The Current

Great Music Lives Here ®
Listener-Supported Music
Donate Now
Local Current Blog

‘Pick up your sisters’: Liv Warfield on what she learned from Prince

by Cecilia Johnson

March 28, 2017

"I will talk your ear off," Liv Warfield warned me when I got on the phone with her. A vocalist in Prince's New Power Generation and co-leader of rock/R&B band Roadcase Royale, Warfield met Prince in 2008 and toured on and off with him until his passing in 2016. She's released two solo albums, the second of which (The Unexpected) Prince executive produced. And she's eager to share her memories of collaborating with Prince, saying, "I love talking about him and the beautiful things he did for us."

During our conversation, we discusssed human connection, Prince's support of women, and Warfield's first day at Paisley Park. Here's a slightly condensed transcript.

You recently stopped into the Twin Cities for a show at the Dakota Jazz Club with Shelby J. and Judith Hill, which I thought was intense and really beautiful. How did it feel to be back?

It was therapeutic. It was a breath of fresh air for me. Especially being at the Dakota Jazz — there's something about that place. My husband and I drove down from Chicago, and it was a nice drive. It all came together, and it was just beautiful to be in the area.

I noticed on a publicity website that you three named your show "Love 4 One Another" after Prince's charity tour and foundation. How did you choose that title?

Well, we still haven't decided exactly what we want to do. But for right now, we felt [Love 4 One Another] was important. He would always tell me, "Pick your sisters up. Be there for your sisters." He's told each and every one of us that.

He always just wanted us to be there for each other and support each other, because he did it for us. His light was so big, but he would share so much of it, and he never had to. That was one of the most beautiful things that he taught us: making sure we all took care of each other and that we were all very special. That's where Love 4 One Another came in.

I already knew about his charities, and our goal is to do some of the show where some of the proceeds go to some of the charities he was into. We're still working it out, but I think it's really necessary.

"Pick up your sisters," as a theme, stuck out to me at that show and just in general, thinking about all the amazing women who worked with Prince. How would you describe the way he supported women?

It was like a sensitivity — the attraction plus the beauty within him. He just wasn't afraid of that inside of who he was. He really pushed that and saw that within all women.

Now, I think about all the women, like Sheila [E.], and Rosie [Gaines], and 3RDEYEGIRL, Apollonia. Clearly, we know the list is long. I think he saw the beauty and the power in that.

Prince invited you to work with him after seeing an audition your friend sent in for you. Do you remember your first day at Paisley Park?

Oh my god! I do. [laughs] It's funny, because I walk in and he's the most welcoming. He came to the door! Of course, you would expect somebody else to come to the door, but no, it was him. I couldn't believe it.

The first thing he asked me was if I was hungry, and if I wanted something to eat. I was like, "No! I don't want to touch anything. I just want to look at everything." My eyes were big, and I was just looking around, like, whatever you need me to do! Like going to your grandmother's house — you don't want to sit on the good furniture.

I was super nervous. But Marva King was the one who introduced me to this situation and him and Paisley Park, and I remember walking in and I saw Shelby J. just at it on her computer. As soon as I walked in, I believe Studio A was to the left.

First, we talked. And then right away, we went to the studio and he started playing piano. I can't remember what we were singing, but all of three of us got in the studio and started harmonizing, and it was beautiful.

I was blown away. I had to not be in fan mode, because I was in serious fan mode. Serious fan mode. But after that, he made me feel so comfortable. I was the one panicking, but he just always made me feel relaxed.

Did that feeling of relaxation carry over to the stage?

I don't know about that. He's super cool. He's too cool. [laughs] I don't have that.

Moreso, I picked up the energy of letting go. He really pushed me to go to that place and not be afraid to go there and open up; let go; release yourself.

Yeah. One thing I heard you, Shelby, and Judith singing a lot about on Saturday was change, both in your personal lives and society. What's the most important thing you've learned about change in the last year or so?

More than ever, now, I've learned that change comes upon you quick. And if you're not ready, whether it be something personal or what's happening around us in the world today, you've got to be steadfast and strong and have the right virtues behind you. Because change can change on you like the drop of a hat.

For me, I have to stand strong in my spirit and my universal guidance. That's one thing I love about being around the Purple Family. I think he was very aware about life and our culture and what's happening in the world around us. He made us be aware of that. Of course, we're walking through life, but what is it? Sometimes you've got to think past the stars. Past life. Can you think past it? Loving each other: what do we have left if we don't have it?

People are forgetting how to connect with one other, and I think that's important, too.

Do you have any favorite ways of connecting with people?

Oh, I love to hug. I love hugging; I love being tangible; I love being available and having human energy around each other. Vibes. I'm big on that.

In some ways, the digital world has left us...numb, stale. We're forgetting compassion. We're not being human.

Yeah, a woman gave me a phone call this morning, and I was so surprised to pick up. But I picked up!

Exactly! You're like, "A phone call? My phone's ringing?"

It does that?


It's cool to connect through music, too. Do you have any favorite songs to sing right now?

Right now, I'm in the Buddy Miles world. And strangely enough, I'm back in my Diana Ross mode. I don't know why. Maybe because I've been around my mom. I [often] wish I was in the '70s.

And a lot of Sly. I've been listening to a lot of Sly.

I was wondering about the song "The Unexpected." Prince wrote the song.

He wrote it! I was writing with my management, like, "What do I want to call the album? Everything about this whole experience has been unexpected." I called Prince and said, "You know, I have an idea. They want to call it The Unexpected." He was like, "Are you serious? That's really kind of cool. Do you have anything for that yet?" I'm like, "No." After that, he just kind of hung up.

After that, Josh Welton called me on the phone. Then, Prince got on the phone. He's like, "Liv, I got something." Just like that! He held the phone against the speaker and played it, and I was floored. For 3RDEYEGIRL, [the song] was called "WOW." He goes, "Well, you know you can't have my version of it." [laughs] I was like, "Okay!" So my band and I came up with our version. It's the whole rebuttal of his amazing rock and roll version of "WOW" and how we decided to do "The Unexpected."

At the tribute concert back in October, was choosing to perform the song with 3RDEYEGIRL a pretty natural choice?

It was up to 3RDEYEGIRL. Whatever they wanted to do. God, it was really cool. I think I performed it with him and 3RDEYEGIRL a couple of times, and I was in heaven. I think it was a natural thing for the girls to do, and if they wanted to do it, I was there for it.

I know this is a big question, but what's one of the most important things you learned from Prince?

Oh, girl, that's a big question. Let me go through my Rolodex of thoughts. What sticks out to me — and what sticks out to me in my dreams — was, honestly, you have to be there for your sisters. Elisa [Fiorillo], Shelby, and I — our bond will never break. I hope to get Elisa on one of these shows, too, which would be really cool.

That sisterhood is really, really important. Even if it's a call — we don't have to be on the stage. We're connected to him for eternity, and I think he wanted us all to stay connected, too.

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.