Photo credit: Louise Bichan
INTERVIEW: Liv Greene
Hi Liv, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’ve been well, surprisingly! Definitely have been leaning on music a lot these past few weeks, with how uncertain things are… feeling grateful for it and for my musical communities.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “New York’s Arms”?
New York’s Arms is a song about change and being forced into it, but learning to find beauty in it. I think it’s a message that everyone can relate to in some way, especially these days. New York, in particular, is really hurting during this pandemic. It’s a city chock full of music, art, and community, and yet it’s also currently the epicenter of the outbreak on the east coast- so it’s been really powerful seeing the ways in which the spirit of the city remains as its people adapt. New Yorkers are still finding ways to create and share beauty in the midst of something so terrifying and I think my song kind of speaks to a similar type of perseverance.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
I started writing the song while visiting my sister who lived in NYC at the time. I was reflecting on the excitement of her move there, and the thousands of people who move there every year looking for a fresh start or exciting opportunities. It is definitely a cliche- the whole-moving-to-NYC and reinventing yourself, but then again it’s probably a cliche because that reality is true for so many people. It’s an intoxicatingly busy and beautiful place to live.
The single comes off your new album Every Bright Penny – what’s the story behind the title?
Every Bright Penny is a phase taken from another song off the record, “Wishing Well.” It comes from the line “I’m in debt to the wishing well, cause I see your face on every bright penny.” In the context of the song, the phrase represents the way we pine and wish for people, and how we hold out hope for them, when moving on. It represents how this hope can be positive but it can also harm us by keeping us stuck. Outside of the songs’ context, I think it’s a beautiful hopeful image, about appreciating the little things. Our lives are made up of so many small pieces of beauty that we take for granted, and that is something I have really been reflecting on a lot these days as I get to know my immediate surroundings- like my neighborhood and loved ones- in a deeper way. The record was also crowdfunded: I am fortunate to have a super supportive fanbase all over the country, and it’s because of every penny that they gave that this record exists.
How was the recording and writing process?
The writing process was gradual- while most of the songs were written within the last two years, some dating back to four or five years ago. This being my first full-length record, I really had plenty of time to explore my voice as a writer and write a lot of material to draw from. This was exciting when I got Isa Burke involved as a producer. She really helped me to pick which songs would make it on the album and which songs fit together. The recording process was pretty organic- we tracked most of it live so it definitely breathes in a way that feels really natural to me. Working with engineer Dan Cardinal at Dimension Sound in Boston was also such a breeze- I really felt like I could focus in on performing the songs like I would at a show and the band really followed with that beautifully.
What was it like to work with Isa Burke and how did that relationship develop?
I’ve actually known Isa for some time now. It’s hard to recall exactly when we met over the years but I grew up going to some of the same New England folk festivals and camps as her from 2013 onward (Miles of Music Camp and later on Ossipee). I’ve known her since I was around 15 or 16 (back when she and Lula Wiles were just getting started) and she was a huge inspiration to me. Seeing her shred on guitar and fiddle and hearing her incredible writing and arrangements from that young age onward was no doubt formative for me. She has always been a great pal and mentor to me and it was such a pleasure to have her working on this project because of that. She made it a really comfortable space to try things out in the studio.
How much did she get to influence the song?
I knew I wanted to take the song uptempo on the record, but wasn’t sure how that would translate in terms of the arrangement. We are both big Ana Egge fans and so Isa had the awesome idea of having electric guitar on the track playing more of a rhythmic part, like in the Ana Egge track “Last Ride.” This rhythm electric guitar part, along with the bass, drums and banjo, gave the track the extra crunch and drive it needed. It was so much fun tracking it live with Sean Trischka on drums, Isa Burke on guitar, and Grace Ward on bass.
What role does Boston play in your music?
Boston is where I have been for the past four years and honestly, it has been my musical home for way longer than that. Ever since I started going to “fiddle” camps in New England like Miles of Music Camp, I have had a strong musical community in Boston which I feel has formed me as an artist. I am so grateful for that community, especially the community in Cambridge at Club Passim, the non-profit folk venue and school of music I waitress and play shows at frequently.
What aspect of relationships did you get to explore on this record?
I think the record does a good job of covering most phases of a relationship. There are songs like “Morning Song” and “Independence” about the early stages when things are new and feelings are beautiful – but consequently scary. Then there are songs like “Wishing Well” and “Take Me to the Station” about the pain felt while moving on. Then, there are the songs about self-discovery in the aftermath, like “New York’s Arms” and “The Best Way Out.” I think overall, the record speaks to the importance of change and trusting that it is for the best.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
I take a lot of inspiration from the natural world. I often write looking out the window or in natural places so I think a lot of my understanding of relationships come from my understanding of the natural world.
Any plans to hit the road?
If all goes according to plan (and things aren’t cancelled!)- I have lots of shows booked for this summer. My website- livgreene.com – is the best place to stay up to date on those.
What else is happening next in Liv Greene’s world?
The album releases in May and then it’s off to write the next one. I am moving to a big house filled with other folk musicians in Brighton, MA, so you can expect lots of collaboration from that. I think right now my focus is just to play as many shows as I can when it becomes safe to, and meeting new people (when that becomes safe as well).
1) Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Hot Chicken”? It’s probably …