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Kwamie Liv
Kwamie Liv wears cashmere jumper by Avant ToiPhotography by Hanna Moon, Styling by John Colver

Stream Kwamie Liv's wide-ranging Dazed mix

Copenhagen's smoky R&B singer veers from Ariel Pink to Angel Haze over 36 mins, and shares her take on girl power and liberation

TextAimee CliffPhotographyHanna MoonStylingJohn Colver

Taken from the autumn/winter issue of Dazed:

“Home is where my body is,” Kwamie Liv says, drifting between accents. The smoky R&B singer is based in Copenhagen but, having lived in places as far-reaching as Turkey and Zambia throughout her life, she speaks and sings with an international twang. Her music seemingly comes from everywhere and nowhere, with a dreamy lilt reminiscent of Lana Del Rey or Amy Winehouse, bouncing over spaced-out hip hop beats like a half-finished thought trail in the dawn light. Ahead of her simultaneously eerie and seductive breakout single, “Follow You”, Liv has already carved out a space for herself as one of the most arresting pop voices to emerge this year. Read on for our interview, and her eclectic first ever mix.

Your first track, “Follow You”, is sexy but in a menacing way. Was that your intention?

Kwamie Liv: It’s not like I was like, ‘I’m going to write a sexual song.’ These ideas of sex and fantasy belong to you once I’ve created it. You turn it into whatever it is, whether it’s a sexy song, whether it’s a song you listen to while you’re making love, whether it’s a song you listen to when you’re angry or happy or feeling rebellious. It’s really important to me that people can just use my music however they want. 

Do you find the writing and recording process liberating?

Kwamie Liv: When I’m creating music, I’m really, really free. At the same time, it’s not always easy. Some of them come really quickly. Sometimes I’ll just have to leave the dinner table, or whatever I’m doing, and go and write the song. Other times, I’ve written half of it and the other half is just a pain in the ass to finish. I always have a feeling when I’ve finished a song, I always feel like it could be my last, especially when it’s just me sitting and writing on a guitar. I really don’t take it for granted when a song comes naturally – you really can’t.

You've got a really distinctive singing style. When did you start? 

Kwamie Liv: I feel like I’ve been singing forever. I remember being around seven or eight and singing for my friend. The first song that I made up, I was asleep and I dreamt it and then I woke up and recorded it into my little recorder. What were your earliest musical influences? My mother used to play guitar and sing for me as a kid. She sang a lot of music that would’ve been popular in the 60s, 70s and 80s, but when I grew up I was listening to the Spice Girls. It was cool to look different; to be five girls who look completely different, different shapes, different attitudes, different favourites. You couldn’t put them all in one box. I feel really lucky to have grown up in a time when "girl power" was a cool thing to say. But I would also listen to Elvis hardcore. It spoke to me! 

Has any place you’ve lived had a particularly big musical impact on you?

Kwamie Liv: I think that the biggest influence is probably just having been lucky enough to be exposed to so many different cultures and ways of life from the beginning. I mean, I have a lot of songs that I’ve written from the male perspective. I remember being a kid and people being like, ‘You can’t write a song as if you’re a man,’ and I was like, ‘Why? Says who?’ 

You didn’t change the gender role in your cover of The Weeknd (“What You Need”) – why did you make that decision?

Kwamie Liv: I have absolutely no problem singing the lyrics as if they are from a woman to a woman. When I write songs, even though there’s definitely an element of fantasy in my lyrics, it always comes from somewhere inside me, so even if I write from a man’s perspective, it’s still my story, it’s just told in a slightly different way. There are many different ways to tell the truth, you know, sometimes you don’t have to say things exactly directly, you can tell it from another perspective, but it’s still just another way of getting out what’s inside you.

If you weren’t making music what else would you be doing?

Kwamie Liv: I would probably be working in human rights. I’ve always been really interested in it and I’ve got friends who are refugees, but it’s very important to use myself to the maximum and not to waste my body while I’m here. I think that I can contribute in the most positive way through music because that’s the way I give myself. You will never get more from me than when you hear my songs.

Do you think it’s easier or harder for a pop artist to retain control in 2014?

Kwamie Liv: Well, so far so good. For this EP we did everything ourselves – everything – and not with the fanciest resources at all. It’s really done in the most raw and free way – whatever feels right. You improvise, you make the most of what you have. You’ve got one story and at the end of the day you go home and that’s it. Even if you’re lying next to someone else, you walked that path that day, and you have to live with it.

Lost in the Girl EP is out now