Tone Talk with Liza Anne

Photo by Brett Warren
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Nashville-based indie rock artist, Liza Anne has been steadily releasing a series of singles this year as a lead up to the release of her most recent album, Bad Vacation. From her bio, Liza Anne states, “I was writing what I needed to hear. I was writing what I needed to feel. I was quite literally writing a stronger, more empowered version of myself into existence.” Filled with rock anthems, new wave jams, and power pop earworms, Liza Anne is a voice in “mental health self-awareness.”

Bad Vacation is Liza Anne’s fourth studio album following The Colder Months (2014), Two (2015), and Fine but Dying (2018).

As an advocate for emotional health and well-being, Liza Ann has been conducting live interviews on her Instagram page with the hashtag #EmotionalHealth2020 aiming to provide an emotional safe space to those in need.

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
Tone is the emotion articulated from the instrument; I like to think of it as my own artistic and sonic footprint of all the variables that feel true to me (pedals, amps, guitars) that support what I am trying to communicate with my playing. I feel like tone has grown for me from this safety net of like coating my tone in reverb because I’m scared of f**king up the part I’m playing to a real tool to make what I hear in my head real. I feel like my playing has really been expanding—especially in the last three-year window. I feel myself more aware of what I need to use to make what I want happen tonally, but honestly, I have a bit of a less is more mindset. It takes me so long to get new gear because I wanna know exactly what sonic space I’m trying to fill with a new piece of equipment.

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
This is a funny question without touring—because usually, I’d be just like “my Mustang, my pedalboard with the five pedals I use for these songs, and my Fender Blues Junior,” but because I’m home, I get to use all the things I usually don’t tour with. My go-to right now is still my Mustang, but I’ve been spending a lot of time playing the guitar I made with my uncle in 2012—it’s a Telecaster. We built it together as a graduation from high school gift to me. I don’t like to travel with it because it’s really important to me. So I’ve been writing on that, and writing on the Harmony my partner gifted me during the quarantine. Exploring different pedal stations that I wouldn’t have made room for on my smaller board. I’m expanding; it’s fun. I’m also practicing bass so much—I played a little bass on the new record and have found my writing sometimes feels like bass parts, so the combination of my writing directly to bass has been very entertaining.

My board is f**king rad, though. My partner, Josh, made it for me custom to the board I’ve been using with the Fine But Dying into Bad Vacation soundscape.

Pedals: Analog.Man BOSS Distortion DS-1, TOMKAT Bender Fuzz, Small Stone Phaser from Electro-Harmonix, BOSS Super Chorus CH-1, TOMKAT Day Dreamer echo/reverb pedal.

Fave Amps: My Supro is my favorite. It’s fun to write on—just go direct in, f**k up the tone with the vibrato on the amp.

Fave Guitars: Fender Mustang, Fender jaguar, plus the homemade Telecaster are my go-to’s. Plus, my little Harmony with nylon strings for writing.

What about strings?
Currently, I use Ernie Ball for all my guitars. I also use their quarter-inch cables.

Are there certain recording techniques that you prefer in the studio?
Hmm, I definitely prefer live tracking, which we sort of went in and out of in the making of Bad Vacation. I think my favorite part of studio days for this record though was the days we’d spend just building up synth parts and sounds and sort of expanding my ability to communicate sonically what I was hearing in my head with more precision – I’ve always thought in a producer mindset but not always felt I have the words or general musicianship to be able to make it happen. That just isn’t the case anymore – I feel capable, articulate and able to get the sounds I want.

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?
This is such a good question. To be honest, I keep my set up super simple to leave little to no room for f**k ups technically. It’s hard being in different venues every night without a consistent sound person (very much looking forward to hiring someone once touring comes back—any sound women reading this hit me up). Especially vocally, the amount of venue sound people who have just drenched my vocal in reverb or mixed my guitar super low in the room. It’s just a bit frustrating. I always try to step off the stage and listen to the mix of the band and I playing for a moment during check—I am an absolute micro-manager with the way my sound is portrayed, but it’s important. S**t sound can ruin it for the audience. I’ve learned to block out weird monitor mixes and things that don’t affect the room. I’m just always wanting the audience to get the best possible mirror of their emotions, and good sound is a pivotal moment in that.

What does your practice consist of?
So much repetition and spurts of obsession mixed with weeks off! This year my practice has gone from a random occurrence to a ritual. I think having so much time home has been a big part of that. I’ve really pushed myself. Anytime I feel the ceiling of my musical capability, I still there and repeat whatever it is that’s difficult, until I’m not even thinking about it. I wrote so much of “Bad Vacation” to specifically be challenging for me to play and sing at the same time because I know myself—I need the push to get something done, and it’s worked.

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?
I am really excited to meet you, first off. And second, you deserve to be here; there is so much room for you. My biggest advice is creating a bit of a union of other women-identifying people who are already in the industry or others who want the same things as you—a community with other women and other non-white-male-cis people is important because we’re all here together with the same bulls**t hurdles in front of us —some more than others—and there is power in us doing a good job, writing good music, and advocating for each other and the greater good of the industry. Music needs you exactly as you are.




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