LONG READ (4,000+ WORDS)
When hearing the term ‘superstar DJ’, our minds are – naturally – transported towards an internal ‘highlight reel’ which includes wild parties, confetti cannons, private jets, and champagne bottles bursting over crowds of adorning fans. But deep behind the persona of every ‘A-List’ music producer rests the human being, like you or I. Normal, everyday people, looking to make their way through life, jettisoned into the spotlight on account of supreme musical talent. By the time fans were given an insight into – for example – Tim Bergling, the human being behind the juggernaut conglomerate of the ‘AVICII‘ brand, the Swede’s own fate was tragically already final. Four years on, producers are encouraged – more than ever – to speak their truth as we delve deep into the latter depths of 2022. But opening up on your biggest traumas and moments of heartbreak can often prove trickier than first anticipated, especially when feeling frightened, or intimidated, as Liv Nervo sadly discovered in 2019.
Liv is best known as one half of the iconic ‘NERVO‘ sister-act, and alongside her spritely twin Mim, the Aussie duo have reigned supreme as the biggest female artist(s) in electronic dance music for well over a decade. Packing in mainstage performances in legendary arenas such as Tomorrowland and Creamfields, or signing lucrative deals with Las Vegas and Ibiza residencies, the pair have proved a beacon of inspiration for their fanatical #NervoNation fanbase, regularly filling the Top #20 positions in the infamous DJ Mag Top 100. But despite their super stardom, and public persona as shining rays of positivity to millions across the globe, Liv‘s own tale of deceit, manipulation, and abandonment, has soured her experience of what should have proved her ‘perfect family’. Despite, “a full life fracturing” on behalf of Liv’s ex-partner, Matthew Pringle, father of Liv‘s daughter – who is readily posted on Liv, and NERVO‘s own official (and fanbase) socials, but shall be referred to as ‘AP‘ from here on in – Liv’s story is ultimately a lesson in hope and resilience…
“I was 8 months pregnant and suicidal”– Liv Nervo
“I was actually already six month pregnant when I discovered my partner had been living a triple life,” Liv reflects, demonstrating tremendously raw authenticity in her recollection. “Matthew (who Liv affectionately referred to as ‘Chip’ in their heyday, on account of his surname),
is from Auckland, and I later found out that he had a long-term partner there (in New Zealand), and even a couple of kids! At that point, when all this came to light, he just completely disappeared on me, but also on our daughter, and I just felt this immense sense of betrayal. I’d never been faced with deceit like that. There was also now this element of, abandoning his own child to contend with, too. A child we had very consciously attempted to create!”
Liv’s heartbreaking tale was further compounded by complete shock when learning that AP’s paternal side, including her ex’s own Mother, chose to estrange their new granddaughter, rejecting and ignoring her existence.
“What makes things worse is the knowledge that his behaviour has been endorsed and supported by Lynnette (his mother). It’s a generational betrayal of my little AP, not only by her Dad, but also by her Grandmother, because I assumed most Grandmothers would be delighted to discover they have a beautiful, loved girl and would want her to be part of their life. The Lynette rejection was super painful for me, because I really turned to her for support and she just ignored me. She wouldn’t even meet me in London when I was 8 months pregnant and suicidal. I begged her, and she told me she would ‘endeavor to get back to me’, but nothing ever came back. I just don’t understand how a Mother and a Grandmother can switch off her natural affection like that. It’s a very difficult and strange situation to confront in these times of family acceptance. Her own son was accepted by her second husband, and was treated as part of his family and has benefitted hugely from his stepfather. Yet, my little girl is a blood relative and they still ignore her. I have no words to describe the enormity of that double standard. It has opened up my eyes to all the other abandoned and shunned children. I just feel for them all. There doesn’t seem to be enough public discussion about this type of treatment for these kids who have been placed in such difficult circumstances.”
Liv’s story features intermittently across NERVO’s social media, and earlier this year, via an emotive ‘Father’s Day’ post. The girls seem to be using their platform to shed light on the rights of fellow children who have been placed in such difficult circumstances. Now, having previously mentioned some of her struggles to Sophie Ellis-Bextor in Episode 25 of the vocalist’s ‘Spinning Plates’ podcast, Liv expands on a turbulent life period. Recalling the moment both herself and Mim shared the news of their pregnancies to the World, Liv beams at the thought of happier times, her warm smile stretching across her face as she strokes the blonde locks which cascade down either side of her neck. It was New Year’s Day on 1st January 2019 and the personable twins – who burst into primetime consciousness after co-writing the GRAMMY Award-winning David Guetta & Kelly Rowland anthem ‘When Love Takes Over’ – had shared an intimate photo to their millions of Instagram followers, in which both Liv & Mim held the pregnant bumps in their respective bellies.
