Score another point for Barbados. The small Caribbean island that many people never even heard of until recent years is fast becoming the place to find superior female pop talent.
First there was megastar Rihanna, the modelesque beauty with the unmistakable voice and insane sense of style. Then came Shontelle,Â the versatile chanteuse that had us all dying to get wrapped up in our boyfriends’ T-Shirt last Fall. AndÂ soon everyone will knowÂ Livvi Franc.
The 21-year-old Bajan-by-way-of-Britain beauty, born Olivia Charlotte Waithe, pretty much grew up preparing for stardom. She performed in school talent shows and pageants, began writing songs at age 11, and started playing guitar at age 15. All of these skills came in handy when Franc started putting together her debut album, Underground Sunshine, set for release this summer on Jive Records.
Perhaps fully aware that Livvi will make a major musical splash, some of pop music’s elite have signed on to help boost Underground Sunshine like songwriter Toby Gad (Beyonce, Fergie) JR Rotem (Britney Spears, Rihanna), and RedOne (Lady GaGa).
Livvi has a sound that’s hard to categorize — and she wouldn’t want it any other way. One minute she’s a care-free island girl mixing her Caribbean influences with a bit of bluegrass on her UK debut single, “Free.” The next she’s using her Nelly Furtado-ish voice to coo confidently on a take-no-prisoners club banger for her US debut “Now I’m That B.I.T.C.H.” That track currently sits at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart indicating the US is ready to welcome Livvi’s unique sound with open ears and dancing feet.
Learn more about Livvi Franc in this Limelight Spotlight Q&A:
You’re from Barbados, so of course there will be comparisons to other Bajan female artists like Shontelle and Rihanna. How have you prepared yourself for that and what do you think is the biggest difference between you three?
I find it quite a compliment to be compared to both Rihanna and Shontelle!Â They are talented and beautiful! I think people will see the differences between us once my music is out.
How did you go from island girl to the next big thing on Jive Records?
Next big thing? Wow! I like that title! Hmmm… Lots of hard work, a great team and more hard work! No, seriously, having a unique sound that is still commercially viable is a massive plus.
When you first came to America, what was the biggest difference from Barbados (besides the weather!)?
VARIETY! I was overwhelmed by the wide selection of fruits, veggies, movies, books and music, etc!
Your first single in the US (Now I’m That B.I.T.C.H.) and in the UK (Free) are so different sonically. It’s hard to gage which direction your album will go in. Any insight on what the set will sound like?
That contradiction is the essence of Livvi Franc! I am idealistic and a dreamer one minute and a Bajan in total control of herself the next.Â But for the record, I am a pop artist. My music will, for the most part, make you wanna move!
Was it important for you to kind of break out of the typical “island” sound and jump right into pop music?
I am proud of my Caribbean heritage and my goal was to fuse it in a fresh way into my pop sound.Â I think I managed to do that. Listening to my album will take you to the beaches of the Barbados via NYC, LA and London! [laughs]
What did you listen to growing up and how did you form your sound?
Katie Melua, Eva Cassidy, Etta James, Nelly Furtado, Lauryn Hill, The Cranberries. These artists all taught me to embrace my uniqueness.
We are completely in love with your duet with MariÃ© Digby, “Overboard.” How did that collaboration come about?
My publisher-Sony ATV (Rich Christina) set that up.Â MariÃ© is such a cool person! We had a great time writing and hanging out.Â Frankie Storm also wrote on that song.Â I love her!
Songwriter Toby Gad seems certain you will be the next big superstar. What was it like working with a man who’s work with some of the biggest names in the industry on your debut?
Toby Gad is just amazing and super talented! I had the best writing experience with him. He was the first producer in the US I ever worked with! I look forward to working with him again in the near future!
If we stole your iPod and threatened to delete every song except for 5 of them (because we’re incredibly mean that way), which 5 songs would you save?
I’m Like A Bird – Nelly Furtado
Ex-Factor- Lauryn Hill
By Your Side- Sade
No Other Like Jah – Sizzla
Paper Planes – M.I.A
You have some pretty epic labelmates at Jive. Anyone you’d love to sit down with and pick their brain for tips on the music business?
Hmmm. Always been asked about possible collaborations…never this before! Hmmm… Justin Timberlake. Yeah, the same artist Iâ€™d love to work with.
Find out more about Livvi Franc by visiting her Myspace: www.myspace.com/livvifranc