For 10 days in March, residents of Austin, Texas tend to scurry out of their native city like bats out of hell to avoid thousands of tourists, inconvenient road closures and loud music that carries on till 2 a.m.
Streets, such as the iconic 6th Street and Congress Avenue, become jam packed with excited spectators from around the globe, media and performers from across the genre spectrum vying for the spotlight at the annual South By Southwest festival, an event geared to the tech savvy, music enthusiasts and die-hard film lovers.
Fresh off the stage from a performance at Perez Hilton’s popular One Night In Austin showcase, pop/blues/jazz artist Ivy Levan is nothing but smiles and grace as she discusses her debut SXSW performances, her music home at Cherrytree Records and anticipated debut album, which she expects to be released later this spring.
Ivy Levan, a gorgeous yet delicate looking beauty, shows no fear when on stage, giving every ounce of energy and flare into her unique and original material. Growing up in Bentonville, Arkansas, Levan made the nerve-wracking move to Los Angeles in order to pursue her passion, using her Christina Aguilera-like, pitch perfect vocals to support her ever-evolving music career.
Finding the right relationship with Cherrytree Records, initial home to the likes of Lady Gaga, the artist is carefully planning her future pop domination with two extended plays already under her belt as she stays true to her Southern roots. Her previous releases, including singles “Hang Forever” and “Hot Damn”, are leading up to her eclectic full length debut album, yet to be titled, set to feature “smoky, R&B-soaked pop tracks along with fired-up party anthems and heart-stopping ballads.”
“As an artist, I’m so into every kind of genre of music, I’m all over the spectrum,” Levan says. “With my natural evolution as a young adult, I just started gravitating towards more urban and 90s and more of my influences, like Whitney Houston. I just wanted to explore it and have fun.”
Preceding the upcoming album, Levan and her team have unleashed the energetic, edgy and slightly explicit “Biscuit” as the effort’s lead single. The track quickly garnered the approval of glam rocker Adam Lambert and has been slowly climbing the Billboard charts, currently sitting at number 20 on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart.
“Biscuit” is a straightforward pop track supported by intriguing jazz instrumentals, a fun, catchy hook and killer vocals from Levan. The unexpected positive reception towards the single is an accomplishment the artist says she is completely taken back by.
“People are loving it and just taking it and running with it and really grasping the concept, which makes me so happy because at first I thought they’re going be like ‘what the fuck is a biscuit’, but people seem to have a great time with it,” Levan says. “Every time we play it, people know the words and are getting down to it, so I’m having a fucking blast.”
The sleek and sexy supporting music video showcases the artist in all her fierce glory. Even with the fashionable wardrobe, sickening choreography and adorable biscuit man character, the true meaning of “Biscuit” is still left up to the interpretation of the listener. Thankfully Levan was willing to shed some light on the pressing issue.
“I want it to be what you think it is and use it as your own weapon,” the artist says. “In the south, we have a saying called ‘well butter my butt and call me a biscuit’, so I kind of took that and ran with it and basically used it as ‘kiss my ass’, but you’re more than welcome to use it as whatever you want, your own weapon of choice.”
While the lead single is a cute, club-ready, tongue-in-cheek track, ready to get anybody up on their feet, it is definitely something fresh and different for the radio airwaves. The confident pop number is an enjoyable earworm, demanding to remain on repeat for hours.
Levan plans to use that same successful formula for the rest of her album, a sound she has labeled “swamp-hop”, focusing on her narrative songwriting and respectable vocal abilities to get her story across to her fans. The artist performed a number of new songs to be featured on her album during her SXSW performances in Austin.
“There’s a few other songs that are like ‘Biscuit’, that are just like ‘have fun, let go, be free’ and there’s also vulnerable songs, and sexy songs,” Levan says. “[The album] touches on every kind of feeling and want a woman, or a man, would desire and want to hear playing in their car or as their anthem.”
Tracks such as “Hit That” have the same infectious vibe as her current single. “Best Damn Thing” is a sassy R&B/dance collaboration with Tomo Milicevic of 30 Seconds To Mars, as is the somewhat somber “No Good”, which proves to be an impressive live vehicle for Levan’s vocals. Other possible track titles including “Killing You”, “27” and “It Ain’t Easy” have also been revealed.
“I like the marriage. Everything has a certain blend and marriage to each other. Every song is unique in its own, but they all have that thread being pulled through it, the swamp-hop thread,” Levan says.
Levan’s debut album will be released under the guidance of Cherrytree Records, current home to Ellie Goulding, Robyn and Sting, and Interscope Records, home to Lady Gaga, Madonna and Eminem. The independent pop label has amassed a solid record of bringing innovative pop music to the attention of the masses. Their plan for Levan is no different.
The artist describes her extensive collaborative work relationship with her label as a “great process.” Every detail is perfected before it makes its way out. Levan admits little quarrels are to be expected at times, but everything works itself out and all usually see eye to eye in the end.
“As a team, we are passionate about music, and they love music as much as I do,” she says. “The funny thing is a lot of people at Cherrytree are musicians, so they get it. When we have conversations, I’m so open to feedback, I love having conversations and working it out and making the product the best that it can be.”
Her relationship with Cherrytree Records is a welcomed change of pace for the “Biscuit” songstress. Following her move to Los Angeles, Levan experienced a sour deal with a previous label which caused the artist to leave the business entirely for a few years. It was not until 2011, when she met with producer Lucas Banker, who has previously worked with Selena Gomez, that she decided to give her singing career another chance.
“I feel extremely lucky and honored because this experience has been a dream come true compared to my past experiences,” Levan says. “I was signed before, and almost quit the business because of that experience. Finding this team and this family has really given me the inspiration and the drive and the hunger, everything I first had at the beginning again.”
SXSW 2015 was just one of the chances fans got to witness the new drive and hunger from Levan. Being on stage is a “freaking awesome” feeling for the artist. Seeing people singing her own songs, getting down to her unique vibe, keeps pushing her to constantly move forward.
Until the release of her buzzworthy debut album, Levan hopes to hop on a tour, if someone will have her, have her music played to as many people as possible, and have fans continue to call into radio stations requesting “Biscuit”. She’s getting there, step by step.
“Just keep doing what you’re doing Damepires. Call in to those radio stations, keep tweeting me, I’ll respond to you,” Levan says. “This is our baby, our music.”