Lianne La Havas: Stevie Wonder left a voicemail singing back my song!
It’s been almost a year since the enchanting and previously unknown Lianne La Havas stepped on the Later…With Jools Holland show stage, confidently captivating everyone watching. Some eleven months later and she has been working non-stop, kicking off the year on the “BBC Sound of 2012” list, and releasing a critically acclaimed UK Top 5 album that has recently been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.
Not to mention touring with an impressive selection of some of music’s coolest acts, including Bombay Bicycle Club, Erykah Badu and Bon Iver, on their north American tours. The latter opportunity in fact arose as a direct result of her much lauded Jools Holland performance, which happened to coincide with the Grammy-winning American Folk band’s own appearance on the show that same night.
Despite such a busy schedule and growing interest in the U.S, where one critic described her as “the most striking female voice to emerge from Britain since Adele”, the Soul/Folk musician is taking her newfound success in her stride. “I embrace it, I love being busy”, Lianne says nonchalantly, albeit admitting that her packed diary has meant that she has been unable to complete a song in months. “When I write I find a quiet place. Sometimes I need time for it to come, it’s a gradual process”, declares the 23-year-old, who has writing credits on the majority of tracks on her debut album.
Reflecting on the experience of touring with her friend, Paloma Faith, who she describes as “really lovely, a complete character”, it is clear that La Havas has been relishing life. “I was her backing singer for 18 months. It was like going round the country with your family! I gained so much experience from her. Women who have strong identities, who know themselves, really inspire me. Her and also Laura Marling, Little Dragon, Erykah Badu…”. She cites her varied upbringing as something that’s additionally been hugely influential. “My dad is Greek and my mum Jamaican. My grandparents brought me up for most of my childhood but I saw my mum and dad all the time”, explains the South Londoner, who grew up in Tooting and Streatham.
Recent American sell out gigs and TV appearances have seen her profile steadily rising and fans manifesting themselves in the shape of music royalty like Prince and Stevie Wonder. Despite her composed demeanour, her excitement is clearly evident when it comes to Stevie Wonder. “I cried when I met him!” she admits, recounting how he attended one of her gigs after their mutual U.S booking agent played him some of her music. “It was quite unbelievable! I found out an hour before I was due on stage that he would be in the audience and so I used that as fuel for my show.”
And did he give her any feedback? “He said it was like listening to India.Arie for the first time!” she asserts proudly, pausing at the end for effect. And it doesn’t stop there. After getting hold of her number, La Havas reveals that the icon then left her a voicemail, singing one of her own songs down the line. Lianne is quick to relay the message, also disclosing that the song in question was her single and album title track, “Is Your Love Big Enough?”. “The voice message said, ‘Hey Lianne, this is Stevie and this is my number. It was really nice to meet you and I’m looking forward to hearing more of your project’”.
So how does Lianne La Havas see her future? “I can’t predict what will happen, as I never imagined that all this would happen”, she states plainly, casually throwing in that she’d like to win a Grammy one day. With an iTunes Festival date with Alicia Keys on September 28th, and a second headline tour due to commence in October, chances are that her profile will only continue to skyrocket from here.
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