Liv Warfield Is Here To Cure Your Winter Blues
It’s been a tough winter. As a lifelong resident of the Midwest, long, cold winters are nothing new but that doesn’t mean I enjoy them.
The short days, elusive sunlight, and that dreaded four-letter word (S-N-O-W) which has been relentless this year- blah! I’m over it all.
When things seem to be endlessly dreary, sometimes the thinnest of silver linings can glimmer and capture your attention. Recently, I experienced such a lining in the form of an electric live performance by VH1 Soul’s “You Oughta Know” featured artist, Liv Warfield who made her national TV debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon at the end of last month:
I don’t know what I was expecting when I clicked “Play” but I was. not. ready. AT ALL. How could anyone be adequately prepared for the live performance equivalent of being grabbed by the shoulders and shaken until your teeth rattle around in your skull? Who is this fierce woman with such a powerful voice and arresting stage presence, and why am I just now being made aware of her effulgence? It’s fitting that her newly-released (as of Feb. 18th) album is titled “The Unexpected”. Whether she’s belting out her frustration from dealing with a lying lover to the vibration of a raucous horn section or sweetly singing an invitation to partake in an affectionate exchange, the Portland, OR transplant has been killing it for some time now. First as a mainstay in the PDX music scene, and eventually as a backing vocalist for The Purple One himself, Prince.
You might not realize it, but Liv Warfield is on her way to becoming one of your new faves. Keep reading for her insights on discovering her voice, having Prince as a mentor, handling all of the production on her album and more.
JET: Tell us about your background. How did you get your start?
Liv Warfield: I’m born and raised from Peoria, Illinois. I was an athlete most of my life and singing wasn’t a path I necessarily even dreamed about. Actually, nobody in my family knew I could sing until I moved out to Portland, Oregon on a track scholarship when I was about 20, 21. I think when I moved to Portland, I just kind of had different ideas – it was a chance for me to really have a little faith and do what I really wanted to do, which was sing. So I started singing in different karaoke bars and different places. I started to play with a hip hop band and it was maybe months later that it started to morph into me trying to do things on my own. It’s been a long process, but it’s been such a cool process because I’ve gotten to learn about different musicians and music styles. I’ve just started to become a little bit fearless as the years went by, trying different things.
JET: How long have you been a member of Prince’s backing vocal group New Power Generation? How did he become your mentor? Because that’s huge.
LW: Yeah! It’s such a blessing to be a part of the New Power Generation. I’ve been singing with them for about 5 years now and he actually saw a YouTube clip of me singing in Portland. At the time, I guess he was looking for a singer and somebody suggested me. It was crazy, because it was like “Yeah right, I’m never going to hear from Prince. That’s wishful thinking!” Like 3 or 4 months later I got a call and I just was blown away. Even now, I still can’t believe it because it’s such a cool story. He’s just really cool and humble, open and welcoming. He’s a beautiful, beautiful human being – a beautiful person. It’s fun to be a part of NPG. They’ve taught me so much about the art of being a musician…watching and learning, watching how he arranges, watching him as a performer. I was just kind of picking that stuff up. Before I joined the New Power Generation, I thought I was an okay-good singer, I thought I knew what I was doing. Then I was like “Oh! Okay, this is how you really get down”…my ears are open now…I’ve watched quietly.
JET: You produced your album The Unexpected (released on Feb. 18th) – was this your first time taking on that task? If so, what were some of the challenges you faced?
LW: This was my first time being very hands-on in every aspect of the album. As an independent artist, I was involved in every step, which was so wonderful and challenging at the same time. I have all these emotions going [on] in my head, like “Okay, this is a LIVE album, this is live instrumentation; this is recorded on analog. How are people going to receive it? Is the writing good enough?” I didn’t want everything to feel perfect, I wanted to capture the moment. It was hard in that way, but I also have to just trust my instincts and trust my ear. I was just trying to remember all the things that Prince taught me and…being okay with my sound. It takes a minute to adjust to that…it was a huge collective effort and it happened so fast. I say the stars were aligned because it was just meant to be.
JET: You were purely electric on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” – what was going through your head at the time?
LW: I was really excited, I was anxious, I was scared. I had all of those emotions running through my head. But as soon as I got with the band, all of that just kind of went away really fast – something just clicked. Performing with The Roots was amazing, and then all of a sudden the movie just stopped when Jimmy Fallon came over to shake my hand. It was like a light switch in a way, but leading up to that moment I was nervous. I was just so anxious because I just couldn’t believe I was [there]. Even [as I was] running down the hallway it was like “No way, this is really not happening right now!” I’m really really thankful for the opportunity to do it. I told myself this year that I wanted to be fearless and not worry – just be in the moment.
JET: What is next for you? Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
LW: What’s next for me is to start playing live shows. I just want to start playing everywhere and touring…and doing some more TV. I would LOVE to collaborate with Lenny Kravitz and Sade. Just some of the people who I really admire. I would love to collaborate and just be around them, see how they write. That’s my wish. (laughs)
Show Liv’s album The Unexpected some love on iTunes or Amazon, like her fan page on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and get your life on her Instagram. Should you need even more Liv Warfield in your life, you can stan via her website: www.livwarfieldmusic.com.
About Stephanie Vaughn