Interview with Liv Austen

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Here is the third in ‘The Wednesday Interview’ series and today we feature the brilliantly talented singer songwriter Liv Austen. At Belles and Gals we have become big fans of Liv Austen and we were delighted when she agreed to have a chat with us last week.

Hi Liv. We first featured you on Belles and Gals relatively early on when we showed your brilliant latest single ‘Don’t Regret a Single One’. Firstly tell us about the song, but also talk about the video – there’s a great moment where you’re singing with your name up in lights behind, a huge smile on your face. What was that like?!

Hi, and thank you so much for featuring me on your website! It is so cool of you to completely devote your site to female artists, and there are plenty of great ones to choose from, so I am honoured to be one of the singers you’ve chosen to give a shoutout!
Don’t Regret a Single One came to life around this time last year. I was having one of those “I have HAD it with men!”-days! However, I didn’t want to give a guy the power to bring me down, so I decided to look back at past relationships I had that didn’t end well and just… laugh at them, really. I am a big believer in not spending time and energy regretting things you’ve done, because you learn from every experience. So I decided to deal with my situation by writing a fun anthem, rather than an angry breakup song! I recorded it at Ten21 Studios in Maidstone with my fantastic band, and I loved how it came out as a strong, feminist, rocky country song with a kind of 90s vibe!
My great friend Ben Trombacco – who shot my previous video for The Guts You Always Had, wanted to work with me again for this video and I was thrilled. We really wanted to kick things up a notch with this video and I believe we did! Ben is insanely hardworking and very ambitious – just like me. He had some fantastic ideas for this video and my name up in lights is all thanks to him and the great people at Chromaquay Studio where we shot it. Can you imagine what it was like walking in to a studio with your name up on the wall like that? I was completely in shock – it was a great day for my ego, I’ll tell you that! I wish I could have taken them home with me, but I don’t think I could fit them in my London flat, sadly. But yes, the smile on my face is definitely genuine – I loved shooting that video. We had so many amazing, hardworking people on set.

So let’s rewind a bit back to your first EP – ‘Workin Man’s Dream’. That was funded on Pledgemusic. What was it like knowing that friends, families and even complete strangers had total confidence in you and your singing career?

It was incredible. I was so humbled. When you ask people to help you fund something, that is when you definitely find out who truly believes in you and your work. I was so impressed with the people that contributed to and shared the project. And the biggest surprise was the fans I gained from it – people that pledged without knowing who I was and just took a chance on me, and have followed my career since! That first EP would not have been made if it weren’t for that campaign; at least not at that moment in time. Having said that, a fundraiser is not something to take lightly – it does take a lot of work to make it happen!

The third song on that EP is ‘The Guts you Always Had’. We absolutely fell in love with that song the first time we heard it. Tell us all about ‘Guts’?

I’m so glad you like it!
The Guts You Always Had is a song I wrote about my sister. I initially meant to write a cute little song for her when her birthday was coming up, but when I sat down at the piano, a much more profound story came out – I remember sitting there sobbing after writing it!
It tells the story of how our relationship has changed over the years, and how much I look up to her and who she has become as an adult. I can not tell you how incredible the reception of this song has been – I have had friends, acquaintances and strangers contact me and tell me what the song means to them. Someone I know told me that he had sent the song to his sister, and five minutes later she called him on the phone and they were crying down the phone to each other – it is pretty special to have that effect on people, especially with a song that I thought was so specific to me and my life. Another person messaged me and told me that the song reminded him of his late wife, and if he had known the song at the time she passed away, he would have had it at the service. Receiving that message was one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had. It makes my sister cry too, and she isn’t really that much of a crier, so that’s kind of cool (is that awful of me to say?)!

How did a lady from Norway become a country singer in the first place? Are you from a musical family? And what musical influences did you have when growing up?

