From the age of three, Liv Dawson started “randomly” having choir lessons. Over the next decade, she performed in the West End’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicoloured Dreamcoat, her local pub (in Shepperton, Surrey) and in clubs, as well as trying her hand at dancing. By 16 the singer-songwriter had signed with Methods Records. A track with Disclosure, gigs with Khalid, and 30 million streams followed, along with “well-landed” studio time with Grammy Award-winning Jimmy Napes.
Now, a couple of years after dropping out of college, she has just released her first EP, Bedroom. “I’ve been forced to grow up quickly,” she says. “You have to in order to be taken seriously.” The 19-year-old pens this on the “cutthroat” nature of the industry, recalling sessions in which she was patronised and talked over by much-older men. I ask the obvious, though admittedly tiresome, question: do you think this has anything to do with being a woman?
She’s a real thinker, Dawson, yet she responds without hesitating. “Oh, absolutely!” she says. It turns out that “sex sells” is still a said phrase; but, thankfully, the teenager has her wits about her. “I’ve had my ideas rejected and made fun of because they weren’t sexy enough,” she tells me. “But you have to stand up for yourself and learn what people to avoid.” Her confidence is admirable, yet it’s something she’s still “working on”. (That explains the giggles.)
Anxiety is a daily struggle for the artist, part of which she blames on social media. Indeed, the pressure to succeed – and look good while doing it – is overwhelming in the digital age. But how does this fair on stage? Quite badly, actually. “People make it look so easy. It takes a lot of energy, both mentally and physically, to get up on stage and prove yourself,” she admits. That being said, it hasn’t exactly scared her off. Dawson has recently supported Miguel and Jessie Ware and is set to debut Bedroom at Scala in March.
The EP – expected to be performed with minimal dance moves because she’s “just so bad” – succeeds in relatability; dipping into themes of love, identity and womanhood, while retaining the pop landscape. She sings: “Tryna play it cool, like I haven’t seen you. Keep on hanging back, but I think you caught my stare. From all the way over there, I think that I should go.” The video for “I Like You”, which features the singer’s boyfriend of three years, is accessible too, full of that same unapologetic sense of youth. For Dawson, resonating with her listeners is something that holds great value – she even has a WhatsApp group for her fans.
It’s her parents, though, who are at the front the crowd. Describing them as “incredible”, she expresses how grateful she is for their continued support. Keen to know more, I prod a little harder. She answers the less-intrusive questions about whether her family are musically talented (her response is no, but her mum has a pretty good voice), how they felt about her dropping out of college (“they’ve always been very understanding”), and “does she still live with them?” (she recently moved out and now lives in London by herself). But when I ask their thoughts on fame, the 19-year-old quickly – yet politely – shuts me down, stating: “I like to keep my family and music separate”. “I want them to see me as their daughter, not “Liv Dawson, the musician”
Liv Dawson’s Bedroom is out now on Methods Records. Her London Scala show is on 27th March 2019. Stream ‘I Like You’, below.