#LetTheGirlsPlay: For Livy Jeanne, Songwriting Is Therapy
Victims of bullying can respond in many ways. Some get angry, while others look to get even. Some teenagers turn inward and live a life filled with trust issues. Livy Jeanne turned outward, helping over 75,000 others find peace and perspective.
The now 20-year-old's career was quite literally born of relentless antagonizing between fifth and eighth grade. Her mother didn't know what was happening, she says. Her teachers sort of knew.
“The typical in and out of the dog house situation, where you think you’re friends, and then you’re not friends," Jeanne explains, nonchalantly describing her experience. "In my case I felt that I was lucky compared to some of the horror stories I heard on TV and from other kids.”
I remember the girls dragged me in the locker room and held me under the shower and drenched me.
The worst day came in eighth grade, when Jeanne showed up for school in full makeup with her hair done, prepared to take part in a Canadian Breast Cancer Society event at lunch.
“I remember the girls dragged me in the locker room and held me under the shower and drenched me," she says without flinching. “I told my mom, at the end of Grade 8 I’m not going back to school.”
Six years isn't much time to get over an experience like this, but Jeanne had help. The Edmonton, Alberta-born singer had a pen, and paper, and soon a guitar purchased from Costco. No one in her enormous family (two sets of parents, seven brothers) had much musical experience, but they knew enough not to question her dream. The first time she performed, her mother was shocked at how good she was. It wasn't just routine mama pride, either — the girl could flat out sing. Accolades and awards started to pile up. Jeanne released two EP's and charted songs like "We Are the Young" on Canadian radio charts. In July, she released her first LP Dashboard Renegade, featuring the single "All Kinds of Crazy."
"Invisible" is the song that specifically came from Jeanne's trials at school. She started writing at 13 and says she's probably more sensitive than others her age as a result of her experiences. She has great awareness for how others are feeling and is more likely to give someone the benefit of the doubt. There aren't too many angry, man-hating songs in her catalog. Of the three songs she played during a recent Song Suffragettes round in Nashville, only "I Got Your Number" came tinged with malice. But it was too playful to be spiteful.
Moving to Nashville is a goal for 2016, but in the meantime, Jeanne says she's enjoying being part of a close-knit group of singers in Canada. The scene is less competitive, so she knows, has toured with or has at least met all of Canada's rising stars and some veterans. Surprisingly, the #Saladgate controversy – consultant Keith Hill called female artists the tomatoes on the salad (a metaphor that meant they should be played lightly to maximize ratings) – crossed the border and worked to bring Jeanne's group together. The #LetTheGirlsPlay movement fits Jeanne well. This idea that girls are catty and actively trying to sabotage each other ... it's nonsense, she says.
“I think girls are more inclined to cheer each other on and be there for each other and support each other."
Additionally, Jeanne has the support of her family. Her seven brothers (six older stepbrothers and one older real brother) made her tough, but they also protected her. Her mother hardly misses a show. No, she's not commuting from Canada for every songwriter's round, but Periscope is a wonderful tool. A tender ballad song called "1000 Times Goodnight" could be about missing a lover and having to say goodbye or "I love you" repeatedly because you just don't want to get off the phone. Jeanne thinks of her parents when she sings it.
“Anytime I’m going through a bad time, I’m like that person, I don’t want anyone else I just want my mom and my dad."
“I miss sometimes being that 6-year-old where my old worry was making sure I had my bathing suit packed to go to my grandparents’ house.”
Jeanne's mother learned her only daughter was being bullied after dropping the singer off at a songwriting appointment. She was waiting upstairs, watching television when she heard her daughter talk about the experience. It was a shock, but perhaps as shocking was how she was funneling the trauma into art. That's an outlet that not everyone has, Jeanne recognizes. So as she wrapped high school, she started the You Don't Have to Be Invisible Tour, reaching over 75,000 students across Canada. She preached forgiveness and the benefits of talking about what's happening. The song "Invisible" continues to inspire kids today.
“It was a blessing and a curse and it definitely made me who I am today," Jeanne says smiling.
Watch Livy Jeanne Sing "80 Proof"