That is a good question indeed! My family is very musical. My mum was always singing and playing piano when I was growing up, my dad plays violin and guitar. We always had music on in the car on roadtrips, and we’d always sing harmonies! But neither of them were professional musicians, and they didn’t intend for me to be that either. My grandmother, whose name was Liv, was a singer and she performed a lot, she was even on the radio, something not everyone from that generation in Norway could tell you they’d done. Sadly there are no recordings of her to be found anywhere, which breaks my heart!
Country music and I sort of found each other later on in life. Apart from Shania Twain and a bit of Johnny and Dolly, there wasn’t that much country in my life growing up. I was in to pop, singer/songwriters and a lot of other stuff (too many to mention but there was a wide spectrum from Michael Jackson and Britney Spears to Simon & Garfunkel and Dire Straits!) but when I started writing my own songs I had a few people comment on how my lyrics were “a bit country”, they were referring to how I told stories and that my lyrics were very honest. I had always been curious about country and I had a friend who got me in to Carrie Underwood, I started listening to country radio day in and day out and found lots of new artists and sources of inspiration. I haven’t looked back since!

And what are you listening to right now?

So many different things! Little Big Town, Maren Morris, Lucie Silvas, Hunter Hayes, Switchfoot, Macklemore, Whitney Duncan… A few fantastic Norwegian artists; Maria Mena, Marion Ravn and Marit Larsen… I could go on forever!

We met briefly at C2C last week. What were your highlights of the weekend?

I’m so glad I bumped in to you! Seeing Carrie Underwood is always a highlight. She is probably my greatest inspiration and she is always fantastic, but that is probably the best I have ever seen her live. Little Big Town were absolutely on fire, and I loved Chris Stapleton and Eric Church (Eric is one of my long time favourites). It was just fantastic to see that the pop up stages were so huge again this year, and that we keep moving in the right direction – the UK audience is finally letting go of this myth that UK acts are just trying to copy the Americans, we definitely have our own voice and stories to tell, and we are a force to be reckoned with!

Everyone has an embarrassing first album or single they listened to when younger. What’s yours?

You know, I read your interview with Hannah Rose Platt and my first album was Middle Of Nowhere by Hanson, too! I am not remotely embarrassed though, they have been fantastic from the start. They’re still huge in the States. They do have a steady following in Europe, but I don’t understand why they are generally viewed as a one hit wonder over here. They have released some killer albums over the years and I have actually seen them live twice at the Indigo2! I think that makes me a fan of about 20 years already!
I do also remember that I bought a single with my own money and was very proud. It was I Wanna Be The Only One by Eternal! Slightly more embarrassed about that purchase… But I loved the song at the time!

As well as singing, you also have a successful career in acting, both on stage and in film. Being based in London, can we expect to see you in the Queen Vic anytime soon? Is acting a burning ambition?

Acting is always going to be a huge part of who I am; it is why I moved to the UK in the first place (to go to drama school). I absolutely love it. I came to a point where I had to realise that the music was definitely top priority, and I am very happy with how that turned out – but I still consider myself an actor – so when the right projects come along I will be happy to do them. One day I hope to find the perfect way to merge the two.

Everyone you speak to within the UK country community says Liv Austen is lovely. Tell us something about yourself that isn’t lovely?!

Oh – I am glad to hear people say that!
Well, I think I can scare people a bit if I get in to a heated discussion. I am very passionate, and if you don’t know me I think it can be read as me being quite angry!

What is coming up for Liv Austen in the near future and what plans/dreams do you have for the rest of 2016?

I am currently getting my second EP, Who I Am Today, ready for release. It’s coming out in May. I can’t wait to share it with people. I picked the title from the lyrics of my single (Don’t Regret a Single One), but it also fits perfectly with where I am in my career and life. I have learned so much from the first EP about my songwriting, about the industry, about who I want to be. And I also know that I have a lot of potential as a performer and songwriter that I have just started to tap in to. I have so many songs that I still want to share with people, and my dream for this year is to share my music with new audiences both in the UK and other countries, and be one step closer to releasing a killer debut album!

Interiew conducted by Nick Cantwell

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