An Interview with Kwamie Liv

Kwamie Liv’s songs are floating, transgressive; plucked like fruit from a rich internal sky. Experimenting with trip-hop, R&B and electronica, she moves freely between genres and what they represent, interlacing poetic abstraction with darkly tinged melodies. Her voice is subtly layered, held back.

The Danish-Zambian artist first emerged in February and sparked an instant flurry of blog posts after publishing the sombre track 5 AM on Soundcloud. Since then, she has released songs in steady succession while keeping a low profile, wanting the music to speak for itself. Kwamie Liv is now releasing her debut EP, Lost in the Girl, and I was eager to hear the stories behind it. Strangely, it all began with coffee, cigarettes and a shed.

PHOTO BY MAFALDA SILVA

PHOTO BY MAFALDA SILVA

How did you start making music?

The first song that I wrote came to me in a dream when I was eight. I woke up and sang it into this little recorder that I had. I realised I could create songs. When I was eleven I picked up a guitar and started playing. That became my real way into writing music with instruments. From an early age it was something that I used and enjoyed.

What was the dream about?

The dream is very abstract to me now, but the song was about coffee and cigarettes and a shed. When I look back at some of the songs I wrote as a kid I have no idea where they came from, but I think they’re just based on observing. Somehow you model everything up... Coffee, cigarettes and a shed.

That sounds quite grown up for an eight-year-old! Like an old man’s thing.

I guess it does! There really are no boundaries for what you can say or what perspectives you can adopt when it comes to music. It’s limitless.

5 AM was the first song you put out. What can you tell me about it?

It’s an introverted song in many ways. It takes place somewhere dizzy. You’re in the wave, in the movement, but somehow outside it. It’s about not quite belonging. Follow You is more on the edge, a mood. With Follow You, I imagine driving alone on an endless humid night. Nobody can find you and that’s a good thing. Suddenly, from nowhere, there’s a hand on your shoulder and you don’t know whether it’s your lover or your friend or your fear or your own shadow. It’s more fast-paced. You’re moving, running, free, but there’s also something right there. In 5 AM you’re in the middle of things, observing the world around you.

Like a dream.

Maybe. There might be a dreamlike quality, but for me there’s always a real connection. When I write the music, I’m very grounded in something real and from that platform I can jump into, for example, the voice of an old man who drinks alcohol and sleeps in a shed. It always ties back and is centred around something that’s very real.

And how about Comin Thru? It’s more upbeat and straightforward.

That song came about differently. I walked into the studio and (my producer) Baby Duka was like “hey listen to this”. The beat just blew my mind. There was something rebellious about it and writing it leaned itself up against a pulse that was already there. I was already inspired by a feeling that is the exact opposite of fear. That song is also young; believing that anything’s possible regardless of who you are or where you come from.

It comes back to the idea of boundary-lessness. I create on my own terms. It’s multifaceted, but it’s always you. We are many things.

This interview was originally published on the Oh Comely blog.