Liza Anne gambled and won
Liza Anne was a 19-year-old college student when she released her first album. Shortly after, the singer-songwriter left school and hit the road full time. The gamble paid off, and she hasn't looked back since.
"At the time I thought, 'I'm so young I can just quit everything, do music and see if it works out,' " she said, calling during a holiday break visiting family in Georgia. "It's still working out."
Liza Anne's beautifully rendered music has evolved from folkish roots to an ethereal indie-pop sound anchored by thoughtful and poetic lyrics. Her well-received 2014 debut "The Colder Months" was followed in 2015 by the even more successful "Two," an album that garnered praise in the music press.
She was heartened by the response. "All the reviews that were coming in understood me," she said. "I'm so emo that to have someone understand what I was expressing, I thought, 'I feel so very seen.' The 14-year-old misunderstood girl in me thought, 'Yes!' "
It was a project that was drawn from personal experience. "That entire album is dealing with a very specific moment between me and another person and (my feelings) of doubt, hurt and confusion," she said. "Each song is voicing a different phase of relationship grief."
Liza Anne has recorded a third album "Fine But Dying" planned for a 2017 release.
Born Elizabeth Anne Odachowski, she performs professionally as Liza Anne. "My last name is unbelievable," she said with a laugh. "I don't want to put people through trying to pronounce that. I've gone by 'Liza' my entire life, and my middle name is 'Anne.' I thought that would be easier than trying to make up some crazy stage name or trying to make people learn my real name."
Now based in Nashville, she grew up on St. Simons Island in Georgia. It was a "quaint, small and sheltered" place where the young Liza Anne would ride her bike to the beach after school.
She discovered music at age 8 when a beloved aunt married a musician who built his own guitars.
"My aunt is a painter, so she was always a big creative influence on me," Liza Anne said. "Meeting her husband fueled my drive toward music."
Liza Anne started playing guitar at age 10 and got serious with the instrument when she was 14. She also began writing songs.
"I've been writing poetry since I was a kid," she said. "Once I started playing guitar, I learned I could pair (writing and music) together."
Her aunt and uncle made her mixtapes in high school filled with songs by Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, the Cranberries and Ryan Adams. Liza Anne started performing in small venues around her hometown as a teenager.
"A coffee shop I worked at would let me play on Friday nights for a few hours," she recalls. "I played very emotional versions of Ke$ha songs."
After a few months she began performing her own material. As a high school graduation gift, her uncle helped her build her first electric guitar.
She moved to Nashville to study songwriting at Belmont University. She immediately started playing shows, splitting time between performing, class work and odd jobs. By her sophomore year, she was booking living-room tours up the East and West coasts.
At Belmont, she met fellow student Zachary Dyke, who has served as co-producer on all of her albums. He was interning at the school's recording studio and was able to use the facility for free. He asked Liza Anne if she had any songs she wanted to record.
"Lo and behold that turned into us making my first record," she said. "After we'd get done with school and our jobs during the day, we'd work all night in the studio from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. That's how it all started. We were both amazed by how easy it was to work together."
It's been a rock-solid artistic partnership ever since. For Liza Anne's upcoming release, the two traveled to Paris to record at La Frette Studios, the storied recording facility housed in a century-old mansion and utilized by the likes of Nick Cave and Feist.
"La Frette was my dream studio," she said. "To record there was a goal I had set for myself. I thought I wouldn't do it until 35, but it worked out for me to do it now."
Liza Anne and Dyke were jet-lagged upon arrival in France. Nevertheless, they powered through and cut 11 new tracks in six days.
"Zachary is my best friend," she said. "It's effortless to work with him. He knows how to make all my ideas happen."
Though she loves the creative side of her life as an artist, Liza Anne is careful to attend to the less glamorous aspects of her career. "I've known so many people who dropped out of music," she said. "What I learned from that is that you have to treat this like a business or it's not going to work out. That's what ended up setting me apart from others."
In high school and college, she spent long hours studying the career trajectories of her favorite artists on social media. Scrolling far back on artists' Facebook timelines, she was able to pinpoint various career milestones.
"I would ask, 'How did that happen? When did they start touring?' I was very much a researcher. I found it fascinating watching someone's career blow up. I studied it and thought, 'OK, I'm going to do this for myself now.' "
By any measure, Liza Anne isn't just on track. She's ahead of schedule.
"I made a five-year plan for myself," she said. "I'm two times past where I thought I was going to be right now."