River Of Diamonds, the 2023 return album from the sensational and highly regarded Liv Kristine, is one of the most meaningful and sweeping rock releases of the year. Planting her feet and owning her space in the scene with both tell-tale sincerity and a firm yet graceful demeanor, Liv deserves nothing but respect for her talent and dedication to the arts and the years of musical enchantment she has gifted fans. It was wonderful to discuss her new record and how to spot the lights in the dark.
GCM: Liv! So nice to get to interview you again for first time since ‘Meredead’, many years ago now! I am so thrilled you are still following your dreams and making beautiful worlds listeners can escape into. ‘River of Diamonds’ is sure to be a career favorite for many people and will stand the test of time. What was your headspace like going into this album and what did you want to accomplish? Many collaborators but also it is very “you”.
Liv Kristine: Hello, Morgan. It has been a while since Meredead. It is an honor and pleasure talking to you again. Well, when my life was turned upside down and everything crashed in 2016 I had to secure my daily life for my family financially. I was very busy fixing my life, so there was no headspace for creativity. When things settled in I had come home to myself and creativity started to flow through me again. It was actually my husband who gave me the courage as well as Tommy Olsson – who has been very patient with the process. Those were the people who said “You will be back” and that “You can’t live without singing.” It is so true. It is an inner calling. Even if I try to stop singing, I could never do it (laughing). So first was the EP ‘Have Courage, Dear Heart’ and now the album. It feels like having published a book. Every song, every chapter is a feeling I have dealt with in my latest years. It feels such a great relief to have this album out. It is actually me coming home to myself. Feeling safe again in this world. Finding my authenticity again. The album is about courage in the time after you have been going through the darkness. You actually learn in the darkness you see the diamonds shining brightly. It feels like my very first album in a way. It is the first album of my second life half.
GCM: “River Of Diamonds”, the title track, is so catchy and memorable. Did you know from the start that was going to be the album name? Rather than like greed or blood diamonds or something, it makes me think of like the endless posibility when you are falling for someone at first or are excited. How we can keep enrichening mutual lives if there is respect and inherent value. How did you know Fernando was right for this? It was a thrill as a fan of you both to hear your high vocals and his low werewolf croon pair so elegantly.
LK: Here we go. It is very catchy but it has the vibes of some of the songs on ‘Aégis’, composed by Tommy also – which has a 35th anniversary. It is sort of diving into that ‘Aégis’ frequency. Having Fernando as my duet partner…he has been around and supported me for years, even when times were difficult. When I first got the track from Tommy, my first thought was “let’s ask Fernando” and he was so eager to be involved. It is really great to have him on the song.
GCM: How was it working again with Tommy Olsson on this record and what were some of your dialogues like?
LK: reached out in 2015. It was lovely to connect again. He just kept sending me songs and I was so happy I could really feel there was the space enough in his compositions to develop my vocals, my melodies and to sing all the words I wanted to sing. He’s the one who really understands the importance of space when it comes to developing words. It is a rose opening when I am working with his compositions. It just melds together in the perfect symbiosis. I loved the Aegis times and I think that was one of the best productions I have ever been part of.
GCM: I wanted to ask you about one of my favorites, “Serenity”. I haven’t seen that song discussed as much. I love the sweeping intro which reminds me a bit of the band Vast or even U2, before you dive into this melodic rock lyric about standing ground in isolation. I wondered if this song was about finding strength and serenity even when you have to walk alone? The “tears gone forever” lyric also made me wonder if it was like the perspective is someone left a bad relationship or like The Chicks classic “Goodbye Earl” where she kills the shitty guy, hahaha. But seriously, sometimes people have to carry many secrets and no one knows how much someone has between the surface. We take serenity for granted until we breathlessly need it.
LK: That is a beautiful comment. Absolutely. “Serenity” was actually the very first song that Tommy sent me. I was in Norway to visit my family. My son and I. I just remember I was blown away one morning when Tommy sent me that song. I went for a really long run up the coastline of Stavanger and when I got home I had the lyrics. I went to Tommy’s studio and did the vocals. That was the beginning of everything, so it is nice you mention that song.
GCM: I saw the most sexist review of an album I have seen in a long time about your latest record, essentially boiling the whole album down to you wanting to get laid because you have a few moments that have some overtones of eroticism, lol. Meanwhile, guys can sing about conquest and debauchery all the time and it is not a stigma. I was just very disgusted that in 2023 you still have people overlook all the artistic merits of an album and all the people involved just to get some click points by being edgy assholes. So bland and rude to your work as well. Does this bother you or do you have thicker skin?
LK: I don’t bother if people have opinions. I am an artist. I am authentic. As long as I keep publishing art, certain people will have certain opinions. Normally, when people have opinions they are not part of something they would have liked to be part of. I like reading the good reviews. There has always been a lot of criticism, but this time there seems to be something for everybody. I am full of gratitude.
GCM: Were you nervous to sing your own rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s classic ballad “True Colors”? It is such a hugely known and iconic song, but you made it feel personal and I love the intimacy of the vocal and piano arrangement as well as the only selective layered vocal production emphasizing the hooks. What do you love about the message?
LK: Yeah, I love the message behind “True Colors” because it is about being authentic. That has been important to me entering my second life half with all the experience I have gathered. Being authentic is the number one rule in life to my values, to really be authentic. Cindy has always been a great inspiration to me. When I am doing my special shows in Nagold I have a very colorful audience. People from all over the world. Gay people, lesbian people. A gathering in Nagold once a year. It is a hymn and thank you for people really beign authentic and showing their true colors.
GCM: What is a beautiful moment or two of your life that stands out as something you never could have imagined as a place or experience where music would take you back when you began your long, winding and exciting magical journey years ago?
Well, on my musical journey there are so many beautiful musical moments but of course there are a couple I will never forget. One is recording vocals for “Gravity” on ‘River Of Diamonds’. That was the moment I thought “I am back”. The lyrics are about finding your soul partner. In my heart I dedicated the song to my husband. When I play the song live this frequency of soul love comes to the surface and it is hard for me to keep my tears back at times when performing this song. And of course I loved all the gigs at Wacken Open Air, for example, or I loved the Sirens gigs with Anneke van Giersbergen and Kari Rueslåttenor. Touring Latin America was an amazing experience.
Uh, And I do remember when Theatre of Tragedy got the first album deal. That was amazing. We couldn’t believe it ourselves. We were students and we went for pizza. We didn’t have much money and could actually afford a couple of beers. We felt like rock stars. That was an amazing moment.
GCM: Is it easy or difficult to work with Michael Espenæs? Not in a “hard to work with” way, but rather did you hold yourselves to a crazy high standard of wanting to capture your bond on track or wanting it to “mean” something? Jon Lord‘s “Pictured Within” came out very respectfully and there is a strong chemistry in the performances. You can tell you put a lot of care and feeling into it.
It was not even planned that Michael would sing on ‘Pictured Within’. Unfortunately, my dear father in law – Michael’s father – passed away about a year ago. There is healing in music. I thought it would be lovely to cover Jon Lord’s “Pictured Within”. Michael loves that song. After I had recorded the vocals for that song he turned really quiet and said he would love to try to record vocals for the track. He nailed it in two takes. I swear he never had any vocal coaching from me. He’s never been on stage or in front of a microphone. So now when my singing students have been asking me ,”Can everybody sing?” my answer is yes. It was an amazing, magical experience. And the song was really intimate as well. So now for my husband it is a crazy feeling as well to know he is on Spotify or the radio (laughs).
GC: Thank you!
Liv: Thank you. I wish you all the best, be safe and love to your family.
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MORGAN Y. EVANS