A staple on the live circuit for the past few years, singer-songwriter Liv Austen has had a great 2017 culminating in a record deal which will lead to the release of her debut album.
New single, ‘The Next Time’ is released September 15th. We managed to catch up with her and chat about all the changes.
You had an interesting childhood & upbringing. Tell us about it.
I grew up in Norway, and I come from a musical family. I don’t think my parents ever planned for or wanted music to become my career, but I played the piano and sang from a very young age and I just loved it more than anything. It was such a big part of both of my parents life. I could go on forever about all the artists who were played on repeat in our house! I sang in the church choir and I was in vocal groups as a teenager. It has always been such a huge part of me.
When I was 16 I moved to Belgium with my family, and that’s where I started getting really serious about the music, and wrote my first songs. That is also where I managed to overcome my extreme stagefright (which doesn’t go well with love of performing!).
You originally came to England pursuing an acting career. What changed or do you still have aspirations on the stage?
That is right! I went to musical theatre school in Norway because I loved both acting and singing. I had a fantastic drama teacher there who could tell I was serious about performing. She told me that if I wanted to pursue acting I should go to the UK, because you have the best drama schools! I am so glad I did, because it changed everything for me. It turned out that my path was meant to be music, but it wouldn’t have happened the way it did if I didn’t come here! I still want to do acting. I am never going to stop seeing myself as an actor, no matter how far I go with my music. When the right projects come along, I will definitely want to do them.
Who are your musical influences that have shaped your writing and singing?
I am a big fan of the songwriters. The people behind the scenes so to speak. Hillary Lindsey, Jessi Alexander, Luke Laird, Brett James… People like that. From growing up there’s all sorts of influences; Simon & Garfunkel, Elton John, Shania Twain, Britney Spears, Michael Jackson. So many!
These days I am massively inspired by the artists who find themselves somehwere between country and pop, like Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini and Cassadee Pope. As a performer, Carrie Underwood is my greatest inspiration. She was my “gateway drug” in to country music, and I will always love her and her music.
What does your writing process look like? Do you write alone? Co-writes? Are you impulsive with your ideas or do you prefer to write in the same place, same time?
I write in so many different ways. For years and years it was only on my own. I did my first cowrite just 3 years ago, I think. But when I got comfortable with cowrites, I really started enjoying it. It was difficult at first though, I find songwriting such a personal process and it’s really hard to let anyone in on it! I really do love it now. Every person you go in with writes differently and approaches it differently.
I have different approaches when I work alone too. I think the most common thing to happen is that I get a lyrical phrase in my head, and then that will be the idea that brings on a chorus, a verse, or similar. Then I sit down and work from there, and the melody sort of comes with the words. It’s quite hard to explain! But it can also be completely the other way around. I have written whole melodies without a single word and then added lyrics, and I have written entire song lyrics without melodies and added them later.
I think the most important thing is to keep finding ways to write so you don’t get too comfortable doing “your thing”, it can easily get too repetitive. And for me, having something to say is extremely important. If I don’t believe in what the song is saying then I feel completely uninspired. It doesn’t mean that every song has to have a deep, sad, meaning or anything like that. Just that you are being truthful and writing about something you care about.
Which type of performances do you prefer – full band electric or the more intimate songwriter evenings?
I love performing full band, the energy is so great and I love what we can deliver to the audience when we do! But I am a huge fan of doing songwriters circles too. It’s such a great atmosphere on those nights and it’s really intimate, both with the audience and with the other writers on stage. I am so lucky that I get to do both.
You have a record deal now – congrats! What are the main differences between being signed to a label and being an independent artist?
Thank you! It’s crazy to say that I am “signed”. It’s weird how it still has such a significance in this day and age, but I guess it does. The main difference is that someone is investing in you, and supporting you in the ways that it is really hard to support yourself when you are indie. Now I can go in to the studio whenever I want, which was not the case before and something I definitely don’t take for granted. It has also enabled me to work with a bigger team, who have knowledge and contacts beyond what I have. I also have to answer to other people now about my music, which is really strange!
Sometimes having a big team working with you on your music can weirdly be a challenge for me, I am so used to doing everything myself that I find it hard to let go of control sometimes. I think I can be a bit of a pain that way…
What advice would you give to the legions of independent artists out there struggling to get their music seen and heard?
Play live. Play live wherever and whenever you can. It’s where you will build a fan base, it is where you will learn your craft, it is where you will build confidence. Write tons of songs so you can pick your best ones and scrap the mediocre ones. Do NOT give up. Do NOT compare yourself to others. It is pointless, because you don’t want to have anyone else’s journey. Trust me, you don’t! If you keep gigging, keep trusting yourself and focusing on your own journey, people will gravitate towards you, and so will those people who can help you get your music heard. Be creative with where you try to get airplay and live gigs. Don’t try to go down exactly the same avenue as everyone else, just for the sake of it. Find out what makes you different from everyone else.
How’s the album coming along? Will any of your older songs re-appear on it or will it be completely new song?
The album is being recorded and written this year. It is so much fun, but such hard work too. We are choosing and finalising what tracks will make it to the album, and it’s a pretty challenging process – just like everyone told me it would be! It doesn’t look like any old songs will reappear, it will be all new material. I have so many new songs I want people to hear!
Tell us about your new single, ‘The Next Time’.
The Next Time is the first song I ever wrote with Jessica Sharman. She is a fantastic cowriter and we had so much fun with this. It is actually about a musician I was working with who was driving me crazy, because he kept letting me down and wasting my time! We talked about this, and how everyone has someone like that in their life. Someone who goes: “I’ll do better next time, next time…” and in the end you just have to remove yourself from them and the situation, and say: “your chances are up, this was the next time”.
In a nutshell it is a song about that liberating feeling of just letting go of someone who isn’t good for you, who had a hold of you for a long time, making you think that you depended on them. It can be a toxic friendship, working relationship or romantic relationship.
What are your plans for the rest of 2017 in terms of music and shows?
The Next Time is now coming out very soon (September 15), and I am extremely excited! Soon after the release we will share the video for it – I am so happy about the video too. We worked with some awesome people on it. I have a few cool gigs coming up, just about to be announced, the best thing would be for people to keep an eye on my website, www.livausten.com/shows or follow me on Bandsintown.