Known for layering an assortment of complex textures over one another, Liv.e’s tranquil and nonchalant sound can transform you to an other-worldly realm.
The 22-year-old who was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, now residing in Los Angeles, grew up in a relatively musical household and took inspiration from a variety of genres including R&B, Soul, Jazz and Gospel. Paving a lane of her own, Liv.e (pronounced “Liv”) first began releasing music back in 2017 and has since built a cult-like following that has seen her accumulate co-signs from numerous heavy-weights such as Tyler, The Creator, Janelle Monae, and Earl Sweatshirt.
In creating a timeless form of sound that goes against all genre-defining boundaries, the rising producer and singer/songwriter drenches her captivating vocals in with a nostalgic essence that is reminiscent of the ’90s that will only leave you wanting more. Adding her own contemporary twist, Liv.e more recently unveiled her highly awaited debut album titled, ‘Couldn’t Wait to Tell You…’ that is enriched with exactly that. Left open for your own interpretation, this 20-track album was recorded within a month in the comfort of her own bedroom at her mother’s house in St. Louis, Missouri in a period which she has previously described as a “great pause” in her life.
Notion recently got the chance to have a chat with the promising star about her introductory to music, her debut album and more – tap in below!
How have you found this pandemic period?
Oh man! It’s been a nightmare, but you know I’m here alive and breathing!
Have you been able to create music throughout this time or have you been struggling?
Both, honestly! It’s been kinda good, kinda not, you know?
Yeah! I have been having a lot of these conversations recently with artists because they have been essentially forced to do nothing but music, it has taken a toll on their productivity…
Yeah, exactly! You want to be able to live life and have something to talk about, so I think that this makes things a little redundant.
Growing up in Dallas, you’ve mentioned that you used to go and watch your Dad perform. Was he the main introduction to music? Did he help shape you musically from a young age?
He didn’t solely help me with my introduction to music, but I think I just watched him a lot doing what he loved and that was really cool. It was nice to see this person get a kick out of what they do every day, it doesn’t matter if he has to go to a gig or not, just watching him having free time and him being able to do what he loved that was really cool to watch.
I remember my brother had a new edition album, it was a vinyl and they used to put it on the turntable and be doing random stuff to it; stuff I had never heard before I was like dang people can do this? It was just me being young and opening my brain up to new things and not really noticing that. My brother played the drums, my other brother made music and rapped, he taught me how to rhyme and I never give him any credit which is kinda messed up! *laughs*. He would always put me on the spot to rap and I never did it, but I ended up growing up and being more comfortable with it! Everyone played their part!
So, you grew up in a musical household then!
Yeah, for the most part! Yes but no – I guess so! Half of it was regular but the other half was cool!
Listening to genres like R&B, Soul, Jazz and Gospel, were there any artists or albums in particular that inspired you?
Outkast’s ‘Aquemini’ for sure! Listening to that album for the first time was pretty amazing because that was the first album where I was like “Damn, you can put all these things together and make Hip-Hop?” – that was crazy! I wasn’t really reaching for Jazz, but my Dad used to put the Jazz station on if I was having a hard time to get to sleep so I never really listened to Jazz for the music; my first favourite Jazz song was ‘My Favorite Things’ but not by John Coltrane, it was literally from the Sound of Music! That was my first introduction and I was like “Oh man this is so beautiful, I want to learn how to sing all of these and play them”; my Dad told me that the Sound of Music was the first time he learnt how to play the keys, so that was a cool link! It was mainly movies and a bunch of little things, there wasn’t one specific album that was life-changing for me because I never listened to the whole album, sometimes it was just one song from the album!
You know when you listen to albums, are you the type of person to take the full thing in or do you prefer to pick songs from them?
Man! It depends! If I’m really interested in it then I will listen to the whole thing but if I already know a bit about the artist beforehand; well nowadays it’s been harder for me to listen to full albums because I don’t think people are doing a great job at captivating the listener for reasons being that I think they already know that listener will skip songs anyway, but I feel like people are taking a lazier approach to make a story out of something I guess!
You relocated to Los Angeles; do you think that you making this move helped you refine your sound further? Although it may lack a sense of realness, do you find it to be an inspiring place to be musically?
No! I will give it to LA, I have been going back and forth to LA from Texas since I was a little kid! There are a lot of newer people and people that aren’t from LA in LA right now. When I was younger I was surrounded by more authentic West-coast stuff that was of course life-changing, they have their own style, I was put onto that style by my cousins they would be like “You ain’t never heard of this before?!” – you know just different family stuff!
Me moving there today, not at all! I initially moved to LA because I wanted to be somewhere new and I had always wanted to live there since I had always been going there when I was little, so I thought why not! I wanted to be somewhere where I have history and where my lineage has a history, but it didn’t really shake the room up too much! I never came with the intention to do anything musically, I’m really here for a different energy, not to do certain things to get up! “What am I going to write here? What is it going to feed me?”, that is the problem when people do go there for that reason and with those intentions, it’s never for the new energy, everyone here is trying to do the same exact thing. I have worked with a lot of great people, but even you grow out of that.
