Liv Dawson is making a fresh start, so it’s fitting that her fizzing new single, Pushing 21, landed with the spring equinox. And the 20-year-old’s disposition matches the sunny March morning when Music Week catches up with her on a day off. “I’ve had a few changes in my career,” begins the singer, who is under new management and released Pushing 21 through her Olivia Music label with help from The Orchard. “It’s my first independent release, and I wanted to write about empowerment,” Dawson explains. “It’s about being able to do stuff on your own and not feeling scared or ashamed about cutting people off who haven’t really got your best interests at heart. It goes out to anyone who’s trying to make it or put music out and feels like they need the backing of a massive label to do that.”
Reading between the lines, it might be easy to assume that things turned sour with Dawson’s previous label Method, where she signed after songwriter Jimmy Napes introduced her to Disclosure. The housey duo produced her 2017 single Searching, while she has also collaborated with Years & Years singer Olly Alexander and toured with Khalid. But Dawson insists she “has nothing against big labels,” adding that Method “really took care of me”. While she remains open to signing elsewhere, Dawson is revelling in a new era. “When I ended the deal I realised I can actually do whatever I want,” she says. “Even if people aren’t telling you to do things, you feel like you have to be consistent with the music you’re making. They might love a single; but you won’t necessarily want to make the next one sound the same. Now I’ve got loads of different songs to put out and it doesn’t have to be the same one regenerated.”
For Dawson, who’s working towards an album and focusing on “talking about real subjects”, the extra autonomy is welcome. “I’m in control of my diary, which is such a small thing, but it’s quite empowering,” she says. Growing up in Shepperton, Dawson started gigging at 14 and feels the benefit of experience. “I know all about the music industry, I know the dark ends and the amazing parts of it,” she says. “I’ve had people tell me, ‘Don’t put music out, no one really wants to hear any more music’. Then came Pushing 21 and it was like, ‘Ha, I did it!’ [Laughs] It proved those people wrong.”
Now, Dawson is keeping her distance from any dissenting voices and enjoying the industry. On a wave of positivity and with new songs around the corner, she’s excited for the future. So, incidentally, are her fans, some of whom she keeps up with via a busy Whatsapp group (“We had a good old chat last night!”). Before we leave her, Dawson fires off a few wise words for any aspiring pop stars out there. “You have to grow as a person before stepping into the industry. Focus on yourself, learn how to say no, learn what music you like and have confidence. It’s easy to be led astray, but you can do it on your own,” she says, sounding ready to take on the world.