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Issue 1084

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Lianne La Havas: Revolutions

Lianne La Havas @bluesandsoul.com
Lianne La Havas @bluesandsoul.com Lianne La Havas @bluesandsoul.com Lianne La Havas @bluesandsoul.com Lianne La Havas @bluesandsoul.com

When you think of Tooting in South London, you might straight away think of the lido, or perhaps recently featured on T.V. St. Georges Hospital, or maybe even Tootingâs expansive green area, known to all as âthe common.â How about a few of the famous sons who have been born / lived there? You may think of TVâs Minder star George Cole, or snooker champ Jimmy White, or what about current chart rapper Fuse ODG (no, he is honest!) OR how about, for those of you who can remember British sitcom in its heyday, John âOnly Fools and Horsesâ Sullivanâs anti-hero, the Tooting Popular Front âurban guerrillaâ and young Marxist revolutionary, Wolfie âCitizenâ Smith.

Well ladies and gentlemen, as the late great Jack Daniels pin-up and king of cool Jim Morrison would say, âis everybody in, the (musical) revolution is about to begin!â Itâs not just the Tooting connection which makes me think revolutionary, itâs the folk aspect of her guitar clawhammer [technique], made famous by music genre changing folk hero, Bob Dylan and her recent highly publicised connection to his royal purpleness, Prince, who himself lead his own group calledâ¦correct, The Revolution. Now youâre getting it! lol.

As I now introduce the soon to be globally recognised star, recently completed 120 shows across Europe, North America and Japan, and famous daughter of sunny Tootingâs deft musical revolutionary front (Marxist my words! Stranger things have happened!?)â¦Lianne La Havas.

With sophomore album âBloodâ about to drop, yours truly was eager to catch-up with the soul / folk starlet, who from humble beginnings has evolved, or morphed even, into the grandiose musical butterfly she is today. For 25 year old Havas, previously Lianne Barnes (La Havas derived from fatherâs surname, Vlahavas), itâs been a somewhat arduous learning curve at times, with the early part of her career steeped in success and coming to her frankly, as a bit of shock⦠The reason, due mainly to a lack of confidence / shyness as a youngster, Havas had not sung publicly for most of her life and was only supported by a teacher at school who paid for her to have singing lessons because of the way she answered the register! â¦in a slightly husky, all to harmonic tone.

Her Jamaican mother, played with Jill Scott amongst others and Greek father was a multi-instrumentalist, who taught his daughter how to play guitarâ¦both were responsible for bringing various musical flava within earshot of Havas. Indeed, plenty of influences derived from not only the genres she now represents, but in jazz, R&B and world music as well. Itâs a medley which gives the artist her uniqueness and fresh sound, one would describe as almost unspoilt to the ears with an hypnotic nature that could cajole mermaids from the sea! OK, they ainât real, but you know what Iâm alluding to⦠We spoke at length about her smokey, delicate, yet enticing vocal, I noticed it has changed a tad, maybe even richer in delivery since her last album. She explains her thoughts on the subject, âI think Iâm using it (her voice) differently, I know what feels nice. What part of it feels nice to sing in, where I can get a nice kind of tone from and I know how to work with it - obviously the voice still does get tired, itâs going to because itâs always singing, but Iâve learned to work with that better and not be so scared of changing the melody slightly to protect it a bit more - rather than going for it and being sad if I didnât get it - thereâs other ways of creating a nice sound, I think. I definitely know my limits and know how to work within them and I know how to look after it a bit betterâ¦warming up and warming down and all that stuff.â

