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Liv Warfield's 'Unexpected' Feat

OPB | Jan. 24, 2014 11:41 p.m. | Updated: Jan. 27, 2014 2:03 p.m. | Portland

Liv Warfield never meant to take seven years between her first solo release, Embrace Me, and The Unexpected, the new collection of songs she's releasing January 28th. But life happened, and she says she's glad she took the time to get it right.

Warfield, who's dividing her time between New York, Chicago, and Portland, says she feels like she didn't really sleep in 2013. "The writing was always there, always on my mind."

Warfield, who's dividing her time between New York, Chicago, and Portland, says she feels like she didn't really sleep in 2013. "The writing was always there, always on my mind."

Ifanyi Bell / Oregon Public Broadcasting

The Unexpected is executive produced by Prince. In 2009, he tapped Warfield to join his New Power Generation (NPG), a revolving collective of musicians who often back him in the studio or on tour.

Warfield was pretty surprised when she was asked to join the NPG. He was looking for singers so her  friends sent Prince's management a YouTube clip of her now-legendary performance of Gimme Shelter at PDX Pop Now.

"I was like, 'Just send it. I'm sure I"m not going to hear anything.' " A few months later, Warfield got a phone call, asking her to come to Paisley Park. "Huh??? That totally changed my life." She says she found her new boss to be very warm and open, but it took her a while to feel at home.

For me it was like Grandma's house. I'm not going to touch anything. Don't go on her good furniture, don't ask for anything. But he [said], 'No, it's all good. My home is your home'. He's always been that way.

Warfield says her NPG experience has affected her singing, her arrangements. "Even the way he conducts." With her new record, she says Prince encouraged her in her writing. So she drilled down on some fragments she'd had simmering for years, and put form to some new songs she feels reflect her path as a grown woman.

Warfield's record reflects the skills and connections she picked up during her four years singing, recording, and touring almost non-stop. The result is a vital, widely-varied collection that's by turns dynamic and silky.

The record defies genre, from the bluesy belts Warfield delivers on "Why Do You Lie" and "Blackbird", to the deep ache present in her subtle delivery on "Freedom", to the soul tour de force of the record's title track, The Unexpected shows an expanded emotional and vocal range.

 Warfield had help from a number of Prince alums on the record, including Roy Agee and Phil Lassiter from the NPG horn section.

Let me tell you - everybody in that horn section, we're all like family. NPG... we all help each other. We want to make it feel like Motown.

Warfield says she hopes to do some touring in support of the record this year. It's not easy getting band members' schedules synched up. But she says she's optimistic it'll happen.

 Album release festivities kick off with an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon this Tuesday.

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