Ones To Watch - Lianne La Havas

"Singing like I really mean it.”
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New artists are programmed to reel off lists of cool artists they grew up listening to. It’s as if telling the world their parents had that Vashti Bunyan record, you know, the really rare one, before anyone else had heard of her means their own music will be brilliant and relevant. It’s interesting, then, that Lianne La Havas has no pretensions about her formative music influences.

“The first time I’d thought about singing was when I saw Sister Act II,” asserts the silky voiced Londoner. “I loved that film, but didn’t know I could sing. I remember being in primary school and my friend being allowed to join the cool girls’ gang because she sang for them. She told me she couldn’t be my friend now she was hanging around with them. I sobbed all the way home.”

Thankfully the tears quickly dried, and Lianne gave singing a go for herself - to join the popular coven if nothing else.

“It felt nice, being able to make that sound” she says, although it wasn’t until a few years later, when she was thirteen, that she first sang in public, having hidden her talent from her family for a number of years. Even now, Lianne finds it embarrassing to sing anywhere but in the studio or at a gig. She joined her school choir, who performed “cool arrangements of Beatles and Abba songs,” and by the time she was eighteen, Lianne was writing songs of her own on guitar. Now twenty-three, with a string of backing vocal credits to her name too - Lianne has sung with Paloma Faith and Rox, among others - it’s time to branch out on her own.

Her ‘Lost & Found EP’ was released last year, and featured ‘No Room For Doubt’, a stunning duet with New Yorker Willy Mason, while her second EP, ‘Forget’, is out now.

Much of her jazz-and-soul-tinged debut, due for release before the summer, has been co-written and produced with Aqualung’s Matt Hales.

“It’s eighty percent done,” says BBC Sound Of 2012 nominee Lianne. “There are a few things to finish off, and one or two vocals to re-record and sing properly. You know, singing like I really mean it.”

Words by Andy Welch

Where: London, with Greek/Jamaican heritage
What: Soulful folk
Get 3 songs: ‘No Room For Doubt’, ‘Age’, ‘Forget’
Unique fact: After her appearance on Later...With Jools Holland, Gary Barlow got in touch to say he was a fan.



Photography: Samuel John Butt
Photographic Assistant: Maisi Lee
Hair: Meggie Cousland
Make-up: Danielle @ Technicolour

Crochet top by JOVONNISTA, Pink shirt by AMERICAN APPAREL

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