“My name is Liv.e, and you’re under quarantine with me,” the artist says from a tweed armchair in a living room before starting her livestream.
Praise be. If there’s anything we all need right now, it’s Liv.e (pronounced “Liv”... the E is silent). The 22-year-old Dallas-born, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter is here to save us from the staleness of 2020 with her fresh, debut full-length release, Couldn’t Wait to Tell You.
The album, released in July by LA label In Real Life Records, comprises 20 tracks, each a short story in itself dissecting the nuances of love. Couldn’t Wait to Tell You melds genres from the past to create a sound that is uniquely Liv.e’s. Jazz, spoken word, neo-soul, R&B, gospel and hip-hop all come together, creating an un-categorizable hypnotic, raw haze that drips into your ears like syrup straight from a spout.
Liv.e’s path to music was unavoidable. Born Olivia Williams, the Dallas native never really wanted to be a musician but was surrounded by talent growing up. Her father is pianist Norman Williams and her big brother TaRon Lockett drummed for artists such as Prince and Erykah Badu.
“For a long time, I ran away from it,” Liv.e says of music.
She originally pursued visual arts at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and gives credit to the school for broadening her musical horizon. She reluctantly admits to sometimes cutting class to hear performances from music ensembles on campus.
“When I was coming in, that shit was fire,” she says of Booker T. “I was very inspired, very influenced. At that point I had never seen a jazz ensemble; I had never seen an African ensemble.”
After high school, Liv.e spent a year at School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2017 before dropping out. She lost interest quickly, citing the advanced curriculum at her magnet high school as the culprit.
“I was paying them to teach me something that I learned for free [from Booker T.] and that's not cool,” she says.
Her transition from visual arts to music came about in a utilitarian way — she needed to pay her bills. In 2017, she released the seven-track E.P. Frank on hometown label Dolfin Records. But it was her 2018 drop ::hoopdreams::, produced by 10.4 ROG, that caught the ear of rapper Earl Sweatshirt. He reached out to Liv.e through Twitter, inviting her to join him on his 2019 tour and eventually including her on his single “MTOMB”.
After the well-deserved recognition, Liv.e says she was in a good space to write Couldn't Wait to Tell you. The album served more as an outlet for creativity, not as just a way to make money. The project was born when jazz looper and producer Mejiwhan sent her a pack of beats she couldn't resist.
“After that, it was over with,” she says of the inevitability of her debut release.
There are traces of Liv.e’s Texas roots tucked away in Couldn’t Wait to Tell You — from the occasional chopped and screwed loops to the lyrics of “SirLadyMakeemFall” ("Texas girl / I pull out my saddle / and I rock your world"). But she’s tired of hearing comparisons to fellow Dallasite Badu, with whom she shares familial ties.
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“I don't want to be compared,” she says. “I just want to be myself. I just want to also be seen as another great that’s coming from Dallas.”
The buzz surrounding her debut will no doubt put her on the map. Liv.e’s timing couldn't be more perfect. As the hunger for something new overwhelms us all, Couldn’t Wait to Tell You is a much-needed psychotropic to quell our collective frazzled mind.
Listen to Couldn't Wait to Tell You below: