“Heartfelt heartland” was the phrase I came up with to describe Liv Greene’s music on the bus back from Richard Thompson’s Frets and Refrains songwriting camp. I’d only heard two or three of Greene’s songs at that time but sitting in the Burren Backroom on the last day of August it was the phrase that kept coming back to me hearing her and Jack Schneider play. Now studying at New England Conservatory in Boston, Greene is originally from DC, and clearly soaked in a lot from neighboring Virginia growing up there. She told me about how her dad would take her to all the Civil War battlefields in the area (of which there are no shortage in that area), vacationing at Harper’s Ferry and I just figure there’s something about that rural Virginia/Pennsylvania air that instills a certain style and mood in a young musician.
When I talk about “heartfelt heartland” I don’t necessarily mean songs about the prairie and pick up trucks, but a set of musical traditions that are most common and popular in the rural, often middle parts of the country. Greene’s music has rhythms of a sad folk song, or a bouncy country tune about heartbreak. A murder ballad was performed at the Burren Backroom concert, and murder ballads have always been most popular in that middle-of-the-country folk singer tradition. It’s amusing how much I kept thinking of great plains songwriters like Woody Guthrie
Greene wasn’t always so folk and roots oriented. She picked up a guitar for the first time at age 11 after seeing Taylor Swift on the Fearless tour. It was at traditional music camps like Clifftop Appalachian Festival that Greene developed her devotion to folk music, going to a fiddle camp at 14 and diving into songs going back to the 19th century. Camps would prove to be an essential part of Greene’s musical development and sociability. She met her partner for this tour, Jack Schneider, at a music camp. She met Liv Baxter at Miles of Music camp, and the two of them would tour twice and a release an EP under the name Liv and Let Liv. She met me at Richard Thompson’s Frets and Refrains camp. It goes to show that sometimes the most important connections you make you may have to get out there and look for, they won’t come to you.
Greene’s show was the last of her tour with Schneider across the eastern portion of the United States, starting in North Carolina and taking them through such cultural capitals as Nashville and New York City. Neither Greene nor Schneider are new to touring, Greene having toured twice with Liv Baxter under the name Liv and Let Liv. Schneider plays bass in a New York punk band called Kyle Duke and the Brown Bag Boys and has toured with them before. But it was the first time Greene and Schneider toured together.
When I asked Liv Greene about their influences, she told me that Jack Schneider was more folk revival oriented, with deep roots in the traditions of John Denver and Peter, Paul, and Mary. Greene herself, while she considers newer artists like Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch to be major influences on her, she also considers herself to be more rooted in an earlier era of music. I think this is why I associate her sound with the Mid-West so much. While New York and California’s folk sound evolved further away from the music of the 1890s-1930s, the middle of the country stayed more in tune with those roots. There was a clear divide I heard, primarily rhythmically, between the songs Schneider led on and the songs Greene led on.
You can check out Liv’s music in a few different places. You can find her Liv and Let Liv work on Bandcamp, her solo single “Gone” on Spotify, and you can like her on Facebook to keep up with future releases. She told me she hopes to release a live EP of recordings from this last tour with Jack Schneider in the next few months, and a full solo album within the next year. You can also check out Jack Schneider’s album Snapshots on Spotify.
Elizabeth von Teig is a musician and author living in Brighton, Massachusetts. Her expertise is classic rock, folk punk, and the blues.