Gifted with a powerful soul timbre, this young British singer enchants her audience with buttery hooks and jazzy guitar riffs – although she is only just starting out
The next big super star – when discussion turns to Lianne La Havas, the verdict tends to be unanimous. Music journalists hail her songwriting skills and mesmerising live performances, bloggers and fans love her expressive voice and even international production heavyweights profess themselves impressed with Lianne’s versatile abilities. Even now, at the beginning of her career, the singer is compared to soul divas like Erykah Badu or Lauryn Hill. But who is this young Brit with the expansive voice?
Lianne has been surrounded by sound more or less since Day One. While placed in the local school choir and listing at home to Mary J. Blige loved by her Jamaican mum, her Greek dad taught her a few chords on the guitar. Equipped with these basic skills, the Londoner wrote her first songs aged eleven – and went on to professionalise her guitar and songwriting acumen at college where she played in a band.
Based on these creative foundations, Lianne embarked on her solo career: Towards the end of 2009, she signed her first record deal with entertainment giant Warner Bros. and found a kindred spirit and melodic collaborator in singer Matt Hales (aka Aqualung). The latter also joined her in L. A. and New York between 2010 and 2011 for writing and recording sessions. Last autumn, in October 2011, the result of this fruitful collaboration finally saw the light of day – with Lianne’s first ever EP Lost & Found – and kicked off a lightning-fast rise to fame, heralded by the 22-year-old’s TV debut. And this was no regional breakfast TV show, but the BBC’s seminal prime time favourite, Later with Jools Holland!
Also on the night’s broadcast roster: Feist and Bon Iver. Strong competition for a complete newcomer? Undeterred by the pressure and limelight, La Havas went on to present a truly charming and laid-back rendition of her song Age in front of the show’s multi-million viewers. Equipped with nothing but her crystal-clear, silky voice and her trusted guitar Connie, Lianne enchanted her captive audience – and the night’s “official“ star. On the next day, Bon Iver’s singer Justin Vernon phoned the young singer to ask her if she would open for his band’s North American tour. Thanks to this TV appearance – and her nomination for the BBC’s Sound of 2012 – the talented vocalist and multi-instrumentalist has joined the list of those to watch, dispelling any doubts over her bright future. Her emotional live shows and strong, distinctive voice continue to win Lianne favourable comparisons to fellow Brit Adele who also focuses on honest story-telling that comes straight from her own life and from the heart. Age, for example, delves into the story of a love lost – and a new one found with a sizeable age difference. A love Lianne has lived through herself because, according to her, she would find it hard to present a made-up tale with utter conviction and the right emotional impact.
This raw honesty, this emotional involvement, is something that also translates to her stage presence – flanked by a voice that combines velvety softness and fragility with a strong, clear and powerful punch; a voice like a gentle hug that captures fans and foes alike with its authentic and warm charisma. A genuine smile, a sense of ease and plenty of passion – Lianne’s successful live blend continues to resonate with us long after the last note has left her lips.
Lianne’s official single debut Lost & Found already hints at her substantial musical and personal development. Despite her young age, she has already found and carved her own musical identity and easily blends straightforward lyrics with subtle soul, pop and jazz elements. A style beyond all pigeonholes, it embraces us with its unfiltered intensity.
Fans of Bombay Bicycle Club will soon get a chance to enjoy Lianne’s stunning stage presence when she opens the band’s UK tour, followed by a series of solo gigs. But even if you can’t make it to one of her shows, you, too, can enjoy a special Lianne La Havas moment or two. Her debut album Is Your Love Big Enough, also produced by Matt Hales, will hit the shops on July 9th – and remove any need for further comparisons to other singers. Because Lianne La Havas has arrived as an artist – with plenty of charm and effortless ease.
La Blogothèque: No Room For Doubt
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