Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Elisha La'Verne letting the UK know she is back

Elisha La'Verne
Elisha La'Verne

”I felt it was about time that I released something here and so I set up a company and decided to do it myself and do the music I like”.

I feel a little out of order talking about Elisha La'Verne like she has been away from music because the plain facts are that she has not. It would however be fair to say that the UK has sorely missed the presence of one of the UK’s best soul singers. In many respects as she acknowledges she probably should be a more prominent force in home country.

I remember in my days of dj’ing picking this single release by Elisha. A simple black cover with the words 'Skin' (2002) on the Urbanstar label. I think I was in Rhythm n Bass (we miss that shop) and when I heard the first minute I was like “yes” I will have that. It was the remix version with a bass dirtier than a porn stars mind which drew me in but it was definitely that sexy and enticing voice that sealed the deal. For me certainly that was about the last thing that I really remember hearing about her. She seemed in truth to just disappear.

But this is no disappearance and in truth she has been busier than you could imagine with projects in Japan, yes Japan now where did that come from? As we sit in a Starbucks over a nice frothy chocolate Elisha details an unusual but successful foray into Japan where her talents have brought her great success.

“I know it seems strange but Japan was and is my path and it pays well. I knew very talented artists here who were trying to make it here and it just never happened.” And as a testament to the following she has out in Japan, Elisha adds, “the single off the album is currently at number two in the ITunes chart and it is number forty in the mainstream. It's strange because I have not been exposed to Japan for a few years but it is serious.”

Elisha’s journey into music was a path that seems to have been her destiny rather than some out and out dream to be a soul singer,” It is a long story. When I was at school I was in all the school plays and in actual fact back then I used to rap and also sing choruses. One day some of the people were doing some dj’ing and I thought I would do some singing and I always liked singing so I just continued. I certainly was not that interested in a musical career at school but when I left school and I was working with producers I realised that I was interested in continuing in music” A chance meeting with the UK producer Trevor Bailey started a road that would ultimately lead her into the Japanese market and a meeting with a global super star,” Trevor said he was going to the studio, would I like to come down there with him? I went there and realised he was actually a real producer. He then said he wanted me to come down and do some recording with Maxi Priest and so I did some backing vocals for Maxi."

Backing vocals and a tour to Japan with Maxi Priest opened the Japanese market and her ability to survive. As she highlights, music is a business first and foremost and you need to pay the bills,” I actually went on tour with him [Maxi Priest] to Japan and that was before I got signed and then a year later I was out there doing my tour so it was funny.”

After getting signed to the Japanese label Avex Elisha has now gone on to release six albums. I am suitably shocked that her current album will be her seventh straight album a fact that I am sure not many people know. In truth as the hubbub of Starbucks continues around us it is even more confusing why such a prolific soul singer has gone largely unnoticed. “The first album I put out here was released through Avex but it was released on Steve Wren's label. Then after that we did not release any of the other albums here they were all released in Japan. It was really difficult for dj’s to get my albums here because they were so expensive.”
It is telling that Elisha would like her music and amazing singing to be experienced in the UK and after my obligatory questions to find out where she is coming from we turn to where she is going. There is a real sense of steely purpose from the warm Elisha as we delve into this area,” I felt it was about time that I released something here and so I set up a company and decided to do it myself and do the music I like and so I decided to go with the EP first. I was working a lot in Japan with other artists who are linked with my management company. I worked with a lot of producers and I had some songs that I thought I should put out there and so hence the EP ['10k Above'] which I have backed all independently.” A difficult task, I ask? “It has not been difficult because people like Neville Thomas have been important and invaluable. But it has definitely been a learning curve. There were tracks on the EP that were sampled but I did not know they were sampled and this was right at the deadline when the EP had to be put on ITunes and get it mastered. Obviously, you need to get permission and so I needed to do these tracks again and fresh. I kind of know now what to look out for.”

'10k Above' is an EP that is soul in every sense of the word with great writing to match. It sets the template in a magnificent way for her album '361 Degrees' which not only follows on from '10K Above' but indeed surpasses it “It is called '361 Degrees' because I am doing a little bit extra. I am saying that I am back again and I am one step ahead.” Unfortunately the album as she tells me is devoid of UK collaborations but not for want of trying, “I did try and go with artists from the UK. I wanted to get Ty and other rap artists and singers on their but the album got wrapped up really quick. I wrote half of the album and then I had other writers on their, then I had T-Town as the main producers and then my AnR in Japan had a vision of what he wanted and so it was not like I did not have control but we had to go with it.”

And indeed it is a stellar line up of producers and singers that saturate this excellent album: “Neville Thomas [producer for Beverley Knight’s 'Flavour Of The Old School' 1995] is on the EP and the album and the track is 'Playing Hard To Get' I am working with Baby Juice for T Town who has worked with R Kelly, Daniel De Borg, Ken Sato.“

As the interview draws to an end she lets me know a few things which she cannot tell me on my dreaded Dictaphone but trust me there are some interesting collaborations and events taking place for Elisha. I sense that Elisha’s new found independence will see her make a concerted foray into the UK’s music consciousness and indeed it is about time, welcome back Elisha!

Elisha La'Verne's album '361 Degrees' is out now.
Words Semper Azeez-Harris

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