era. I had never admitted to myself that I had panic disorder or chronic depression until then.” In response, Anne began processing her circumstance the only way she knew how — by writing about it.
“In that time, I wrote over 35 songs for Bad Vacation,” she says. “I had a full record of really bad breakup songs, but eventually I was like, ‘Man, I don’t want to spend two more years touring a record that’s about this situation.’ I didn’t want to sit in the pain, I wanted a door out. I figured that if there’s so much power in words, if the energy you focus on really turns into the energy you live inside of it, then I would use the space of my next record to envision a better future for myself. I don’t want to be a ‘sad girl’ — it’s like, yeah, I’m sad, but I also can grow from this. I can turn this into joy somehow.”
Thus, Bad Vacation as we know it today was conceived. Ditching all pretenses, Anne began working on a new batch of songs which proved to be her most organic and expressive to date. Between catchy yet starkly honest tracks like “I Shouldn’t Ghost My Therapist” and emotive, quasi-pop-poetry tracks like “Change My Mind,” a dynamic range of thought and feeling is front and center throughout the entire record.
“I wanted to write something that reclaimed my life for my younger self, for my current self, for the self who didn’t think that she could break up with somebody who was emotionally abusive, for any future version of myself who needs anything,” Anne says. “I wanted to be the loving, adult voice in my life saying, ‘You’re OK, you’re strong, you’re good.’ When you’re experiencing something, you don’t always have the words for it. But rather than focusing on these bizarre, abstract concepts of pain, I’m just saying, ‘Here’s what it felt like, here’s something I can do about that.’ That’s not shying away from the necessary growth — it’s making room for healing.”
However, Anne isn’t lost in the fog of her own experience. Keenly aware of her relationship with her audience, she hopes that Bad Vacation can be more than just something fun to put on in the background. “Right now, mental health is having this amazing moment where a lot of people are talking about it,” she says. “As a musician, you are able to step into conversations in corners of the world that you might not ever actually find yourself in. I think it’s really important to use that space to inform, to point to realities outside of your own experience and to give people resources to grow on multiple levels. It’s bigger than, ‘Oh, I like this song.’ It’s, ‘Oh, I like this song and it makes me feel better about myself.’ It can teach people about themselves, about how to love themselves, about how to love other people. A lot of times people are scared to talk about these things, but musicians can begin the conversation.”
Yet, Anne also acknowledges that living well is not a destination, but a process. “In reality, it’s not like I’ve written this Bad Vacation record and now I’m self-actualized — I’m still growing,” she says. “I don’t want to ever become too comfortable. If I come to a place where I act like I know everything, I hope that someone I love comes to me and says, ‘Come on, you’ve got this, keep growing.’”