Interview: Liv Austen talks about new music, playing C2C and more

If you haven’t been listening to Liv Austen’s infectious pop-Americana – it’s about time you start! 

Liv Austen’s 2018 has been off to a great start with new music, performances at Country To Country Festival and lots of shows across London.

Just last year, the Norwegian-born singer-songwriter made a splash in the UK country and Americana scene with her single The Next Time. Written with Jessica Sharman who’s worked with the likes of UK country rising stars Ward Thomas and mixed by Ash Howes (Ellie Goulding, The Corrs), The Next Time is about finding the courage to tell someone they’ve used up their second chance with you – we can all relate to that, am I right? The track mixes catchy pop hooks with Austen’s crystalline vocals, country-inspired musicality and a rich storytelling charm to create something truly addictive.

While performing at Country To Country festival last month, Liv sat down with us to chat about her new single, country music in the UK and what makes a Norwegian decide to move to the UK.

How did you get into making music in the first place?
I kind of dabbled in it when I was very young, but it was when I got in to my teens that I started writing proper songs. It just came naturally to me (not saying all the songs were good, but I was still writing loads!), and I loved it so much.

You’re originally from Norway. What made you decide to move to the UK?
I moved here for drama school. I was training in musical theatre in Oslo, because I wanted to both sing and act. One of my acting tutors told me that if I wanted to really excel at acting I should try to get in to one of the top schools in the UK, because they have the best acting education. So I did! I went to the Guildford School of Acting and trained there for three years. When I graduated I moved in to London and got more involved in the music side of things again while auditioning for acting work.

How is the music scene different compared to back home?
Music from Scandinavia is huge these days, and it’s so cool to see. Especially when it comes to songwriting and production. There are girls like Sigrid and Dagny who are doing so incredibly well too. So even though it’s a small country, it’s really making waves at the moment. The difference here is that maybe there is more room for more different genres and sounds to flourish at once, whereas in Norway it seems to go through trends in a more defined way. There are country music lovers in Norway, but they are kind of where the UK was about 5 years ago, thinking that the only proper country music comes from the US – which is just not the case anymore. So for someone doing contemporary country I think it’s easier to be in the UK – for now at least! I can’t wait to tour Norway when the time is right though.

Take me through the writing process for your single Don’t Regret A Single One – what inspired you?
I’d had my heart broken. I was so sick of how love never worked out. But then I started thinking about everything I’ve learned about myself from the relationships I’d been in – and how much more I valued myself and loved myself because of it. And then I wanted to celebrate what I’d been through, instead of complain about it!

It’s quite an empowering track, is that something you aim for in your songwriting as well, to make your lyrics relatable?
I definitely wanted to make a bit of a point of listing the different partners I’d had, and not be ashamed of that. To me it’s a feminist anthem. And I consciously channelled Shania Twain in the production of it, because she is the one who taught me that you can write like that! And yes, relatable lyrics are very important to me, it’s the whole point for me really – to write songs that people can feel connected to.

Let’s talk about your live shows – explain a Liv Austen show to someone’s who’s not seen you before!
We just have a lot of fun on stage. When I do full band shows, it’s a big celebration of music – I want people to sing along, dance, whatever they feel like. We just laugh and rock out on stage. I love it. When I do songwriters rounds or acoustic shows it’s maybe more about sharing the stories in the songs and have people really listen and focus on the music and lyrics. But I always love it when people sing along then too!

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would you pick and why?
I really want to do a duet with Jack Savoretti. I love his music and his voice, and I love how hard he’s worked to get to where he is now. I saw him live 10 years ago and I was sure he was going to be an instant star. I’m glad to see he is finally seeing that success.

How did you enjoy playing C2C?
Man, it was crazy! I cannot believe how many people came to see me, and I wasn’t even nervous (which is rare for me – and very different from my first C2C!), I just went on stage, managed to really live in the moment and enjoy the music and the people I saw in front of me.

What was it like performing at a festivals with such big names as Faith Hill and Kacey Musgraves?
Very motivating and humbling. I felt like I belonged there though, and that it was the right thing for me to do – but when you really think of who else is on the lineup it is definitely quite awe inspiring!

With the country and Americana scene growing in the UK, do you feel there are more opportunities opening up for new acts?
I think so – I think the acts who have been referred to as “up and coming” for years now are actually getting a decent following and making careers out of what they are doing, which is incredibly exciting. And I think a lot of new artists are inspired to try harder too, because they see there is a real audience for it. I think a lot of colleagues of mine, and myself as well, are really finding our individual sound and showing how different and unique we are within the genre, and that makes for a legitimate scene.

What else do you have planned for 2018?
More brand new music to share, and tons of gigs – not “just” in the London area but around the UK more too!