Meet Liv Dawson: the London pop poet working with Disclosure and Olly Alexander

The young star talks Frank Ocean, star-studded collaborations and her 'unexpected' debut album

At the tender age of 18, Shepperton-born singer Liv Dawson has achieved more than most musicians would dream of in their lifetime. She’s racked up millions of streams online, sold-out a headline show at London’s Omeara and in Disclosure and Olly Alexander, collaborated with music’s brightest young stars.

Her latest solo track, the Disclosure-produced ‘Searching’, is a catchy floor-filler with a hefty bassline and even bigger hook. It’s the kind of confident track you’d put out after your first or even second album. But that’s not Dawson’s style. She’s been in the game for five years now and looks set for the top.

We caught up with Liv at Brighton’s Wildlife Festival to find out what makes her one of the most exciting young pop stars around.

What was it like working with Disclosure?

“They act just like teenagers. That’s why I think we get on so well. We’d go in the studio and talk for an hour or two and then write a song. We had loads of funny moments together and I picked up a lot of tips and tricks about writing and producing from them.”

How did you meet?

I work with [producer] Jimmy Napes a lot and he’s friends with them. We were just jamming in the studio one day and he said we should do a couple of sessions together. So we did!

What was the process like in the studio?

“So Howard writes a song on piano and Guy [Lawrence] will take it away and do the beats for it. They’re both really involved with the writing which is great, because it sucks to be in a room writing a song by yourself.”

Your 2016 single ‘Open Your Eyes’ was written by Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander. How did that happen?

“He basically wrote the song and sent it to me because the band thought I had a really nice voice. I listened to the track and I fell in love with it straight away. At first it sounded like a ballad – so beautiful. To be honest, I still play the original sometimes even now, but then Disclosure put their little twist on it and it instantly came to life. It was crazy. I feel so privileged that these people want to work with me.”

You were very young when you started out – was that a good thing?

I think because I’ve been doing this for quite a while now, since I was 12 or 13, I feel like I can just do it. I understand how it works. I always feel like I’m learning and I think that’s the good thing about starting young. You can grow so much and be influenced by other people, pick up things on the way, it’s really useful.

 

Liv Dawson

Who’s your biggest inspiration?

“I love Frank Ocean. His songs are like poetry, which I love reading. I literally analysed Blonde for so long because I didn’t understand it at first. I was like ‘what is this?’ Then I listened to it more and more, and gradually started to understand and really relate to some of the things he’s going through.”

How does poetry feed into your own music?

“Mostly I use it as inspiration for lyrics, but I used to read for pleasure quite a lot. I prefer it to novels.”

How’s your debut album coming along?

“I’m writing it at the moment. Hopefully it’ll come out next year. But it’s a long process and I haven’t finalised any of the songs just yet. There’s definitely a very interesting base there though.”

What’s it sounding like?

“It’s not just one sound. I want to keep it different. I don’t want it to sound the same the whole way through. My favourite albums, like Zara Larsson’s latest or Stormzy‘s, are very different, very unexpected. I want to surprise people like that.”

From: London

Social: @livdawsonmusic

Buy: Latest single ‘Somewhere Good’ is out now

For fans of: Ellie Goulding, Sigrid

Best track: ‘Tapestry’ – sparse beats and hushed piano perfectly compliment Dawson’s soulful croon.