South London born singer/songwriter Lianne La Havas has been on the radar for quite some time following her outstanding performance on Later… with Jools Holland. Since then, the former backing singer signed to Warner Music, toured the US with Bon Iver, launched her own solo tours and was even nominated for the coveted BBC Sound of 2012 title. We caught up with Lianne a few days before the release of her debut album ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’ to talk all things music, her highlights of the year so far and what she did when she met Stevie Wonder!
First of all, how are you today?
You’re about to release you’re debut album ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’ How are you feeling about it?
I’m feeling really excited about it! It’s been a long time in the making and I’m just happy it’s finished now and to be releasing it!
What can we expect from the album? Is it similar to what we’ve heard already or are there lots of surprises in store?
Well, I hope that what was heard already suggests that there’s other stuff and other styles. I hope that what you’ve heard already makes you want to know what else is in store, so perhaps there will be some surprises but I think all the songs on the album – I tried to represent the sound of them using the sentiment of each song in the lyrics. It’s going to be quiet eclectic, I think you’ll find, and generally I think it’s quite… emotional.
Brilliant! Who have you worked with on this album?
Primarily, it was one person who’s produced it but along the way, it’s been a journey of meeting people and trial & error and certain people have helped certain aspects to come out. It’s mainly Matt Hales from Aqualung and there’s additional production from my good friends at Urchin Studios called Matt Ingram and Dan Cox and also Dave Sitek from TV On The Radio, I worked with him for a little bit. He allowed me to write in his studio, use his equipment to record, so he’s had a little hand in recording too.
Who would be your ideal collaboration? Who would you love to work with?
Lots of people!
Ok, give us your top three then!
[After a lot of thought] Little Dragon, Erykah Badu and… [After more thought] the third one would be… Kanye West! [Laughs]
Upon our research we discovered that you studied Art at college. Did you always want to be a singer or were you looking to pursue an art career?
I didn’t think it would be such a… tangible thing to be a singer professionally, so I thought “I need a backup plan!” And that was to be an art teacher or just something in design. So I was going to go on to university and study Fine Art and I did start an Art foundation course but by that time I had begun playing the guitar and recording. Suddenly I was really heavily involved in music outside of school and it was the main thing making me happy. So I left Art College and became a backing singer and during that time I was able to focus on my career.
You used to do backing vocals for Paloma Faith, who’s had quite a few backing singers who have gone on to have their own solo careers. She really knows how to pick them!
She likes to be around strong characters, I think. She’s a very strong character herself. She’s also very nurturing and caring. She’s done that for all of us backing singers! [Laughs]
You supported Bon Iver on his US tour in late 2011. How was that? Did you get to see a lot of the country?
It was great! I did. I got to see parts of America I never thought I’d see like… Eau Clair, Wisconsin and… Madison [Illinois]. I went to Chicago and that was the biggest show, like the most amount of people were there. I also got to visit Canada for the first time. It was really amazing and I really love Bon Iver. It was the coolest possible tour that I ever could have been on and I was absolutely thrilled to be included.
Sounds like you had a lot of fun. We heard that you received a phone call from Prince! That must have been really weird for you?
It was really weird! He heard my music via a friend of his and got in touch with my manager to arrange a time to call. I found out about it in late January that he’d heard about me and wanted to call. Three or four weeks passed and nothing happened so I thought it had gone away or it was some sort of practical joke. But one evening I got a call from my manager on my boyfriend’s phone because I had stupidly left my phone at home. So my manager says “Well, Prince is going to call tonight, why aren’t you with your phone??” I just forgot and I was at a noisy pub… So we got Prince to call my boyfriend’s phone but his battery was dying! Everything was just against us, but we did manage to cram in a 20 minute phone conversation.
What did he say to you?
He said he was a fan, and I said I was a fan of his! He was super lovely and just super funny and rather interested in my song writing process and the music I was listening to at the time. We just had a nice exchange; it was like speaking to an old friend. I stayed in touch with him and after my gig at the Scala in March he invited me to visit him in Minneapolis, so I went to his studio and we had a jam session! Again, we just stayed in touch and he’s now “repping” my music. He’s a wonderful chap, so we’ll see what happens.
A possible future collaboration?
At the beginning of the year you were nominated for the BBC Sound of 2012 award. How did you feel when you found out?
Great! I had just landed in Montreal for the first date of the Bon Iver tour and I found out I was on the list. I was really chuffed to be recognised at that point with just my EP out. I was really really happy for the exposure it offered me. I think the prize went to a very worthy winner [Michael Kiwanuka].
Were you upset not to win?
I wasn’t upset. I was just really happy to be included.
That’s nice! We’re about halfway through the year now. Who has been your favourite artist for the first six months of the year and whom are you looking forward to?
Umm… Am I allowed to say artists I’ve always liked?
I really like… Jessie Ware! She’s great and she’s lovely and her voice is lovely and I’m pretty much obsessed with that song Running. It’s amazing. I’m really looking forward to her record, actually!
That could be your answer to both!
[Laughs] And also… The Invisibles. Dave Okumu has produced her record and I’ve always loved the Invisibles. Their record is now out and I LOVE it and I love Dave and I love all their musicality. I just love the British acts at the moment.
Back to you now, what’s been your personal highlight of the year so far and what are you looking forward to?
Probably… playing shows to real life people that want to attend of their own accord. That’s the most amazing feeling. And also, hearing my song on the radio. That’s like, a really amazing feeling. And meeting Stevie Wonder! He came to one of my shows and I cried when I met him. He was really nice and I met his son as well. So yeah… Just generally doing shows and feeling like I’m getting better at performing and getting to know myself as a stage performer and as a singer/songwriter.
And what are you looking forward to?
Getting the album out! Seeing what’s going to happen with it, going on tour again in October and going back to America, I’m playing the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in October, really excited about that and… just seeing what’s to come really! I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m really excited about the future generally!
That’s great. We’re excited for you too! Thanks for talking to us today!
‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’ is available to buy on iTunes now.
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