“There were even lots of comments asking if both babies had the same Father!” she cringes, referring to the thought of what would’ve been a truly crazy night, even by their standards. “But essentially, my partner was “shy” and didn’t like social media, whereas Mim‘s partner was a public figure, so she featured on his social media pages quite a lot. We discussed family planning extensively… Even naming our kids before they were born, discussing where we would settle, give birth etc. For Chip and I, it was certainly a planned pregnancy, we were on an application tracking my fertile times, and scheduling our visits around them so we would conceive. As did Mim and Uri. They were super lucky though! Mim got pregnant on her first go. She later
“He really fooled us because we trusted him!”– Mim Nervo
“Well I first met Matthew when the girls introduced me”, explains Mim’s partner, Spanish native, Uri. “He was with Liv before I was with Mim, so was always with us when the girls were touring or they were performing. We would drink together whilst the show was on so we had a lot of time together and to catch up alone. I trusted him, but I found him weird in social situations, a bit different, but I just thought he was socially awkward. The girls are so social and they know everyone but he was a bit more reserved”.
“He was allowing us to believe that he was somebody he isn’t”, remarks Mim, displaying the passionate love for her sister you’d expect any twin to display. “It wasn’t like he was this Greek God or anything, ya know? He was just… A normal guy. And Liv thought that’s what she was getting, but even when it came to his company and the things he did for work… Well, it seems to be that a lot of that just came from his Mother, like he was a trust-fund kid or something. He really fooled us because we trusted him. We allowed him into our life, he was a real permanent fixture with Liv for the years that they were together. They went everywhere and did everything together… She loved him! And he appeared to love her too.”
“To be honest… There aren’t many girls in this industry who tour with our frequency, apart from some of the techno girls, or maybe Alison Wonderland, so at that point we didn’t know how to break that news to the industry either! Every woman in any job, when they become a Mother, we get this anxiety that the workplace is not going to treat us the same. We were worried that we would just be viewed as Mums, and not the persona we had before. It’s a real transition time for Women and that’s why we waited to announce the news so late in our pregnancies”.
“I remember, we actually performed on New Year’s Eve at a festival in China with Armin Van Buuren, who is a good friend of ours,” Liv adds. “He was asking what we had planned for the next year (2019), he didn’t know at the time. Suddenly, Mim pulled up her top and was like ‘I’m having a baby!’ and his face…. I will never forget. He was so shocked. He kept asking how she managed to hide it, in this baggy shirt – she was seven months pregnant!”
But from a supreme height of joy, the only way for Liv – little did she know at the time – was downwards, into a negative spiral which spurred on a “deep depression”.
Emotionally explaining the events of the turbulent festive period, Liv wipes tears away as she delves into her darkest folder of memories. “I just felt like my life went from hero to zero. I remember popping a Facebook post up around Christmas 2018, saying how amazing life was going for me, in my 30s but then boom, there was this atomic bomb which went off a few months later and I went into this very deep depression, which I didn’t share with anyone online. Mim knew, but I’m only getting to the stage now after 3 and a half years where I can talk about it, without bawling my eyes out. Matthew and I had just moved in together and at the time, there had been issues and concerns with me meeting his Mother… It feels so obvious now when I look back! He’d told me all these lies about his Mother, about how horrible she was, and how strained their relationship was. He showed me all these text messages to support this narrative, but we later found out he had been texting himself from another phone to show me the screenshots, it wasn’t even her. Over the course of the few years that we had been together, I had tried to meet her many times, but she cancelled on us every time. Now I know why!”
“Come December 2018, we plan a trip to finally all meet in Hawaii, and at this point, I just wanted to tell her how I’d been with her Son for a few years and how I was really in love with him. You know, over those 2 or so years, we were on cloud nine! We went to 3 weddings together, all this sorts of stuff… But then just as Mim and I are about fly there (to Hawaii), we get this message to say she’s not going to make it, and then he messages to say he’s not going to come either. I was livid. Mim was annoyed too, because she was 6 months pregnant and by this point you have to remember, we’re always on the road, so when we do get down-time, it’s gold dust. We really have to maximise it with family, and we wanted to go back to Australia for Christmas, so wasting our time in Hawaii to meet Chip’s family was infuriating. Being home in Little Old Hometown Melbourne is super important to us. So when he doesn’t show up, and then makes another excuse a few weeks later to not show up for Christmas, and remember, I’m 4 months pregnant at this point, too… I mean, it’s not great. But, of course, he spun some story about his mental health that I believed, and for the sake of our baby, I moved on and made amends.”
