Nowadays it’s rare to run across an artist that can win you over just off first listen. Unless . . . you’re an artist like Liv Warfield. Her debut album, Embrace Me (B&M Records), is in heavy rotation on our iPods, CD players, and everywhere else we can take her along for the ride. Clutch caught up with the indie soul/ rock artist to learn more about her music, faith in God, and how Donny Hathaway saved her life.
Q: You’re one of those rare artists who are just as phenomenal of a songwriter as you are a singer, as you wrote all of the songs from your debut, Embrace Me. What was your inspiration for the album?
The inspiration for this first album was a combination of me trying to find my identity as a young woman in general. I was in troubling relationships, loosing myself to the world, sacrificing my character for others as well as discovering the lyrical genius of Donny Hathaway–Donny Hathaway saved my life! I was moved by Donny because he’d sing with such conviction. That’s what I wanted and that’s what I was inspired by at the time.
Q: How would you characterize your sound?
Gosh . . . that’s a difficult question for me. I would say my sound varies tremendously. For this first record my sound was very smooth and laid back. It’s definitely something you can vibe out to. My sound is changing everyday so it’s hard for me to characterize it. Like, when I’m performing live I feel like my sound is Tina Turner meets Sade meets Etta James. It’s crazy but very sexy!!!
Q: The first time I heard your album my immediate thought was that of N’Dea Davenport of The Brand New Heavies or Sade and Sweetback. Who are some of your musical inspirations?
Thank you! Well, my biggest inspiration is Etta James, Chaka Khan, Mary J. Blige, George Clinton, Tina Tuner, Otis Redding just to name a few.
Q: Speaking of comparisons . . . it seems unavoidable for new artists to not be compared to others in their genre–which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, is it flattering or frustrating when people compare you to others or regulate you to a specific sound or look?
It could be frustrating at times. You want to be recognized for your own abilities or qualities. Right now, I’m still trying to fully embrace my sound and look. I know that I’m growing as an artist and I just want people to grow with me. I feel that I am unique in my own way. I’ve got this voice inside that just wants to be heard–maybe that voice wants to be soul-rock one day or even alternative the next day. The best thing is that nobody can put me in a box. Although, I respect and embrace any compliments if given to me.
Q: This album had no guest appearances (with the exception of “ABCs”), which is great because listeners got a chance to know exactly who you are without having to share a “space” with someone else. Is there anyone you’d like to work with in the future?
I would love to work with Kanye “Mr. West”, Little Brother, Estelle, Dave Matthews and Mary J. Blige. That mix is crazy but it’s the wish list–and I don’t want to stop there . . . hold on . . . lemme add one more. Etta James. OK, I’ll stop now [laughing].
Q: You grew up in a Pentecostal household, a religion that frowns on secular music. How did get around the stringent beliefs of your faith to pursue a career in music?
Basically, I had to move away from home, honestly. It wasn’t like I wasn’t allowed to listen to radio or CD’s or anything like that. I just wasn’t encouraged to listen to what I wanted to listen to until I went to college. I had to sneak around a lot. My family is a very strong faith based family and I appreciate that. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if it wasn’t for the grace of God. I got a lot of vocal practice with listening to Take 6, Fred Hammond, Yolanda Adams, Shirley Caesar, and The Clark Sisters. My family didn’t even know I could sing until I moved to Portland. It’s funny, I remember I was listening to Crucial Conflict and SWV in the car and my father snatched that CD up so quick, he broke it in half. I was so crushed. But, as I got older and they found out that I had this gift, they opened up even more. And now, my dad breaks out his reel-to-reels he had been saving in the trunk for over 30 years!
Q: Embrace Me was released in 2006. Are you currently working on any new material?
Oh yes! I’m really looking forward to my new album. It’s so sexy! A lot of my band wrote this record with me. It’s very guitar heavy, too. A little hint: [it’s] like a female Lenny Kravitz. I’m just very excited about this project!
Q: When you’re not in the studio or writing, what are you doing?
I love to shop and shop vintage! I’ve just recently opened my own boutique in Portland. It’s called, LOOK (www.listentoyourlook.com). I wanted to incorporate music and fashion into the boutique. We have the boutique by appointment only and focus on only one individual at a time, creating looks that enhance what you already have. It’s my passion and release. Every woman loves to play dress up once in a while and that’s what it feels like when you come to the boutique. It’s like a big closet. We try to focus on pieces that look like they’ve come straight out the runway. We carry Anna Cohen, vintage Dior, Escada . . . I just love it!
Q: Should we be on the lookout for you in any upcoming shows or appearances?
Yes, we have a couple dates in April, and then in the fall we go all out with a tour of historically black colleges and universities! I’ll be giving away a promotional CD to students, and my record label created a book scholarship program that will be administered by the United Negro College Fund. It’s a chance to share my music and give back. I cannot express to you how excited I am about going on tour. I LOVE to perform live!!!!
Q: In your opinion, what’s the standout track from the album–the one that stirs up the most emotion when you hear it?
“Feeling Lonely.” That song really takes me back to the pain. I didn’t want him to leave. I tried to write songs on the record how a women would think. I was trying to convey emotion on this record with keeping my composure as a young lady.
Q: Last question: You’re heading out for the night . . . scheduled at a club appearance or just kicking it with the girls. What do you carry in your clutch?
Carol’s Daughter Almond Cookie Toilette, Blackberry Curve, MAC lip gloss, MAC face powder, a small notebook paper, and a small wide tooth comb.