Livvi Franc: babe in total control

There’s something in the water in Barbados that produces great singers. The island's latest sensation is Livvi Franc

Livvi Franc. Photograph courtesy Ron Cardiz

There’s something in the water that’s contributing to the success of Bajan singers.

That’s Livvi Franc’s laughing response to questions about Rihanna. She gets a lot of them – once you’re a singer from Barbados who’s been signed to an international label, the comparisons are inevitable.

That doesn’t bother Franc, though. She’s one of a handful of Bajans who have been scooped up by a major recording company as the interest in artistes from the island continues to grow.

“I expect it,” she said. “I have been getting it – they ask if I know her. It doesn’t bother me – I am happy Bajan artistes are representing.”

Franc, née Olivia Charlotte Waithe, has been fielding questions about Rihanna while promoting her debut single “Now I’m That Bitch”. Don’t let the title turn you off: it’s really a song about female empowerment, the 21-year-old explained.

“When you’re not feeling confident, a guy you like might pass you straight, but as you get older and you are more in control of your life, that person might want to come back into your life,” she explained. “Bitch” in this case stands for “Babe in Total Control of Herself” and is the type of revenge pop anthem that teenage girls undoubtedly go for. The song features reggaetón singer Pitbull, and was released in June last year.

Franc’s musical taste is eclectic, and so is her self-titled album, due out this quarter.

“Nelly Furtado is one of my inspirations, and there is some of that sound on the album, but also dance and R&B.”

There aren’t any distinct Caribbean sounds like soca or dancehall, but Franc said she has included elements of the music on her album. “Caribbean music has a feelgood vibe, and that’s what I’ve taken from it,” she said.

Franc had over 100 songs from which to select 13 for her album. She worked with star producers such as RedOne (Sugababes, Lady Gaga), JR Rotem (Rihanna, Leona Lewis) and Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen, Kylie Minogue). Although she writes her own lyrics as well as the tunes, she had some assistance from Salaam Remy, who co-wrote “Now I’m That Bitch”, as well as Eg White (Duffy, Adele) and Amanda Ghost (James Blunt, Shakira), who wrote some other tracks.

Born to an English mother and Bajan father, Franc spent her early childhood in England before migrating to Barbados with her family. Her maternal grandfather, Frank Wilson, spotted her talent at the age of two, when he noticed her sitting at the piano playing a tune of her own, with both hands. He predicted she would be a musician one day. She adopted her stage name Franc in his memory.

Despite her grandfather’s prediction, Franc never envisioned a future in music.

“I always wanted to do something special and different, but didn’t know what,” she said, confessing that she even thought of following in her mother’s footsteps to become a hairdresser.

She had been writing songs since the age of 14 and performed at school concerts, although she was quick to point out she never considered herself a Mariah or Whitney.

One of her friends introduced her to her current manager, Kerrie Thomas-Armstrong, who saw her potential and encouraged Franc to develop herself as an artiste.

Not everyone was on board with her decision, though. Her parents wanted her to go to the University of the West Indies, where she had applied to study business and psychology. Franc made a deal with them. She would try to get a recording contract and if nothing happened after a year, she would go to UWI.

Luckily, the deal with Jive came before the year was up. Today, Franc, who still lives in Barbados when she is not flying all over the world to promote her single and the upcoming album, is enjoying the experience.

Her advice to others dreaming of a singing career? “Just be yourself, embrace yourself and what you have, share it with the world. I am not in it for the fame. The best thing for me is to be on stage doing my thing.”