Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Franc-ly speaking


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RAW EMOTIONS RIPPED through every chord, piercing the hearts of those listening.
Everyone in the audience remained transfixed on the stage as a cloudy-eyed Livvi Franc delivered an indelibly passionate version of What Now.
This song is often described as the most candid track on Rihanna’s Unapologetic album, and the numbness of the unknown that has resonated with millions was the same feeling which compelled Livvi Franc to pen the song. It is an anthem of deferred dreams, of love gone in a different direction and the highs and lows of a 20-something trying to make it.
“I was expecting myself to be in a certain space and point in my life . . .,” the St Philip native explained about What Now when she invited WEEKEND BUZZ into her home. Recalling that rainy July day in 2012, the singer/songwriter said she was part of a writing camp for Rihanna’s then upcoming album. The two have only met briefly in “2008 or 2009”.
“I was so numb and checked out. He [member of Rihanna’s management] was listening to the songs I gave him and [he told me] that he was not feeling it, and asked me to write about . . . how I was feeling, and I was like, ‘What do I feel?’ I started to feel that lump in my throat  . . .  and when he finished the conversation, I went out and [cried],” she recalled.
“I don’t know what made me pick up the phone and start writing. My eyes were blurry and tears were in my eyes as I wrote [the first lines of the song].”
What Now was perhaps one the most emotionally charged songs of the possibly thousands the talented Livvi, born Olivia Waithe, has written. To her, it explained the years-long feeling of “chasing Olivia.”
But the former Queen’s College student believed she is a bit closer to catching that little girl. These days, she has stripped down to the basics of undeniable natural beauty. Long tresses, provocative dance moves, tight skirts and cat-eye make-up have been replaced by a self-described “laid-back island girl” style and bob-length locks. Gone is the bubble gum, dime-a-dozen pop princess package which gave the world Now I’m That Chick and Automatik on the Jive Records roster. “ . . . I don’t like [Now I’m That Chick]. I think I have grown to accept it because you cannot change the past, but that song was really a one-off thing,” she revealed.
“ . . . It was the first dance/club song I wrote and I thought I could write it off [and] tuck it away since it does not really represent me.”
The rising star had been signed to Jive for a year at that point, with nary a single. Once the label jumped at the song, the choice was made to take advantage of the interest. Now I’m That Chick’s 2009 release received lukewarm success. Playing a quick game of ‘what if’ with the reporter, she found it hard to fathom what life would be if the song had become a hit.
“What if it was a big No. 1 song and everyone knew me as ‘that chick?’ I would have to keep up with that persona . . . .
“ . . . I would dread performing Now I’m That Chick. It was so not me. I was living outside my skin and watching myself. I am thankful it played out the way it did. A success was what I was seeking because I needed the validatation. It would have been a boost, even if a short-term boost because it was a role I was playing. I am glad that the failures have led me to the position that I am in now.”
Livvi Franc admitted that when she was signed in 2007, seen as a member of the “Bajan invasion” which made the international music scene sit up and take notice, she was not prepared for what was to come.  “I don’t think I was in a position to be a recording artiste and go out there and represent something. I kinda felt like I rushed into it.”
In the end, Jive did not pursue her album. The singer was able to get out of the deal in 2010 and inked another that same year. With song writing becoming the budding aspect of her career, Livvi Franc packed two suitcases and moved to Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles. The move validated her writing abilities, attending a writing camp for Beyonce and nabbing song placements on projects by Ciara, Leona Lewis, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez among others.
Currently, she moves back and forth between here and LA, and is signed to Sony ATV Publishing and Warner Brothers Records. Although the artiste found it easier to work in the States, it also became a little hard to bear.
She also admitted to issues with insecurity and the importance of a supportive family unit, which now included an adorable seven-week-old nephew. “I was lost when I went to Los Angeles . . . .What helped was coming back and becoming closer with my family. I saw that as where I came from and I started to understand myself a lot more.”
The chase after Olivia is an ever-changing one. But the path thus far has started to tease out the artiste inside.   Livvi Franc believes she is now better placed to put out the album she never had. This time, she will not overthink it, and instead work on building a fan base which will be invested in her one-of-a-kind charm and distinctive vocals. The sound will be organically Livvi Franc.
“I decided to just write and keep songs for myself and I feel a stronger inclination to represent something.”

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