There comes a time in everyone’s life when they feel lost and unsure about their purpose and path, singer/songwriter Liv Warfield is no exception. The small-town church girl, turned international music star shared with us in this candid interview how she found the courage to pursue her dream of being a singer, how she struggled with self-esteem, her relationship with one of her greatest cheerleaders and fans the late Prince, learning to love herself and her new project with legendary rock star Nancy Wilson of Heart.
What inspired you to pursue music?
My parents used to sit me in front of Diana Ross to keep me quiet as a child and I used to watch her specials – they would run it over and over and over again. And I think as a child there were little aspects of me wanting to be a performer. I was always an athlete, that was one of my focuses, but I always wanted to sing. I knew I could sing as a child, but nobody in my family knew I could. What inspired me to really want to sing is I started to listen to the Rain Man soundtrack and I heard Etta James for the first time and I was like, that’s it, that’s what I want to do. Still nobody knew what I wanted to do until I moved to Portland, and I was like 20 years old. It was something I kept hidden for so long, and then I started going to karaoke. So basically, I grew up listening to Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson, and I was even sneaking to listen to them because I grew up in church, so my parents weren’t trying to have me listen to any secular music, but when I could I would sneak it in as much as I could, so I would say Etta was the first person that really jumped off for me musically. I fell in love with her voice.
If you were to describe your musical mission or what you want to give people who listen to your music, what would that be?
I really go for feelings and what people would want to get from listening to someone’s music. My music is always about a message or personal message, something I’ve been through. I guess I would say something spiritual hits me at the time. I don’t necessary have a mission or anything. I make sure that my mind and my body are really in tune with what my heart is trying to say. Usually it’s about something political, like “Freedom” on The Unexpected. “Freedom” was something that I woke up to in the middle of the night, and I knew that I could not go back to sleep and I had to get it off my chest, off my spirit. “I Decided” was about a breakup that I had a long time ago… it’s kind of different experiences in my life I feel that people have gone through. Anybody’s usually gone through these things but I feel that my messages speak through music and tell stories that could possibly change somebody’s life. When I play live, it’s an experience. It’s a release for me, a whole other level. It’s like two different people. Liv onstage, she’s not that same person offstage at all. I’m very shy, I’m very quiet, but onstage it’s a release – it’s something that moves through me that I can’t help.
What’s next for you in terms of new projects and new music?
I’ve been working on a lot of new stuff with my guitar player. We’re in the process of writing a whole other record but before we could even get into that I’m working on another side project with Nancy Wilson of Heart, which I’m so excited about because the last project that I left off of with Prince was to do a rock n’ roll record, and I never really had a chance to fulfill that, so that’s what I wanted to do and then Nancy came into the picture when the band opened up for Hollywood Bowl, and that was crazy. We talked and made sure that we were going to stay connected to each other. I made sure I called her and I sent her one of the new songs I was going to put on my record, and she gave me some ideas, and that just formed, with Nancy being like, “Hey, do you want to write and us get together and form this whole band?” and I was like that sounds so cool! It’s Heart for God’s sake, Nancy of Heart. I couldn’t even imagine what we could put together and do together, so that’s what we’re doing now. The songs are incredible, and the energy between her and I, and the band, and my guitar player and her – it’s just crazy so I’m excited about that. The band is called Roadcase Royale and it’s just a magical and different outlook and perspective from our world – from where I come from and from where she comes from, and it really worked, it’s really brilliant.
What do you want people to know about you in terms of where you’ve come from and where you’re trying to go, professionally and personally?
That the world is a very open space and place. I never thought in a million years that I would’ve gone from being someone from Peoria, Illinois, really thinking that she was going to the Olympics, because that was my focus, and I was very close to it, and I opened myself up to something that I truly wanted to do, and it took courage – it was something totally outside of the box my parents and my family approved of me doing – I went from wanting it so bad, and listening to my heart, and really listening to what I wanted. I’ve had a lot of people who are super responsible for my growth, I mean all the way from Portland, Oregon, people who never stopped believing in me, just to be like, “Liv you can sing. Liv you can write,” to the people who used to support me at the karaoke bars. I used to go and sing karaoke and dress up because I wanted to be discovered. I wanted it so bad – it wasn’t really so much about the singing, but about messages that I had that I wanted to get out. And then, being discovered by one of Prince’s background vocalists, who thought I had the talent to even be a part of NPG (New Power Generation) it’s such a crazy life, but you can be open to it and if your spirit is right and if you know that you can do anything – but you have to do it with love in this life and just have the right people around you to support you. Because it’s not just me. I had a lot of people around me telling me not to stop, don’t quit. Even now, I’ve learned so much. I’ve had a lot of huge mistakes, to the point where I didn’t even want to do this music stuff anymore and I didn’t want to sing anymore, but now, clearly from this past year and Prince passing, I didn’t know what to do and I had to learn to be strong for myself and find myself again, because I completely lost myself. I lost who I was and I just had to center myself and start loving who I was. Because I have a problem with self-esteem, I have a huge problem with that, because the Internet has kinda tainted me and kept me really fearful, and I had to really fight my way out of it. The world is an open possibility and you just can’t give up. You gotta have praying people around you. I just feel like my message is you can’t give up, and you have to love one another. That’s so important right now. And learn to pick yourself up from anything you’re going through, any devastation – that took me a long time, and I’m still working on that.
If Prince came to you right now and said, “Hey Liv, how’s it going?” What would you say to him?
“What do we need to say to the world right now, my man? Because we’ve been missing you so much, and I know you would have so much to say right now. What is the right thing to say right now? What’s the right thing to write right now?” That ‘s what I would ask. That’s what was important to him – what do we say to the world right now? ….. More than anything, he wanted us to do us. He wanted us to be creative. We always celebrate him in doing his music, but what was important to him was that we were always artists and that artists have such a powerful impact in this world, especially in music. Clearly, like Marvin Gaye changing the world with “What’s Going On”… you know, Al Green and all these people who came before us, who had all these messages. And in the ‘60s, in those times, James Brown always had something to say. So in my mind, I’m like, what would Prince say right now? I feel like that’s my purpose – for me to continue the legacy is for us to do the music, however we feel we need to represent, we need to represent us as one, as a people, and as artists, because there’s power in that, and we have to be careful how we utilize that power, what we say with it. That’s what I would be asking him right now, what would you do? I know what he would do, but how would he be doing it, what would be the next step, because we miss your voice, we miss you being outspoken – I miss him being outspoken. I miss him telling me, “Liv, just be fearless. Be fearless in this life.”
Is there anything else you want to share?
I think I’ve just now started to be in at a really good point in my life now, I’m in that season. The past couple of years have been really hard for me, and I think now I’ve come over the top of the hill, knowing who I really am. Really being secure in who Liv is, and not being influenced so much. I feel a certain sense of freedom and I’m very clear about what my message is and I’m very clear about what I want to do. Before I was still in a fog a little bit. I guess I should say I miss the Liv back in the “Embrace Me” days when I wasn’t scared. When I was OK with really being who I was without fear. I was really fearless, and I feel like I’m back to her, now, again. People just have to come together more than anything now, and it needs to happen, and to celebrate yourself and the different kinds and likeness of different people. We have to… especially for these kids, because they’re watching us to see how we handle everything in this world.