Dolfin Records vocalist and producer (Liv).e (pronounced Liv) has long had music as a constant presence in her life. With her mother performing as a vocalist for the family’s local church choir growing up, the Dallas native’s father also served as a skilled keyboard player for a variety of blues and gospel acts. The family interest in music then extended to the next generation, as her brother picked up drums while she absorbed the sounds of The Clark Sisters, Earth Wind & Fire, and Stevie Wonder at a young age.
Though music was always present, (Liv).e admits that she was a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to creating and releasing her own work. “I was in R&B ensemble in high school, that’s about it,” she says with a laugh. “I’d sing in the shower, etc.”
Since graduating from the famed Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, however, music has quickly become more of a serious vocation. After a brief stint in art school after graduating, (Liv).e decided to step away from college for the time being and take her love of music to a new level.
“I remember one night I called Jon and I was like, ‘Yo, I’m crazy uninspired bro. SOS.’ He was like, ‘You just gotta not give a fuck.’”
With less than two years of releasing music under her belt, she has been fairly prolific with her output. A key turning point in the journey from casually singing to capturing her own sounds for formal projects happened when she started using Ableton. It was a lightbulb moment that made her realize she could create with a level of freedom and ease she hadn't previously thought possible. “I think that's when I was just like, ‘Ohhhhh, word? I can make stuff this fluently?’” she says.
For (Liv).e — who uses the software to concoct her own productions — the benefits of Ableton also extend to her vocal work. “It’s interesting working with it vocally, ‘cause you can do the same thing you would do to your beats to your vocals,” she says. “Like if I wanted to loop my vocals, I could. Pitch-bending, all types of weird stuff. You can get real sciencey in Ableton.”
The willingness to “get real sciency” and detail-oriented with her music proved to helpful on (Liv).e’s 2017 debut FRANK. Still figuring out her comfort zone as a vocalist and an artist at the time, she put a great deal of thought and care into how to present her voice to a broader audience. “I think on FRANK I was more wary of my vocals,” she says.
“I decided to make a whole lil’ project overnight, using my heart — not my brain. They’re prolly my favorite songs yet too, I can’t lie.”
To compensate this, she and album engineer Ben Hixon tried a variety of techniques to get her vocals sounding just right. “They were really in the cut,” she says. “We were pushing everything super far back, making it gritty, stacking it — all that.”
Even though she was able to find a creative comfort zone on her first official release, (Liv).e found the time following her Frank debut to be a somewhat difficult one. As is often the case with artists after they put out their first project, the pressures of increased expectations and keeping with timelines started to interfere with the process of creating. “I started getting stressed out cause I felt like I wasn’t making enough music,” she says. “I started feeling kind of blocked, but I didn’t really have a reason to.”
Eager for some advice from a trusted friend and collaborator, she phoned Jon Bap — another Dolfin Records artist and one of the key producers on Frank. “I remember one night I called Jon and I was like, ‘Yo, I’m crazy uninspired bro. SOS,’” she says. “He was like, ‘You just gotta not give a fuck.’”
“It’s interesting working with it vocally, ’cause you can do the same thing you would do to your beats to your vocals. Like if I wanted to loop my vocals, I could.”
Inspired by Bap’s blunt, no-nonsense advice, she started recording without overthinking any aspect of the creative process. “I decided to make a whole lil’ project overnight, using my heart — not my brain,” she says. “They’re prolly my favorite songs yet too, I can’t lie.”
By the time (Liv).e was done she had RAW DAYBREAKS VOL.1, a steller four-song EP that she created in the course of one night. One aspect of the project that stands out to her is the absence of post-production and edits, a decision she thinks helped make the music resonate more with listeners. “Believe it or not, every take of RAW DAYBREAKS was...raw,” she says with a laugh. “No editing, no nothing. Raw vocals. That tape definitely allowed me to free a part of myself”
For (Liv).e, this kind of freeform project gave her fanbase an intimate peek into some of the purest aspects of her creative process. “It’s like hearing the notes an artist takes for what they wanna do in the future almost,” she says. “Except I’m just like, ‘Yo, imma just do this right now, this is how I feel.’”
“Believe it or not, every take of ‘RAW DAYBREAKS’ was…raw. No editing, no nothing. Raw vocals. That tape definitely allowed me to free a part of myself.”
This one-take, demo style recording method is something she would love to see other artists adopt as well, as it gives the listener a chance to experience the artist’s work on a different emotional wavelength. “Imagine if we got to hear D’Angelo’s demo tapes. Or Dwele,” she says. “It’d be crazy.”
Since putting out RAW DAYBREAKS and 3AMSPACECADET at the end of 2017, (Liv).e has had a busy 2018. First came Swarvy’s smooth rework of RAW DAYBREAKS, which was later followed by the entirely 10.4 ROG-produced ::hoopdreams:: album. In addition to collaborating with producers both in and outside the Dolfin Records community on a variety of projects, she’s also working on her own live instrumentation and production.
However the music gets made, (Liv).e remains thankful her work is resonating with an ever-growing fanbase. And she’s confident that if she stays true to herself and continues to work hard, her sphere of influence will only broaden. “I’m super grateful for people’s ears and knowing I’m a little part of their happiness,” she says. “I know as long as I keep going hard as hell in my own lane everything will be on time.”