“WHEN YOU’VE BEEN ABUSED, YOU LOSE TRUST IN PEOPLE”– Liv Nervo
“It became obvious to me when we were in Australia that something was wrong”, Uri explains. “We were there to meet everyone because the girls were both pregnant on NYE. Naturally, I wanted to meet their family and say, ‘I love your daughter’, because something major is happening, we were creating a family. But at that moment, he didn’t come, so it was something that was a major red flag, because we all thought, ‘well what’s going on?!’ We always thought he was a bit awkward, but it was actually because he was trying to hide stuff.
With these ‘red flags’ now popping into Liv‘s consciousness with alarming regularity, she describes the moment she pushed the pieces of her mental jigsaw into place. “We were meant to meet his grandfather Bernie, but now when I look back, I noticed that I’d received all these videos from these people, like his family, saying ‘Hi’, but they never once said ‘Hi Liv’. My name was never in the video. So when the bomb goes off, in your head, you literally replay every second of it all, all the years together. I started to question why he would video call me so often from a car, or at his office, and never in a kitchen. I started to question the friends of his that he had introduced me to, and realized many of them were in business with him so wouldn’t rock the boat by tipping me off that he had other cohabitations. So, I made a surprise trip to New Zealand and this woman finds me in his office, so she asks me who I was. I’m like “Well, we’re together and I’m 6 months pregnant”, but the woman I’m speaking to is the Sister of his other long term partner!”
“She says, “Well, Matthew was supposed to be at hospital this morning to deliver my Sister’s second child.” At that point, she appeared to cry and then she disappeared. She just looked shocked as hell to see me, and to discover me, and I suddenly became a wreck. The best way I could describe it was it felt like I’d suddenly guzzled one thousand Diet Cokes. That same fateful day, I eventually met his Mum, but I never met his partner as she was actually in the hospital having their baby. I couldn’t believe he had fed me all these lies, and then I was just so scared, because I was thinking to myself… Who is this man I was with? By this point, I was too far along to terminate the pregnancy and it just felt like I was living in a horror film. Later, I learned he was actually with 3 different women and his multiple lives had spanned over more than a decade!”
“I was in London at a pre-natal class with Mim,” Uri explains. “But then she had to leave the class because Liv was messaging her and we all realised what had been happening”.
“I just felt so bad for Liv,” Mim stressed. “Because she was pregnant too but she was having all this stress on her. She had created a plan with somebody to start a family, but this person was actually trying to con her.
“Something that I’m dealing with…” Liv continues, “Is the fact my little girl is 2 months younger than their littlest girl, and they don’t want anything to do with us. Matthew has never met his daughter. They’re not doing anything to facilitate a bond between the siblings and that is another layer of trauma because I really felt when all this happened, at least the sisters would have each other. Maybe the mothers too, i don’t know… I had hoped the betrayed women would come together but actually, it was a very different case. I am trying to stay hopeful that the paternal side, his family, will somehow accept her, and want to know her, and value her. That’s my ultimate goal but I’ve also accepted that I can’t make people do anything.
Describing how the trauma thrust her into a state of temporary paralysis, Liv continues: “I felt frozen by the whole situation for a few years. Things got very nasty with lawyers, and it got so crazy that he even hacked my email, which made me feel really scared. I felt silenced by that, and really frozen. I didn’t know where it would stop. I also didn’t know what or who to believe. I still don’t really. That’s what happens when you’ve been gaslit and abused for years. You lose your sense of reality and trust in people. I was petrified that if I did anything wrong, they would punish my daughter, and I just wanted to say… It would be really lovely if you’d like to be her dad or grandmother, and not punish her for something she didn’t do. I should have known when I was 7 months pregnant and Lynnette told Sarah (Matthew’s partner in New Zealand) to… ‘Just ignore her and she’ll go away'”
“But I kept hoping I could do something, send more adorable pictures, anything to entice them to love her grandchild. It’s hard to imagine things you would never do, and even harder to accept. Since then, I’ve been on a journey of family, because I felt this immense liberation, actually, in speaking about this. There’s a lot of healing in sharing stories. You never know when your story will give strength to another and vice versa. Coincidentally, it wasn’t until I started to speak about it a little that he (‘Chip’) then started to engage more constructively with lawyers, so at least there was finally some desire expressed there!”
