Lianne La Havas: I would do any kind of anything with Prince

Lianne La Havas: I would do any kind of anything with Prince
Photo courtesy of the artist

Lianne La Havas is the latest national treasure to pour out of Britain's seemingly endless pool of talented singer-songwriters. She's the girl with the warm, soulful voice, offbeat style (like nerd-girl-hot, with buttoned-up-to-the-collar shirts and a tight bun piled on top of her head and pulled to the side), and bright smile. At just 23 years old, La Havas has skyrocketed onto the international music scene in a very short amount of time -- thanks, in part, to a stunning debut album called Is Your Love Big Enough?

Released in August 2012, Is Your Love Big Enough? contains 12 tracks that explore the young songstress's folk-pop repertoire. "Age" is a spunky, jazzy tune, a playful thing that gets you singing along instantly, while "Lost & Found" is an inconsolable winter ballad. La Havas's smooth-silk voice has drawn comparisons to neo-soul queen Sade, but her true talent is her approachability: In her most vulnerable songs, La Havas seems like a girl you know, and at her lightest songs, she's the girl you want to know.

Over the phone, it's instantly apparent that La Havas is a joyful sort of person -- she's gracious, a charming little laugh tumbling out of her mouth at the slightest provocation. Gimme Noise caught up with La Havas ahead of her Sunday night gig at the Varsity Theater to chat about how the singer got her start and a few of her Minneapolis ties.

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Slideshow: Lianne La Havas at Varsity Theater

Lianne La Havas enchants at the Varsity, 3/31/13

You were the opening act for Bon Iver's 2011 North American tour. Bon Iver has a super special place in the hearts of Minneapolites. Tell me what that was like for you.

It was amazing. I'm a big fan. It was a huge, huge honor for him to ask me to come on tour. I can't believe I did that. It was the most wonderful tour. His fans were amazing, he was amazing.

Speaking of ties to Minneapolis, you've jammed with Prince at his Paisley Park home. I heard a rumor that you might be working with him... Any details you want to tease us with? What can you tell us about that?

[Laughs] I hope I could. It would be really amazing if I could. Obviously he's a busy man, but it would be a dream come true, and I would want to do any kind of anything with him. We'll see!

Your debut full-length album, Is Your Love Big Enough?, has had a huge amount of commercial success--including being named iTunes Album of the Year in 2012. What is that like for you?

I feel really, really happy! [Laughs] I don't know. It's amazing that the music has reached where it has reached, and has been acknowledged by various people, particularly iTunes, which is a huge honor.

Give me some background on the album. How long did it take you to write it?

It took me about three years in total, from start to finish. I recorded some of it London and some in New York and some in Los Angeles, and it was the most wonderful process. It was so much fun, and I'm very, very good friends with my producer, Matt Hale. I think it's very important if you're going to work with someone creatively -- you have to trust them. I had very great experiences sharing lyrics with him and sharing things that went towards making the album. I don't think it could have taken any less time.


The first song I heard from you was the song "Age," the one you played on Jools Holland. It's still one of my favorite songs, and the lyrics are very clever. Is that about someone in particular?

Oh, thank you! Thank you so much! Yes. It's a true story. It's about my now ex-boyfriend, and that's the story about how we met, and he just happened to be older, but that doesn't matter. It was about me coming out of my previous relationship, and then I met a guy that was right, and I decided to sing about it. Every lyric is very true.

You studied art in school, but you left to pursue a career in music. What finally clicked for you?

I was in art college, and I got myself a job as a backing vocalist for a friend of mine. At the same time, I was writing my own songs, but it was more like a hobby.... As a vocalist, I could see what she was doing to make a solo career, and I was able to meet some great people in the industry. It was basically when I was sitting at home, I was like, "Maybe I would like to try this," so I left the college when I was 18 and took a risk, and I was very, very lucky that I was recognized by a few people. I was able to meet my management, for example, and they were able to play my music to the necessary people, and that got the ball sort of rolling, and that was it. It was incredible how it worked out. I feel so lucky.

I can't help but remarking on how young you are--just 24--

23! [Laughs]

Oh my God, you're 23. Already, you've arrived. You're kind of famous.

Oh, stop it, no! [More laughter]

No, really. How has your life changed? What are you more aware of now?

You're too sweet. Really, I don't consider myself to be famous, per se, but I'm a lot more busy now than I was, and I get to travel around the world, and I get to do what I love every single day, and I still can't believe I get to do it all the time. I love singing and I love making music, and I think that's the whole point of the whole thing, you know?

Okay. I have one last question. It's a crowd-sourced fan question, and it's a fun one.... What's your usual drink?

[Laughs] Um, well, I dunno, whenever I come to the U.S.A., I like to drink a margarita. My favorite drink is a cocktail. [Laughs] I used to drink whiskey, but I kind of made myself sick of it.... And I don't drink margaritas in any other country. Just the U.S.

Lianne La Havas will perform at the Varsity Theater on Sunday, March 31. Doors 7 p.m. $20. 18+. Details here

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