Earlier this summer, Music Times representatives were invited to what turned out to be one of the coolest concerts in New York City. Though she opened the show for headliners Marianas Trench, upcoming pop songstress Ivy Levan proved to us and a packed crowd at the iconic Irving Plaza that the world is her stage and we're all going to watch her rise to immense stardom in 2015. Her debut album, No Good hits shelves this week (Friday, Aug 7) and features a plethora of multi-genre tunes including "Killing You," which features music legend Sting! In an exclusive Q&A interview with Music Times, Ivy opened up to us about her fans on Twitter, the future of her career and much more!
How is the hype around No Good been on Twitter and at shows? How has that experience been for you?
It's been a mix because...I'm a new kid on the block, so a lot of it is ingesting it for the first time, like when I play shows people are like "Wow, what is this?" They're kind of just staring at me in confusion and by the third song they're kind of like "Oh my God, I love this." [laughs] It's really interesting to watch people transition. On line or just in general, people are taking it really well and excited. And the small little bubble I have now, hopefully it expands. This is exciting. [laughs]
It's really hard to nail down a description of your sound. I know that you describe it as "Swamp Hop."
How exactly would you describe that when people ask?
Well, I tend to go with-what do you think of when you think of a swamp? It's dark and there's lots of life still happening. So it's very dark but it's still alive. And all the textures and the mood and kind of eerie, but like I said, there's a lot of life. So I feel like that translates into the music and the "Hop" comes from fun, just dance and fun. It's those two worlds kind of blended together.
What would you say are your main influences to get achieve this sound?
Oh, man, there's so many. [laughs] You know what, I listened to a lot of Wu-Tang Clan when I was writing this record and I listened to a lot of Depeche Mode. I listened to a lot of Rammstein, a lot of like progressive, straight, ballsy, not apologetic music. A lot of hardcore mixed with also 90s new wave. So, I'm all over the board-I love music. It doesn't matter what it is, I have a lot of inspiration. Everyone from Lucille Ball to Peewee Herman and Morticia Addams.
Have you ever heard any comparisons to other performers that were either surprising to you or maybe you found funny-maybe a compliment? Or maybe some you didn't even like?
I get everything. Like when I say "I get everything," I get everything. [both laugh] And at first I'm like, "What?" but then I really-I get it, and it's a compliment cause, I mean, they're great artists. I get Christina Aguilera, I get Lana Del Rey, I get, like-The Cramps, I get everything. I get literally everything and I'm just like, "Hey, you know what? They're artists that made it, did it," and it's just very humbling. I enjoy all of it. It's very funny.
One huge part of your debut album is the collaboration that Sting did with you. How did that even come together?
He's actually on the same record label that I'm on, on Cherry Tree/Interscope. And we were doing this event for Cherry Tree where they have a few of their artists do acoustic sets and people come and hangout and watch. We did that, and he was playing also that day. I'm a huge Police, Sting fan, since I was a little girl, I've idolized him...thanks, mom! So when we were doing that, I told the head of my record label, Martin Kierszenbaum. I was like "I have to meet him, I have to meet him, I have to meet him." And I met him and we just instantly clicked. And he, to this day, has just been a huge supporter and mentor. He loves my music, he fell in love with it after meeting me and I just sent him a bunch of things that I'd been working on. This was like a year or two ago, and he fell in love with "Killing You," and at the time it was just me kind of singing on it. And I was like, "So you wanna be on the song?" I'm not gonna tell Sting no [laughs]. So, I fly out to New York, and we cut it. And it was like a nostalgic, little kid's dream come true. It was insane. Yeah, he killed it. He's amazing.
I also learned that you're originally from Arkansas-
Yes, I am!-
Then you moved to LA at 16, is that correct?
Has that experience influenced your songwriting?
Oh yeah, definitely! Making any kind of huge change like that will always affect you. I mean, growing up I was not-I didn't really fit in, I didn't really look like everybody else, I had different aspirations. I didn't wanna work at Walmart or be a farmer or whatever you do in the South [laughs]. I wanted to make music and tell stories and that was very difficult and wasn't really accepted. So it was kind of easy for me to just be like "Alright, bye." They kind of made it easy for me to just leave. And yeah I just brought all that fire to LA and put it into music.
I also want to point out that, when I think of the food biscuits, I think of the south [both laugh] and now you have this amazing pop song called "Biscuit." I want to ask- is it wrong to see this connection between the South and this double entendre?
Not at all! Not at all. You know what's funny? I was watching TV and I've noticed-cause I never watch TV, I just watched it yesterday for the first time in like, I don't know, who knows how long? And every commercial now, or something is referencing a biscuit. And I'm like, "Where is this coming from?" Because I thought it was just a Southern thing, like "Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit!" You know, like it's kind of a common cheek way to say "Kiss my ass." You know? So, I mean, it's awesome. I'm glad that people are-have jumped on the boat with me.
After No Good drops, what does the rest of the year look like for you?
I don't really want to force anything or do anything to jump the gun. I want people to tell me what they want. I want to give the fans and the listeners what they want. I don't want to, you know, put on a facade or force anything.
You have a credit for the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous. [both laugh] And you haven't really done anything else in film or TV. Would you ever consider going into acting if everything works out?
Yeah, of course! Of course, but my first love and priority has always been music. But as far as acting or anything else that's creative, that's just another way to-another medium of which I can express myself. And I'm the kind of person that just likes to try everything. And at least say I can check it off my bucket list. But yeah definitely, I really enjoy acting. So hopefully I can get this music going enough that people like me and I can continue to do that.
Do you have any advice for aspiring singers?
I really don't...there's like no formula. There's no plan, there's no path. The only way is to just be stubborn and just be honest. Just do you, cause the minute you start listening to other people about who you should be, is the minute you're gonna crash and burn. I know that's cliche, but that's all I've got. [laughs]
Sounds like good advice to me.
Yeah. That's all I got. [both laugh]
For more information and news on Ivy Levan, follow her Twitter account here!