"It's a shame that I have to teach other people not to infantalise me" We chat with Liv Austen
Hey Liv, how the devil are you doing?
Hi! I'm doing great – thank you for asking!
Where are you right now?
I am in my flat in East London.
What have you been up to today?
Not much to be honest, I fought my way through the snow to get to the gym and when I got back I didn't much feel like leaving the flat again! It's freezing! My plans for the day got cancelled because of travel disruptions so now I'm just sat at home playing my piano. Not complaining about that!
Tell us about yourself.
I'm Liv, I write and sing songs, I'm from Norway and I came to the UK in 2010. I am also an actor.
What can you tell us about your new single, ‘Don’t Regret A Single One’?
I wrote that a while ago, when I was single and having a moment of being grateful for all the mistakes I'd made in love. I realised that those mistakes, just like all other mistakes in life, had taught me so much about myself, what I want and don't want, and also that in the end the most important person to love is yourself – because that's who you're guaranteed to always be around! I have purposefully been pretty candid about my past relationships in the song because I don't want to shy away from the topic of having had several partners. I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of.
How do you go about writing and choosing which songs to record?
I'm working on my debut album at the moment, so that's kind of a process I'm still living. It's really hard, man. I've got about 20 songs I want to put on my album and I can't do that many – so I have to leave some of my babies behind. It's quite difficult! For the singles I've released it's been what made sense to release at the time. My first single since signing, 'The Next Time', was a song that I felt fit that moment of my career, to introduce that I've changed my sound a bit – and that song represents that change very well. 'Don't Regret a Single One' is going back to the country style a bit more, but I chose it as I thought it was a good time in history to release a sassy, feminist song!
What was your first introducton to country music?
I grew up on Shania Twain. I didn't really think of that as being country at the time, but I guess that was my first introduction. When I properly discovered it as an adult, it was mostly Carrie Underwood to begin with. I was totally obsessed – and that led me on to listening to country radio and discovering other artists.
Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality in the film and music industries at the moment, have you ever felt you were treated differently as a woman?
Yes. There's a lot of that. I feel like the biggest challenge for me is that I'm constantly underestimated. I am not one to show off my skills or knowledge, but when I don't «show off» a lot of people just assume I have no clue. Sometimes it's just evident in what certain people say to me without thinking as well, and how they perceive me without really having anything to base those perceptions on. I am learning how to assert myself more, but it's a shame that I have to teach other people not to infantalise me.
When was the last time you were starstruck?
I don't get starstruck very often to be honest. But when I met Bethany Joy Lenz I experienced it a bit. She is just such an inspiration to me, also being a singer and actor like me. And I was not at all prepared that I would meet her where I did. She turned out to be the coolest person and we had a really lovely conversation, so I relaxed quite quickly. I also ran in to (not physically!) Julia Stiles once when I was a bit drunk, and I think I was a bit intense when I told her how much I loved her. But she was super gracious and sweet about it!
Can you tell us the best and the worst thing about your hometown?
My hometown is a small town just outside of Lillehammer in Norway. The best thing is how peaceful it is, I love coming back. The worst is that there's tons of snow from November until at least March, maybe sometimes even April! Snow is lovely, don't get me wrong – but that's too long for me.
What can you tell us about growing up in Norway and Belgium?
I was very lucky to grow up in Norway. I had a very happy childhood, I mostly miss the nature in Norway. My parents were very good at taking us on hikes and stuff like that when I was younger, so that's become something I really love as an adult. Belgium was a pretty big contrast, as I moved to a part of the country that was so different from my quite humble life in Norway. I went to a very nice school and learned to speak French. Belgium was a very important time in my life, I really got into the music while I was there – I often wonder how different it would have all been if we hadn't moved.
And the difference with the UK?
It's sometimes hard to pinpoint the differences between Norway and UK – in many ways Norwegians and British people aren't that different! Maybe Norwegians are a tad more blunt. Oh, I know! The biggest difference is hygge. To Scandinavians, hygge is the most natural thing in the world, but it isn't to people in other countries. When I started seeing books on the «practice» of hygge take off in the last few years, was when it properly dawned on me that that's the biggest cultural difference. Look it up! The quickest way to explain it is that «hygge» is the practice of making things nice and cozy for yourself, especially in your home. But that doesn't really do it justice, there's more to it.
You’re playing C2C next week, what in particular are you looking forward to about the festival?
Playing is the main thing I look forward to! I also know that quite a lot of my fans who live far away and usually can't come to my gigs are going to C2C, so it's a fantastic opportunity to meet with new people. I am very excited about that. Quite a few of my friends are playing too, so it'll be great to see them and meet up with them.
What can we expect from your shows at C2C, and will they differ from your usual sets?
We will be putting on a show for sure! It won't be that different from my normal set really – we are wanting to share as many of my new songs as possible, so the sets on Friday and Saturday differ slightly.
Who else would you recommend that’s playing at C2C?
Clara Bond, she is great.
If you could recommend one song to hear this week, what would it be?
'Perfect For You' – Rachel Platten. I'm obsessed with the groove in that song! Great lyrics too.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
You've asked some pretty good questions, I'll have to say! I guess you could have asked me what the name of the nail polish I'm wearing is. (it's called Punk Rock, which cracks me up – cause I'm the least punk rock person in the world)
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
It's weird – I always have it black when I'm in Norway, cause it's the Scandinavian way. But when I'm here I have a bit of milk in it, ideally oat milk – that's my favourite.
Thanks so much for your time Liv. Enjoy C2C.
For more information on Liv and where you can catch her live, visit her website. To see what she's up to follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook.
Tickets for Country To Country (C2C) are still available.