STORY WRITTEN BY FERN BRODKIN
For Digital First Media
Livvie Forbes just graduated from high school. And while most kids her age spend their senior year applying to colleges, Forbes spent her senior year recording her debut album, “Chronic.”
“Chronic” is a triumph on many levels. Not only does it showcase Forbes’ tremendous talent, it is a testament that with perseverance and hard work you can accomplish something great.
Forbes has not had an easy life. In childhood she was diagnosed with several medical conditions that caused joint dislocation and chronic pain. And if that wasn’t difficult enough to endure, she fell victim to intense bullying at school. That resulted in depression, anxiety and loneliness.
The upside is that Forbes looked inward and began writing what she describes as “little poems that I would put a tune to in my head.” And she began to pursue her interest in the arts.
“I’ve always been interested in music, but I was always behind the stage,” said Forbes, in a telephone interview from her home in Wayne. “I was the head of the stage crew in middle school and I was really just doing sound and lights. I went to a creative arts camp in 6th grade and my friends made me do a musical. That was my first time performing. I didn’t start singing until my second year at the after-school program (School of Rock). I was 13 when I started singing.”
At age 15 Forbes recorded her first demo with Dan Minutolo, and that demo found its way into the hands of David Uosikkinen, drummer for The Hooters and In the Pocket.
“My dad knew him and my dad gave him my CD without telling him who I was,” explained Forbes. “David waited a few months to listen to it and then he put it in his car and he had to pull over because he was so astonished by my voice.”
Uosikkinen knew right away that he wanted to work with Forbes.
“When I heard her, I knew we could make a cool record,” said Uosikkinen. “I felt like I could mentor her on her musical path.”
“We didn’t really have a goal,” said Forbes about those initial sessions. “He just (said), ‘Come to Eric’s (Bazilian, of The Hooters) studio and we’ll just mess around and maybe have a song come out of it.’ I think halfway through the process we (said), ‘Oh, we can do an EP.’ We had four or five songs and then I wanted to do a few more songs and then it turned into an album.”
Uosikkinen, who produced the project, assembled a band that any artist — novice or seasoned pro — would be proud to work with. In addition to himself on drums, Uosikkinen tapped Bazilian, Steve Butler (Smash Palace, In the Pocket), Kenny Aaronson (The Yardbirds, In the Pocket), Fran Smith Jr. (The Hooters, In the Pocket) and Wally Smith (Smash Palace, In the Pocket), who happened to be her piano instructor at School of Rock.
“When asked about whether she was nervous about working with such renowned talent, Forbes replied, “Honestly, it didn’t really affect me that much for everyone else to have so much experience because they welcomed me with open arms and it was really awesome and comforting. Everyone was friendly and we got work done and it was really cool.”
Two of the songs on the album, “Small” and “Addict,” are originals. Forbes wrote the lyrics when she was 14. She and Butler co-wrote the music three years later.
The rest of the album includes an interesting selection of covers: Fleetwood Mac’s “Edge of Seventeen,” Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise,” and George Ezra’s “Budapest,” as well as Bazilian’s “Love is All” and Nate Rylan’s “Until the Bitter End.”
Despite Forbes being a novice, she displays vocal talent beyond her years. She also plays ukulele and banjolele on the album. She is self-taught on both.
Forbes is starting to really take in the fact that she truly is gifted.
“I actually didn’t realize that I had talent until the album came out,” said Forbes. “I have been bullied my whole life and been told that I was worthless and didn’t have anything special about me. It was really hard to try to come to terms with having something special.”
Forbes has also come to terms with the chronic pain.
“The pain has lessened since school ended because there is a lot less stress. My joints are still dislocating whenever they want but the chronic pain has lessened. It hasn’t gone away but it’s a lot more manageable. A lot of it is just a coping mechanism I have, pretending there isn’t any pain.”
As for the emotional pain, Forbes is still in an internal battle.
“Bullying caused my debilitating chronic pain. That emotional stress (is) being turned into physical pain by my brain because it doesn’t know what to do with it.”
Forbes has become an advocate for anti-bullying.
“It’s so important to focus on the fact that kids are being beaten down every day,” she said.
And her advice to kids who are being bullied?
“Don’t turn to your friends, go to an adult that knows what they’re doing because you can overwhelm your peers.”
As for Forbes’ future, she definitely intends to “keep working on music, keep producing more music, hopefully get a salary and have people come out to more shows.”
If this CD is any indication, Forbes will have much success in the future, in music and in life.