Lianne La Havas is a luminary force in every sense of the phrase. The London singer is a rising celebrity thanks to the recent release of her first studio album, Is Your Love Big Enough? However, she shines beyond her fame, channeling a deeper light, sense of maturity, and mysterious awareness. The 22-year-old comes off as a saint far beyond her years, and happens to live in a converted church in East London where she finds most of her peace. She exudes such a humble respect for art in a global culture that seems more preoccupied with fame, and remains a living testimony that true-blue artists still exist.
The songstress-songwriter got her beginnings in the United Kingdom, but cites her musical influences as primarily American made. “I find that I respond most to a really interesting voice or something with a bit of character to it. So I love Lauryn Hill cause she was the first singer I heard that made me want to sing as well,” La Havas told BET.com. She counts India.Arie and Erykah Badu among her contemporary joys, but music immortals Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone are her favorite singers of all time along.
Lianne’s sultry voice has been compared to all of her music idols, as her emergence on the music scene has been like a gust of fresh air. She writes her own songs, plays multiple instruments, and really appreciates music for the impact it continues to have on her life. She’s studied all types of art from painting to playing the drums. However, it’s when she picked up the guitar at age 18 that she really began to explore her talents musically. She soon began to cross paths with musicians who further inspired her passion.
"I was just exposed to this kind of new group of people who just wrote songs that they wanted to express their feelings," she explained. "I found that I was doing that but I had never met anyone before that was doing that as well. So it was amazing to be absorbing that new world."
With her musical weapon of choice selected, La Havas found her comfort zone in the new craft.
"I found that it [playing the guitar] really helped me hone in what I wanted to get from songwriting and the kind of songs that I wanted to write," La Havas recalled. "I just felt more in tune with the guitar rather than the piano."
When it comes to her new album, it took the young vocalist three years to create it from start to finish. Her face lights up as she describes her favorite tracks, and the many memories that were part of the creative process.
"I think my favorite overall song is probably ‘No Room for Doubt’ with Willy Mason,” La Havas confesses. "The song is the only track on the album that has someone else’s voice on it. I always listen to it in a different way. Because it feels like because we wrote it together, it’s kind of like our song versus just my song."
Like "No Room for Doubt" all of La Havas' songs channel memories and are autobiographical in some way. Her haunting love ballad "Lost & Found" is a lyrical tearjerker, which she reflects on as a personal experience.
"I was seeing a guy when I was 19 and everyone was telling me, it’s always the same way, but this was the first time that I had gone through this kind of heartbreak, and like everyone around me can see that it wasn’t right except me," she said. "And the way my relationship was with him is that we weren’t really that good at communicating our actual feelings. So 'Lost & Found' came from, it’s very internal. It’s more describing how I’m feeling and it’s a way of me telling him that but without saying the words."
As La Havas gears up to turn 23 at the end of this month, perhaps she's learned the art of relaxing while sharing her truths. She’s headed to Cyprus to celebrate her birthday, take some time off and get some sun. The musician is also planning a 1920s-themed birthday party back in London for close friends and family.
While La Havas has high hopes for her new album, she chooses to focus on connection rather than sales. "I just want people to connect with it if they can. You know, just feel like they can relate to the words or just enjoy the music even. I’d love to be still making albums for the rest of my life after this one as well. So I hope it’s left me somewhere to go."
With her impressive debut the young star seems like she's paved a path to carry her career well past the tender age of 23.
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(Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)