Indie singer-songwriter Liza Anne Odachowski's third album, Fine but Dying, addresses her struggles with mental illness and her panic disorder head on.
“I think with any piece of art, the intention is to give space to whatever reality I’ve been swallowed by at any moment,” Odachowski says. “It’s less of dealing with the easy things in life and more dealing with things in life that really distract me and take me out of body, in a sense.”
On this album, she was not going to hold back.
“I wanted to give myself permission to be angry, because I felt like as a woman, everyone needed me to be soft all the time,” she explains. “But I realized if I wasn’t expressing those angrier, harsher bits of myself, I was eventually just going to go mad, so I needed a space to do it.”
A lot of her self-reflection was aided by the relationship she has been in over the past three years. The relationship formed right around the time she was beginning to write songs for Fine but Dying. She found that through the eyes of someone who loved her, she was able to more clearly see herself and work through disruptive thoughts and emotions.
“Rather than me being this abstract loner of a human being who is flying through life and relationships, not really giving a shit…all of a sudden I saw myself and, ‘Oh, this stuff isn’t going to change or leave,’” Odachowski says.
The honesty in her lyrics couldn’t have come any earlier or later than this period of her life, she says. Odachowski wants her twenties to be a period of growth, and she knew that wouldn’t come without some honest introspection and change.
“The last thing I want to do is get through my twenties without growing or changing things that are hurtful to other people and in the end just hurt myself,” she says. “It was just life circumstances that made me finally sit down and look at everything head on. But then it’s just so nice to hear things loud and straightforward rather than ambiguous and floaty. There is totally time for music that is ambiguous and more of just a mood. But I was like, ‘These things have ruined my life. I’m not just going to hint at them.’”
The song “Small Talks,” from her new album, tackles a frustrating situation: engaging in small talk in a social situation.
“I think growing up in a Southern place, everyone is always fake nice to everyone else,” she says. “But also, moving to Nashville for college, the conversations that go on…and in my head, I’m counting the doors in the room trying to find the quickest way out, like, ‘How on earth? What can I come up with right now that doesn’t make it seem like I’m just leaving?’”
She noticed that the more specific she is in her lyrics, the more listeners resonate with her message.
“Rather than just [saying,] ‘Oh, man, a broken heart really hurts,’ describe it,” she says. “Show me what it feels like, and let me hear it in your voice, that kind of thing. I think as artists, our job is to present the rawest, most tear-you-apart form of things that the human experience possesses. In that, people can find themselves and feel less alone.”
She recalls growing up without anybody talking to her about her panic disorder.
“I was like, 'What’s wrong?'” Odachowski says. “'Why am I about to throw up when I walk into this room? How on earth did my body all of a sudden become cold and sweaty over just life?' I had no clue. There was no trigger point. It was just, ‘Oh, I’m falling apart all the time.’”
But making music provided a window into better understanding the why behind what was causing confusion in her daily life.
“I think with my art, giving myself the space to explicitly map out the patterns of my psyche, the patterns of my emotional responses to things — it gave me more of a context for my brain in a way that I really didn’t get when I was a kid,” she says. “I understood that it didn’t mean that I was broken. It just meant that I had to figure out my form of health and what it looked like to be alive in my own body.”
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By being vulnerable in her music, Odachowski has learned that she can heal herself and is capable of being at home in her own body and mind. She hopes that her music will provide context for others struggling and show them it’s okay to not feel totally okay sometimes.
“I think the reason I started being explicit about [mental illness] in my own music is just hoping people would realize it’s really amazing to talk about that,” she says. “It’s not something you should only talk about behind closed doors or with one other person. It should be a public sort of conversation that feels safe.”
She continues, “That’s why I find it important. Because I just want it to be normalized. I want people to realize it’s okay to wake up one morning and cancel all your plans because all of a sudden you’re just obsessed with the idea that the world could end at any moment. It’s okay! The mind is so bizarre, and the fact that we’re alive anyway is this miracle. So I think we need to have grace with ourselves that I didn’t really learn until I started working through this record.”
Liza Anne, 8 p.m. Thursday, April 5, Globe Hall, 4483 Logan Street, 303-296-1003, $10-$12.