You have caught the attention of many established artists such as Erykah Badu, Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt – to mention a few! You are 22, right? That is crazy for your age, a lot of people would only dream of being associated with those names!
Yeah! I have to remember that! People think that’s a really crazy thing but I don’t look it like that at all! That’s how you know that perception can be so crazy and it can really mess the game up, all this is cool but honestly everybody is just so regular – if people actually met the people they were in love with celebrity wise they would be disappointed! Every single time! *laughs*. Everyone is literally just a human being, for me it’s whatever! I try to be humble about it because I know people do think like that but man, that is not my whole career! *laughs*. Everybody came at me musically yeah, but more on a friendly tip, it wasn’t even about the music at first! It sucks to have a lot of people saying I am getting co-signed and getting put on by these people but I’m not! I have known Erykah since I was like 13 or 14, that is so whatever! *laughs*
At your age, that is an incredible achievement, many of which would dream of, does receiving praise from artists of this tier ever put pressure on your evolution at all? Even from a fan’s perspective?
Oh! The only time I have been a fan was when I was not making music! It was easier for me to be a fan before I became a fan of myself, a lot of people that fuck with me I never really listened to which helps me remove myself! The only person I have been like “Oh my god!” about a little bit was with Janelle Monáe, that was hella fire! It was a peak moment of me being 12 years old and feeling how I was feeling; it was pivotal because I did not know that Black women were doing orchestra like that! I’m getting chills just thinking about it!
From your 2017 releases up until now, in what ways do you think you have grown as an artist?
I have grown a lot! With each thing, I gain more confidence in myself and that’s what’s been happening. I’m not the best person to answer that question because I am highly critical of myself – I never really feel like I am growing enough.
I guess you evolve with each project you make.
Yeah! Just dropping songs, from playing small shows to playing bigger shows, I’m seeing the progression with a tiny cult following! Sonically, I mean yeah, every time is different!
If you could describe your sound using only three words, what would they be and why?
How about I don’t do three [seperate] words, but instead I can give you a nice little phrase?
Simple but complex!
Earlier this summer you released your debut album ‘Couldn’t Wait to Tell You…’ – Could you tell us a bit more about the meaning behind the title? What was your aim with this body of work?
There is no real meaning behind the title, to be honest, it was just a play on a puzzle piece. The title is not really the title, the title are the titles of the songs if that makes sense. You plug in the names of the songs into the title of the album; I made it kind of difficult for myself, but all the songs are technically the title! It’s not too complicated, it was the last piece. It’s kinda like “I couldn’t wait to tell you about how it made me feel” – none of the titles I had before made any sense!
When you put it like that, it does make sense because you can interpret it in your own way.
Exactly! That was my intention, don’t think about the title too much! Once I can start being able to explain more in these types of settings, it will be easier for people to register maybe!
Having now dropped the album, do any of the tracks resonate with you more now, in comparison to when you were recording them?
Yes! They resonate with me more now in comparison to when I was writing them and that’s always been a scary thing for me because it’s almost like I am a psychic for myself, but I don’t know if it is more manifesting or talking about stuff that is about to happen and I don’t even realise it. My intention isn’t for my words to manifest like that, when I say the things that I do, I’m not writing it like “Yo! This is going to happen!” but with every song, I am watching everything unfold from top to bottom and it’s funny in a way but it’s also really scary!
Do you have a favourite?
Byron’s song is my favourite one! I’m not singing on it; well I am but it really helps me to relax. I can listen to something on my album and listen to it without judgement. Everything he says makes my brain be put at ease, the bars are so simple it’s not like he is trying to go in with the raps and I love that! I don’t need the rappy-rap stuff!
Like I said earlier with your album, and even with your music in general, it’s very textured and effortless in a sense that with Byron, he doesn’t need to go hard.
Yeah! It’s so funny because he lost the first stem so I asked him to re-record it but he did it with so many more words and I was like “Naah! Don’t do that please!” – it’s just funny to see how people think they should do something off of just feeling like they aren’t doing enough. Just be yourself!
I’ve noticed that with your visuals and overall aesthetic, you carry a very pure and nostalgic feel that is reminiscent of the ’90s. What do you relate to or miss most about this era?
That’s cool! I just miss how simplistic everything was, life was stressful, but it wasn’t as stressful! They didn’t really have Instagram and all that stuff, everything you had to do was real life stuff, the only thing we had at that point to compare ourselves to was on MTV! *laughs*. It was more simplified; I can turn the TV off and go outside – everything was more real!
Do you feel with that era of music it was more authentic in comparison to today’s soundscape?
Yes and no! Each era has its own little thing, everybody probably felt the same at a different age! I’m a very simple person, even when it comes to visuals; in my head, I’m not but that just comes down to budget!
What else can we expect to hear from you in the coming year? Or maybe even next year!
Obviously, you are going to hear another album, but I don’t know when and more visuals! I’m just going with the flow!