OTW #460: Laura Mvula

Jazz-infused intelligent soul
OTW #460: Laura Mvula

After studying composition at the Birmingham Conservatoire, Laura Mvula thought she’d continue to write for ensembles, or to contribute occasional vocals for her family and friends project ‘Judyshouse’. Yet the reluctant solo artist has made an audacious leap out of her comfort zone straight into the big league with the release of an outstanding EP on RCA. Her rich, expressive voice and unusual piano arrangements (with more than a hint of Nina Simone) are sure to charm and beguile listeners.

The rigours of her training and her focus have consolidated in a young woman of exceptional talent who hasn’t sought the limelight. In fact she was more comfortable writing voice arrangements for her aunt’s five-part harmony a capella group than she was taking to the stage alone. She explains  the dramatic change of  tack: “Suddenly writing for me became multidimensional, so it wasn’t about singing to pleasure somebody else or to astound - it was singing so that it was the right thing to express what I wanted to say.”

Some of her favourite vocalists aren’t the most technically proficient but they’re probably the most emotive, she acknowledges; “Their human voices, their natural voices, move me. So it’s trying to see myself in that vein; I think I’m getting better at it. I certainly haven’t grown up that way.”

The way she did grow up, spending her summer holidays studying at the Symphony Hall or the Arts Centre at Cannon Hill resulted in a wide exposure to classical and contemporary music. This, bolstered by her father’s love of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, has filtered through into her own inimitable style - although she claims she was never disciplined enough to be a jazz musician; something that’s hard for us to believe.

Beautiful in face, voice and soul, lift your eyes skyward and watch this girl soar.

Words: Anna Wilson
Photography: Sam Butt
Fashion: Chris Amfo
Make-Up: Gabriella Ciullo


Where: The magic-filled Midlands
What: Jazz-infused intelligent soul
Get 3 Songs: ‘She’, ‘Like The Morning Dew’, ‘Jump Right Out’
Unique Fact: So distressed was she on hearing a playback of her voice as an eight-year-old she vowed never to sing in public.

Shirt By MM6 Maison Martin Margiela, All other clothing Artist’s own.

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