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Rains: Kwamie Liv, for those of us who don’t know— who are you in 280 characters or less?
Kwamie: I’m a Danish Zambian artist, based in Copenhagen.
R: The Rains team met you for the ﬁrst time at this shoot. We all left in agreement that you are equal parts warm and mysterious. Are these two sides of yourself that you’ve heard about before?
K: I’m happy you feel me to be warm, that’s deﬁnitely a reﬂection of the warmth of your team, too. Regarding the mystery, I have heard about that before, but really I don’t spend much time contemplating over it, I’m being myself, and I guess I feel about it as I do with my songs: ultimately interpretation belongs to the beholder.
R: Has music always been something you wanted to explore?
K: Honestly, I can’t remember a time when music and storytelling wasn’t central to my life. I was born to the music of opera singer Barbara Hendricks and grew up in a home where music was a common way of spending time together. I started writing songs when I was around eight and playing guitar at 11, and it has followed me ever since. The limitlessness of writing and what it offers and requires of your imagination has fascinated, challenged and kept me interested always. I don’t know where or who I would be without the ability to express myself in this way.
R: “I’mma take you back to the old town” is a line from one your most played songs, “Higher”—where is your “old town”?
K: I started writing the song in Stockholm on this old out of tune piano a few years ago. Usually when I write I am following a feeling, and so speciﬁc places and situations, even if accurate, are often abstract in approach and called upon from different parts of my memory and my imagination in a process of trying to express a certain mood or emotion. I can’t pin the old town down to a speciﬁc location, it’s more a backdrop for the song, somewhere to return to, when you need to be reminded of your worth and loved fully, exactly as you are.
R: You have Danish and Zambian roots—and your mother was an international diplomat. How has this diverse upbringing shaped you as a person?
K: Moving around, starting fresh in a new country every few years throughout my upbringing, exposed me to different cultures and ways of living from an early age and made me observant and adaptable. More than anything though, I would say it has given me a deep sense that we as humans are more similar than we are different and that the fundamental need to love, to be loved, and to be seen and accepted is universal.
R: Growing up in an international school and traveling the world from a young age has obviously shaped you as the person you are today – but how has it shaped your music?
K: I suppose at the root of it, it has given me an approach to writing and producing which means that I don’t like to feel limited, I like to borrow from different musical soundscapes and to experiment and melt things together without the idea of borders getting in the way.
R: Do you have a goal for your music?
K: Really, I am grateful every day that I get to do this for a living, and so my goal with it, is to keep doing it, to keep creating and growing, hoping that within that my songs ﬁnd their way to whoever could enjoy or ﬁnd it useful. In a more practical sense, having just released my album, “Lovers That Come and Go,” I am looking forward to playing shows and also to starting work on the next body of music I want to put out.
R: Your music oftentimes explores loneliness and the relationship between lovers. Although it appears in many versions, what keeps these two themes at the center of your music?
K: I am fascinated by love and by the things that emerge from different energies interacting romantically. As far as loneliness goes... Loneliness and lovers, they sound like two sides of the same spinning coin to me.
R: What is a contrast to the calm sense of conﬁdence you carry, your music also seems to play with vulnerability? Not only in your lyrics, but also the tonality of your velvety voice. Where does this come from?
K: Writing is both the place I feel most free and most strong, but also where I am most honest. To open yourself and to create from your truth, I believe, inevitably requires vulnerability.
R: As this interview is conducted, you’re on set in Japan acting in your ﬁrst-ever movie. 1) Who is your character – and 2) Is “Kwamie Liv, actor” something we can anticipate more of?
K: It’s funny, I remember hanging out with the director Daniel Dencik a couple of years ago after one of my concerts and him telling me about this project—and me teasing that I wanted to be in it, and here we are actually doing it. The ﬁlm is called Miss Osaka and I have a small part as a hostess named Cat in it. Mainly my focus and role with this ﬁlm though is composing the score. It is myself and Yasuaki Shimizu, a Japanese composer that I really admire the work of, that are mainly responsible for creating the music, which I am very excited about. As far as doing more acting in the future, never say never.
R: On the set of our shoot, you also moved in front of the camera like this wasn’t your ﬁrst rodeo. Are you a former dancer or where did you learn these moves?
K: That’s a sweet thing to say. To be honest, even though I like the process of creating images and it is no longer my “ﬁrst rodeo” as you put it, every time I do a photoshoot where I am the center of attention, I have to overcome myself a bit. I am deﬁnitely most comfortable watching and being a ﬂy on the wall, studying the room, looking for stories rather than being in the middle of it. Probably the only exception to this is when I am performing on stage.
R: Last question—how do you feel about rain?
K: I love rain.