Folksinger-turned-pop-rocker leaves emotional abuse behind on path to empowerment

When Liza Anne opened for Kacey Musgraves at Express Live in January, the singer and songwriter jolted around the stage as if she were a bucking colt.

“Sometimes I see videos of myself moving and I say, ‘I have never seen that shape,’” she said.

Her contortions were a far cry from much of her current catalog, which started out sweet and folksy — hand claps and banjos both accounted for. The singer’s second album, 2015’s Two, leaned more folk-rock, but it took several more years for her to unleash the playful, angered and thoughtful persona expressed on Fine But Dying, released last year.

She adopted her flailing onstage act alongside her transition to pop-rock, with heavier subject matter to fit her heavier music. “The louder my songs got, the more my body followed it,” said the singer, born Liza Anne Odachowski. “If I’m going to be writing about the pain expelling from my body, how can I not have a physical reaction onstage?”

If you don't want Alive's new motto to be "Fine But Dying," make sure to sign up for our daily newsletter

Odachowski, who will play tonight (Friday, Nov. 8) at the Basement, recorded Fine But Dying in 2016 while in the midst of an emotionally abusive relationship. An aura of barely repressed terror bleeds through the album. “Panic Attack” compares an episode to summer in a turtleneck; closing track “I’m Tired, You’re Lonely” releases all the energy she has left, the noise giving way to an exhausted quiet.

Many of her songs come straight from journal entries and often feel like a peek into Odachowski’s psyche. “As much as I was in pain, I was giving myself the ability to heal and walk away if I needed to. I ended up walking away and becoming a whole person again,” she said. “It’s wild to have a yearbook of pain, but proof of strength, too.”

Small details secure the record as a timestamp, such as the line on “I Love You But I Need Another Year” referencing lighting a cigarette. She has since quit smoking, turning instead to bimonthly massages to help her cope with lurking anxiety.

While Fine But Dying homes in on Odachowski’s harmful relationship with a significant other, she also acknowledges that some of the work is directed toward her relationship with herself. Despite struggling with anxiety, depression and an ongoing panic disorder, Odachowski presents as upbeat and often goofy. Fine But Dying was a chance to put her complete self on public record.

“This part of me feels complex, but it’s hard to explain to people,” she said about her mental illness. “It’s like holding ice and it falling through your hands.”

Armed with a new sense of self-awareness, two months after Fine But Dying’s March 2018 release, Odachowski recorded one-off “Devotion.” Released in October, it’s a blistering takedown of her former lover mixed with a self-love anthem. A wall of noise builds to a cheeky climax engulfed in wavy synths. “I’ll do anything for her now; she’s my longest love,” the singer shouts of her own worth.

After three years of emotional reckoning, the song marks the place where she’s ready to move on. “‘Devotion’” was permission for me to be okay,” she said.

If anything, the narrative of the last few years — abuse to recovery to empowerment — has been what Odachowski called “a second childhood.”

“I feel like you get this second chance of forming your opinions and thoughts about yourself,” she said. “So much of childhood, you show up to a party that’s already happening. There’s something about this second round of getting to choose things that makes this formation more deliberate.”