Calgary artist Lisa Anderson’s PhD in life with a major in heartbreak inform her lovely A Hundred Lives

Sometimes you hear a song, read something or experience a piece of art and you just know.

Somebody did a number on you, didn’t they?

Somebody really broke your heart.

“Yeah,” says Lisa Anderson with a laugh. “Yeah, I guess that comes through.”

That it does.

The local singer-songwriter’s latest album A Hundred Lives, which she’ll celebrate the release of this Sunday afternoon at the Ironwood, is a polished, lovely piano-pop offering that has — as Anderson sings in opening track Your Silence Says It All — her standing with her “heart in her hands.”

That song and, in a way, the entire Amos-y and McLachlan-esque album, is a direct result of the scars from an “emotionally abusive” relationship she suffered through a few years ago, and which gives Lives much of its life, animates it in a very human and personal way.

“The more I write music, the more I try to move away from it being just simply about like, ‘Oh, this is me going through something.’ But the fact of the matter is it’s a really therapeutic thing for me,” Anderson says.

“And I think themes like that are things that everybody goes through at some point in their life, too … so it’s relatable.”

That said, to merely call the 11-track collection a dreary, one-note, Dear Diary breakup album is to do it an incredible disservice. It’s not — it’s an eclectic album that encapsulates a fertile and exciting period of time in the artist’s life.

Much of that saw her overseas for four years in Spain, where she lived and worked, teaching English and French in elementary schools and in private lessons. There she also “moved around the country and travelled Europe,” eventually even recording and releasing a self-titled debut in 2013.

Anderson says her father describes that entire four-year experience as her getting her “PhD in life.”

Of course, that degree includes that aforementioned major in heartache, which sent her back to Calgary, where she convalesced, mended herself and began to create again, using all that she’d learned to make her sophomore effort something that would do justice to all that she went through.

“I kind of think of it in three different chapters,” Anderson says of the songs that make up A Hundred Lives. “One chapter being memories from that time and having my heart broken, and then the second chapter being the transition back home — moving back home and recovering from the heartbreak and the other anxieties that came with that — and the third chapter being resurfacing, coming back into the world and letting myself fall in love again, and open myself up to other people’s stories.”

The latter, she admits, was when she made the decision to start going to shows again, begin playing once more, and teaching music.

It was in that period where she also met her now fiancee Ben Nixon, who’s a member of local act Locomotive Ghost and a sound and lighting tech well connected to the city’s music scene.

That, in part, led to Lives being less of a solo exploration than a collaboration, with money raised through a crowd-funding campaign allowing Anderson to include an incredible array of Calgary artists, such as Nicole Romeril, Ben Longman and André Wickenheiser, who added horns and strings into the mix to make the music that much more rich and lush and moving.

It also, Anderson says, pushed her further, made her stretch out a little more in her songwriting.

“It’s nice to have those opportunities to collaborate,” she says, noting that most of her other work including performances were done alone.

“Because otherwise I feel like I’m just sometimes in a bubble. It’s also sometimes like, ‘I don’t even know if this is any good?’ Being able to collaborate, people can bring so much to the songs and make me think of things I wouldn’t have before.”

And, she says, it also made her feel that much more part of the Calgary music scene after being away from it for an extended period of time.

She calls the city’s group of musicians “really welcoming” and terms it, simply, “a nice community,” one that she’s pleased to be a part of, soon to be literally wedded to.

“I don’t really find it to be really harsh or competitive,” she says. “It’s more a group of people willing to help each other out.”

Lisa Anderson performs Sunday afternoon at the Ironwood Stage and Grill. For tickets and reservations please call 403-269-5581.