B&Sâ experience of interviewing Havas has been shall we say, an âinteresting one,â as we sat down for a chat in Camden, by the lock for a glass of something cold, on a sultry British summerâs afternoon and laughed first of all about her debut cover interview for B&S at the end of 2011, her first for any magazine in the world. It was conducted from the table and then from the toilet! But thatâs another story. And with all the pressureâs of suddenly being thrust into the limelight to blame, thereâs no wonder there was a retreat to the safe haven of the latter. Havas remembers that interview âvividly,â with a giggle and the first of many rye smiles, as she compares then and now. âIâm doing stuff in a different way now, which allows me to handle it a bit betterâ¦I look after myself a little bit better nowâ¦also back then, because it was the first time, Iâd never done any of that. Iâd never been on a tour before, never had an album outâ¦my album wasnât even finished at the time!â She continues, âIt was because of (my debut on) Jools Holland, it then seemed like a good idea to do the tourâ¦so suddenly, from not moving fast at all, to then going 1,000 miles an hour, but you do kind of learn and get used to it and be prepared to go anywhere at any time. So Iâm a bit better at that now, trying to organise myself and kinda sleep whenever possibleâ¦you know? Like, eat good food and drink more water. Donât smoke anymoreâ¦â

At around 19 years of age and after a few jobs which included; bar work, playground supervisor and a few small singing jobs (yep, you can see where this going) the singer / writer / guitarist fancied a course on âart foundationâ (no, not yet!) and was set to become a teacher in her by now chosen subject. But there is a twist in this tale, as the artist was to drop that idea immediately when she was offered the chance to sing backing vocals (OK, now!) for an artist on the way up, her name, Paloma Faith.

An offer / undertaking of a trip to the U.S. to collaborate with writer / producer Matt Hales, performs as Aqualung (credits inc; Tiësto, Jason Mraz Leona Lewis), stopped her from continuing her BV services for Faithâ¦O and getting signed to Warner Brothers in 2010 kinda sealed the deal and finally put the artist on the road to her solo performing destiny.

By 2011 her first EP âLost & Foundâ was released and her career whirlwind had started to gather pace, the same month she released a live EP âLive From L.A.â AND the same month as previously mentioned, she would appear on Jools Holland. By the summer of 2012 her debut album âIs Your Love Big Enough?â was released, this sold in excess of 200,000 copies and was iTunes album of the year and she was also a Sound of 2012 finalist, Mercury Prize and Ivor Novello nominee. As the momentum was such and the accolades were being bestowed from all directions, you can see why new album âBloodâ has been heavily touted to repeat on some of the above award performances and perhaps go one better with others.

âBloodâ was conceived during and after the artistâs recent journey to her motherâs motherland, does that make it Havasâ grandmother land? Anyway, what is for sure is, there was plenty of other family members on hand to meet Havas in Jamaica, plus one or two surprises as she recounts. âI went with my mum, Iâd never been to Jamaica. It was something we had wanted to do for a long whileâ¦my mum wanted to take me there just to show me what itâs like, meet family and stuff like that. Also, we wanted to have a lovely relaxing holiday and Jamaica is beautiful, paradise. So I went into it thinking that, and when we landed we were met by my auntie, sheâs like a distant cousin, cos sheâs older sheâs an auntie. She brought her daughterâ¦I saw her and immediately recognised her and started crying, I couldnât explain why. I was like, from that moment, this was going to be more important than I think itâs gonna be⦠so we drove out to where she lives, in Christiana, in Manchester Parish. Thereâs all these amazing flowers everywhere - I love flowers. Iâve just fallen in love with tropical flowers, hence the album artwork as wellâ¦so thereâs all this stuff, like a feast for ALL my senses.â

Album âBloodâ is out July 31, single âWhat You Donât Doâ is out now on Warner Brothers Records

Live action includes: July 12th - Rotterdam, North Sea Jazz Festival, 18th - Latitude Festival, 20th - Lucerne, Blue Balls Festival. August: 1st Gentlemen of the Road Festival, 20th - Belgium, Pukkelpop.
September: 11th Bestival

liannelahavas.com

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To read more from our exclusive interview with Lianne La Havas, including her work with Stephen McGregor (producer better known as Di Genius), son of reggae legend Freddie McGregor and her working relationship with Prince⦠Pick up a copy of the latest Blues & Soul magazine at your local magazine retailer, inc; WH Smith, Menzies + selected Euro Foods, Cost Cutters and a plethora of independents everywhere⦠if they don't stock it, ask for a "B&S shop save" and they will get it for you.
Words LEE TYLER

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