Livia Mckee draws on personal experience to release eight original songs


Photo courtesy Livia Mckee.

This photo serves as Mckee’s album cover for her album “E-Phase,” which features three of her original songs.

By Sarah Tong

When junior Livia McKee was only five years old, she would put on full concert-style productions and sing in front of her entire family just for fun. She would throw on crazy Halloween costumes, grab her mic and belt out her favorite Taylor Swift songs. 

“I really like writing music and I like performing,” McKee said. “I get nervous when I have to speak on stage because I’m not very good at talking to people but I like singing. It’s fun — I’m not scared.”  

As McKee has grown older, she has become more serious about her music career. Now, she records her songs professionally; she has released singles and official albums on popular streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, while still performing for her family and friends.

McKee’s mother, Jen, said that McKee has been very independent with her musical career. When McKee works on a song, Jen often hears her picking out tunes on her guitar, bass, keyboard, or all three on her own. 

“When she records a new song, they get more complex as it comes to life,” Jen said.  Every day that she works, she adds layers of sound. Eventually, it all comes together to make a song that is all her own.” 

McKee attributes much of her success to her musical training at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in D.C. during her freshman year. At Duke Ellington, students engage in an intensive pre-professional arts training curriculum. Students are admitted into one of eight art majors through auditions and interviews. McKee majored in vocals, which focused on classical music and, helped her learn the foundations for what would soon become her career path.

“At Duke Ellington, everybody had really good vibes and was really energetic,” McKee said. “I learned a lot vocally because we did a lot of classical music — like Italian songs — so I learned a good base.”

 After freshman year, McKee’s dad’s job in the American army moved the family to Germany for a year. There, she attended another music-focused school where she sang with the band and orchestra. 

“In Germany, there wasn’t a lot of individual vocal training, but it was fun to sing with a whole orchestra or jazz band,” she said. 

When McKee returned to the U.S. this summer, she reauditioned for Duke Ellington and even attended the school for the first few days of the year. But, because of his demanding job, her dad couldn’t drive her to the school, so she transferred to Whitman.

As McKee has gained more experience from living in different places and going to different music schools, the subject of her music has changed, she said. When she was younger, she found inspiration from random TV shows, but now, her songs are based more on her personal experiences, she said.

When writing her music, McKee has multiple methods of creating each song.  

“Sometimes I write in my journal about how I’m feeling,” she said. “And sometimes when I want to write a song, I will just play on my guitar and use what I’ve already written. It doesn’t really rhyme, but it just fits.” 

Now, McKee has a total of eight songs on Spotify. Her goal is to release three songs every year of high school so that by the time she graduates, she can have a public compilation of her music, she said. McKee hopes that her teen audience can connect with the deeper meaning of her music about issues such as relationships with friends and the pressures of being a teenager.

Music has always played a huge role in McKee’s life. Through music, she has made some of her best friends, whether they’re bandmates or fellow Whitman music students, and she has even used music to strengthen her relationship with her parents. 

Since I don’t know much about music, I have loved learning about the thing that interests her the most,” Jen said. “Liv has notebooks filled with lyrics and will often sing me parts of songs before they’re complete. I always feel as if she is letting me glimpse into her world.”