Liv Dawson on her new single ‘Painkiller’ and first UK headline tour

We chatted to Liv Dawson before her show at Manchester's Fallow Café - the 2nd date of her debut UK headline tour!

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Image by Conor Giblin

Some might describe Liv Dawson as a ‘child prodigy’, but personally, I see her as an incredibly talented young woman who knows exactly what she wants. “I remember being able to sing at the age of about 9 years old … but I never thought it was a ‘thing’, I just thought everyone could sing”, says Liv. In a very natural way, she has discovered that she wants to pursue a career in music, but she also seems very aware of the dangers of superstardom (think 2006 Britney…). “Luckily, I’ve got an amazing team who kind of shelter me from that and put me into sessions with amazing writers and producers”, she says. With the support of her team, family & friends, she has been able to work at her own pace and slowly grow her fanbase, purely from the success of the music itself, rather than a tacky press campaign.

Although, to say that Liv Dawson isn’t being set up for worldwide domination may seem a bit contradictory, considering the fact that she’s been in the studio with Grammy award-winning writer Jimmy Napes and the huge electronic duo Disclosure, responsible for the massive tune ‘Latch’ (feat. Sam Smith). At the age of just 19, she isn’t afraid to acknowledge that, at times, she’s felt a bit too inexperienced to be working with such top industry professionals. “There have been times when I’ve felt incredibly nervous or too young to put in my input in sessions. When you’re young and in a room with 30-year-old men, it can feel quite intimidating. They’ve seen the whole world and they probably don’t think you’re that bothered by it, but it’s more of an inner insecurity”, she admits.

However, she’s now in the midst of her first UK headline tour, and she seems incredibly confident and focused. “It’s such a breath of fresh air to be able to actually have people there for me, because a lot of the time I’m supporting people so I have to try to win them over. It’s nice to have my own fans, it’s rewarding more than anything”, says Liv.

This tour is in support of her latest single ‘Painkiller’, which (lyrically) is quite fiery. The song is about being unafraid to speak up about how you feel in a relationship, as well as that horrible feeling of being hungover after a nightout:

“I wanted it to be really honest. It was basically about going out, making some mistakes and feeling really hungover the next day! I just wanted to put that into a song, because I don’t think I’ve heard many songs that are about having a hangover…”

Liv has a wide range of influences, from “jazz to hip-hop to electronic music”. One of her earliest releases, ‘Tapestry’, is much more stripped back and emotional. It’s about treasuring the relationships that you have with your family and friends:

“I’m really close to my family and I’ve got a really close group of friends, I adore them all. My mum always used to say to me, ‘everything is part of your tapestry, everything is meant to be. One door closes, another door opens’ – that sort of thing. That was the aim of that song really.”

Her songs are also quite multi-layered, offering a subtle political commentary on songs such as ‘Tapestry’, given the turbulent time we’re living in. On this track, she sings about ‘a leader’s call to arms’ and ‘revolution’, and at the time of writing the song, Dawson admits: “I never really used to watch the news or read the newspaper, even online I wouldn’t really pay attention to [politics]. But now, with everything that’s going on, the song feels more relatable”.

These days, Liv can be found blasting artists such as Tom Misch, Jordan Rakei and SZA on the tour bus. “She’s my #1 album of the year, everything I’ve wanted from an album, she’s given to me. I don’t know how she’s done it. I listen to her songs at least once a day, that’s how much of a fan I am! I’m obsessed, I’m a stan, I should make a fan account!”, she jokes.

‘Tapestry’ is one of the more emotionally tender tracks that she’s released, but her music also exists in a different, ‘dancier’ world. My introduction to Liv was through her single ‘Open Your Eyes’, produced by Disclosure:

“We were in the studio once and Disclosure came by and said they liked my voice. This was about 3 years ago… it was so random at the time and I was like ‘Oh my god! It’s Disclosure!’, but now I see them as so down-to-earth. I don’t look at them as Disclosure anymore, they’re just normal guys who are so talented and lovely.”

Whilst the song is upbeat, featuring Disclosure’s signature electronic production, Dawson was keen to maintain continuity throughout her work, by adding a gospel element to the track. “I used to listen to Etta James, Lauryn Hill, Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, so that’s where my singing roots are, listening to these big female vocalists. So I always want to keep that in my songs, to have my soulfulness and harmonies in there, that’s what makes it feel like me”, she adds.

Despite it’s ‘dancy’ production, the song started out in a very organic way, like most of her singles to date. “It’s lovely on the piano as well, that’s how I like to write most of my songs. It’s also useful because if you ever need to do an acoustic set, it’ll still sound good!”, says Liv.

Expect to hear even more brilliant singles from Liv Dawson in 2018, after hearing her debut new tracks such as ‘Hush’ and ‘Talk’, we can confirm that you (perhaps) aren’t ready to be blown away by her new material! She is currently working on her debut album and has a very clear vision of how she wants it to sound:

“I want to make it as different as possible but also have it all tied together with my voice. I don’t like listening to albums where everything sounds the same, there are so many ways of making each track sound slightly different. I just want to progress my sound and make it better and better”

She dreams of one day selling out the prestigious London venue, The Roundhouse, which she describes as “one of [her] favourite venues, Camden is amazing”. I think that dream is likely to become true sooner than she thinks, especially with a voice that good.

 

‘Painkiller’ is out now, via Method Records.

livdawson.com