“I’ve actually realised how lucky I am because I see all these Women… Single Mums, and I wonder how they do it? Especially those who don’t have the support I have. It really changed me and now I have a whole array of trust issues which I need to combat. Like, for example, I’ve not dated since. Because there’s this epidemic of people with really low character, abandoning kids, abandoning Mums. It’s one thing for a child to be put in care because parents didn’t have an alternative like drug addiction or whatever, but there are a lot of high-level wealthy white men who just… Walk away… And it really blows my mind on such a deep level. It opens my eyes and I want to call them out, because the measure of a man is when it comes down to this kind of moment. I think our existence actually brings a lot of shame to them. Perhaps because there are 20,000 photos of me on the internet holding a bottle of Jaeger or whatever… But I hate to crush that illusion – a lot of that is show! We are professionals and we work bloody hard.”
“They’re missing so many important moments in her life…” Mim sighs. “He won’t ever recover from that, because that is your Daughter and that is something you will always regret because she will only be this age once in her life.”
“It makes you question…” Uri continues, “What is the problem? Is it money? Is it social shame? But maybe we don’t need to have that structure now in 2022 that our Grandparents had, because we just try to normalise things as the kids grow and it’s a spiritual or mental thing to solve.”
Despite the grief and turmoil with which she’s been catapulted towards, face-first, in the past three years, Liv remains upbeat about her future, whipping her phone out and joyfully scrolling through photos of her daughter, her grin etching ever-wider with every moment she’s captured on camera. “AP is my joy generator”, she beams. “She’s the one who has turned this journey into a stable and positive state
. Over time, I’ve learned that curveballs come, and sometimes they’re positive. Like our career. Who would have known we would ever have a decade long career? Mim and I can’t believe it. I wish we became Mothers 10 years earlier, but back then, our first born was NERVO.“
“Motherhood has really tapped into this female empowerment side of things for us
, and we were so glad that people seem happy to see that transition for us! We might be DJs and producers, but deep down, we’re domesticated. We love to cook, and it feels so natural and fun, I’ve loved every second of it. When this atomic bomb went off, I was mortified, I could hardly function. I didn’t know how I was going to handle sharing it online, and I hope that the kids who have been abandoned feel like less of an alien knowing that it can happen to anyone. I’d love if – in say, a couple of years AP’s paternal side embrace her, she is allowed to meet her sisters and this nightmare of being shunned and diminished is all over… Although, maybe I’ve just seen too many movies with happy endings! I’ve learned hope is hard to kill!” Liv laughs, “And just like that, I have the title of my next song!”
Unfortunately, the haze of the crystal ball in Liv‘s life remains shrouded at this point in time, but her bravery and forthright nature in opening up on such an intimately personal and painful subject, will – as she has done on numerous occasions throughout her career to date – inspire others with reasons of hope, and positivity.
Refusing to allow the absent nature of one parent to define her daughter’s life, NERVO continue to use their status to draw awareness to attention-worthy topics, giving courage to fellow Women, and Mothers, all over the globe. As the sound of AP‘s cute Whatsapp voicenote exchanges to her Mother fill the air (“Don’t miss the plane, Mummy!”, as Liv dashes through an airport en route to another show), Liv chuckles heartily when proposed with the idea during our interview that her daughter will grow up filled with immense pride when she realises that her Mummy & Auntie are “The F**king NERVO girls! How cool is that?!”.
“I think we’ll be long gone in terms of being cool by the time she’s old enough to hit the clubs”, she laughs. Though judging on their unrivalled success to date, we certainly wouldn’t bet against the Queens of Electronic Dance Music further cementing their spot at the summit over the course of the next double-decade.
NB: In the interests of journalistic balance on a story, and the guidelines of editorial ‘right of reply’, Matthew Pringle was approached in September 2022 by both the organisation (CULTR) and journalist (Jake Gable) who spoke to Olivia Nervo about this topic. Matthew Pringle was given the right to reply via email and was approached for interview to discuss his version of events, but declined to comment. The initial interview(s) with all interviewees in this article were conducted between June-July 2022, at a time when we believe all expressed statements given during this period to be true and accurate to the best of our knowledge. All words in this article are backed by evidence, information from the public domain, and/or witness statements from multiple sources. According to Olivia Nervo, Matthew Pringle applied for Parental Responsibility for the child referred to as AP shortly after being contacted for comment on this story.