A singer/songwriter who hearkens back to greats like Stevie Nicks and Carole King, but with a hint of Taylor Swift’s pop-country sensibility and Colbie Caillat’s lilting, sunny vocals. Sound like your thing? Then we’ve got just the artist for you: Liana Conway.
At just 22, Conway is generating a lot of buzz. She’s been called “the next Taylor Swift” and compared to singers from Roberta Flack to Sarah Bareilles. We think those comparisons are a good start, but none of them quite nail down Conway’s unique sound and look.
This breezy, playful sound is just what we need to break up the heavy summer heat. Keep reading for our interview with Liana Conway and her new music video “I Like You.
Crushable: Tell us a little bit about your background in music.
Liana Conway: Growing up, I took piano lessons and I played violin for years. When I was around 15, I just randomly went out and bought a guitar, and started learning how to play. I taught myself, using YouTube and all that. But growing up I really listened to a lot of classic rock. My dad grew up in the 50s and 60s, so he always had a huge collection of old records. I grew up listening to the Rolling Stones and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and the Beatles, and Fleetwood Mac. So that’s where my love of music came from. And one time my dad ordered this Time Life compilation set from some infomercial, and it was from 1960-1969. It had the hits from each year. And I stole the 1969 tape and put it in my little Sony. When I think back to first getting into music, that’s what I think of. When I picked up a guitar, that was when I really started writing.
Our friends at Gurl.com called you “the next Taylor Swift.” What do you think of that comparison?
I live in Nashville, and I actually live in her building, so I’ve met her a few times. She lives a few floors above me, and she’s a sweetheart. When you’re a superstar like that, you’re going to catch a lot of criticism, and I think especially for her she gets a lot of criticism for trying to be country but people think her music is just pop. But I think she’s a terrific songwriter. I think that her lyrics are amazing, and I think that looking back on the music of our generation, people are definitely going to think of her. I’m 22, so I’m her age. When she came out with her first album that was all about unrequited love, and growing up and being a girl trying to find a place, I really related to it. So for me, it’s a huge compliment.
As you said, a lot of Taylor Swift’s songs are about relationships and heartbreak. Where does the inspiration for your songs come from?
I just like to say feeling. Because when I’m writing a song, I don’t usually start with a situation. I start with a feeling. I might sit down and describe a situation in which I felt the feeling that I’m thinking of. But definitely relationships and love. I’ve never really had a long-term boyfriend, because I’ve never been in one place for a long time. But you meet a lot of people out on the road. I have a song on my new album called “Free.” Last summer, I was seeing this guy, and he was in the army, and it didn’t end up working out because he moved away. But the song is about how last summer, I just really fell in love with myself. And I just learned how to go out and be in the moment, and be free, and not be thinking of last time or next time. So within that song I talked about the relationship, but for me it was more of like a general feeling.
What was it like to hear a recording of your own music for the first time?
So eerie. Just one of those moments where you instantly get goosebumps. And you instantly get tears in your eyes. For me, this all happened very unexpectedly. I never intended to be a performer, or an artist. I loved writing and singing, but it was something that I did on my own time, to help me make sense of things. So when I met my producers I went out there and recorded that first demo. On the demo, one of the songs was a song that I had picked out. It was called “Walk in the Sun,” it’s actually on my album. So to finally hear the production of that… for me, it was just guitar, and I dabble in piano. But from me hearing the acoustic to having it produced into music… I’m a big lyrics person, but when you put music behind lyrics it just completely takes it away to a different level. So it was definitely a very, very cool experience. One of the most awesome things to date in my life.
If you weren’t a musician what kind of career do you think you would pursue?
I love it when people ask me this question, because there are so many other things I want to do! I would love to be a therapist. I would love be an archaeologist, I think that’s so cool. I’m very into old things. I would be an antique collector, or an antique dealer. Or just a writer, or a photographer. My dad’s in real estate, and I’ve always loved real estate because it’s a very personable business. You have to be a people person.
If you could pick the brain of any musician for advice or tips, who would it be?
Ryan Adams. Definitely. You see interviews with him and he’s just so lost in the shaping and molding of a song that he can’t focus on anything else. He’s very much a lyrical genius in my opinion, and he plays pretty much any instrument that we’ve discovered.
What would be the ultimate success for you?
This journey has taught me one thing, and that’s to ultimately live in the moment. I get asked a lot, where do you see yourself in five years? And I don’t see myself in five years. I see myself right here, right now. I just got back from tour, and I met the most amazing people, and saw the impact my music has had on them, and my role as a role model. And so I don’t like to speculate about the future, because I know that my goal is to just keep doing what I’m doing. And my goal is to continue to make connections with people through music, because I think that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. It’s not about fame, it’s not about money, it’s not about knowing who’s who. It’s about helping people feel connected.
For more on Liana, check out her website.