Radio Sandwell Music

Laura Mvula: Everything's gone at 110mph

2013-02-23 19:14:05

Laura Mvula

At a time when new artists have to work hard to capture the attention of jaded record companies, Laura Mvula's approach was almost laughably simple.

Depressed with her then office job, the singer just sent off a few emails.

The Brits Critics' Choice nominee says: "I was going, 'Oh what am I going to do with my life? I'll email some people, I've done two songs, maybe they will appeal to somebody.'

"It was, very simply, 'I'm Laura Mvula, I'm a receptionist, please can I have some advice', or something ridiculous like that."

Steve Brown, then a relative newcomer to the world of music production, saw past the demos and responded.

"Steve was just so complimentary," says Brummie Laura - still apparently incredulous that he would be. "I thought it might have been dodgy because he was really into what I was doing."

Brown got in touch with his manager Kwame Kwaten, who speedily took Laura under his wing. Brown was appointed as her producer and so the whirlwind began.

Laura - who has a degree in music composition from Birmingham Conservatoire - signed to RCA in May 2012.

Then, at the end of last year, the 25-year-old was told she had been shortlisted for the Brits Critics' Choice award - a platform that has launched artists such as Adele, Florence And The Machine and Emeli Sande. Her name has since graced countless "next big thing" lists.

Laura Mvula

And her debut album Sing To The Moon clearly shows why she has been tipped for greatness.

Recalling the recording, she says giddily: "In my head I had thought everything was so much more complex, like I was going to have to fight this big monster to do what I want.

"It was totally surreal to have this whole army of people go, 'That thing you're doing, let's do it. We're going to put everything we can into it and it's going to be great.' It was totally bonkers."

You only need listen to the first ten seconds of the album's opener, Like The Morning Dew, to see what the fuss is about.

The song starts with a sonic barrage of Beach Boys-esque harmonies, which then make way for Laura's wonderfully rich and complex voice, which pitches itself somewhere between Amy Winehouse and Nina Simone.

What is striking about the record as a whole is just how refreshingly different it sounds.

Within one track, the instrumentation will move from a densely-layered wall of sound into a few sensitive chords on the piano, accompanied by her beautiful voice. She says: "It's that crazy zeal I have for something that makes you go, 'WHAT is going on?'" Attempting to explain what led her to make such unique music, she adds: "I feel like it's this mad fusion. Sometimes I've not known how things are going to come together."

Intimidated by more complicated technology, she chose to create her compositions on the much-derided GarageBand software.

Self-deprecating Laura puts her choice down to weakness: "That was the easiest thing for me. I've never been particularly good at being proactive and going, 'Let's get the next thing, let's really make this work'."

Surprisingly, given her current tendency towards leftfield songs, Laura found her musical feet singing with her aunt Carol's gospel acapella group Black Voices. Laura remembers watching one of their performances as a child at Birmingham Town Hall and being distracted by the mosaic ceiling.

She says: "I remember not particularly paying attention to the stage but this music made an impression on me."

From that point she listened obsessively to their records and started visiting her aunt for help with her music homework.

After a few years studying the Black Voices' repertoire, she was asked to join when one of the members fell ill.

She says: "My work with them is one of my main foundations. It's what I draw on in terms of standing up in front of a group of people who are expecting you to deliver something interesting." But Laura explains that she has often felt paralysed by self-doubt and the making of Sing To The Moon acted almost as a therapy.

She says: "I think one of the triumphs of this point in my life is this very album. I'm finally putting out something that I am totally proud of and I enjoy it.'"

Now, less than a year after being signed, Laura is about to release her debut album before embarking on a UK tour with Jessie Ware.

She says: "Everything has gone at 110mph and I'm still playing catch-up with it.

"It still feels like somebody's joking."

Laura's new single Green Garden is released on Sunday and debut album Sing To The Moon is out on March 4.


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