From receptionist to rising superstar, Laura Mvula is on a fast track to global acclaim ever since her much touted debut album Sing To The Moon was released in March. Since then, she has won over fans with mastery over intricate, rich palettes in modern soul music - a skill attributed to her years studying at Birmingham Conservatoire. She's now perched prominently in the UK music scene by being shortlisted for the Brits Critic's Choice award and now she's dropping by Singapore this September to play live in the Singapore Grand Prix festivities! We caught up with Laura last week and chat about her formal education, Formula One and more.
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Hi Laura! You sound a little tired.
Do I? I just arrived in Hamburg about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. We're doing a television show here, and then we're flying out to the USA tomorrow.
For our readers in Singapore who may not be familiar with you, tell us more about yourself!
OK! I'm Laura Mvula, a 27 year-old singer-songwriter from the UK. I have an album called Sing To The Moon which just came out earlier this year.
This will be your first trip to Singapore, anything you're looking forward to here?
Yeah, I'm excited to travel to new places and share my music. I'm told that it's gonna be a lot warmer than it is in the UK.
Are you a fan of Formula One?
Nope, I don't know anything about it! My husband is though. Actually my in-laws are all Formula 1 maniacs. I've been told that you have to put on earplugs because it'll be loud, so I'm gonna do that.
We've been listening to your music lately, and we've picked out a couple of similarities with Esperanza Spalding and Erykah Badu. How did you create your own sound?
I was at home in my apartment, and I decided that I wanted to write something that moved me and reflected the emotions I was feeling at that time. I knew I wanted to create something that would grow. I'd start - instrumentally - with nothing, but it thankfully developed into something much bigger. I found that I enjoyed pushing these ideas around my acapella group called the Black Voices. It was just 5 women and I think that largely influenced my desire and love for vocal music - and that was the reason why I went to Birmingham Conservatoire to study composition. It gave me a better idea of how to build the sound and why my songs are the way that it is right now.
Do you think that formal education is necessary?
For me, the formal music education were something that my parents got me on, and I'm glad that they did! More than anything, it just opens you to a whole new world of music. To me, if I hadn't gone through the school, none of all this would be possible. I'm glad now, looking back at everything. I was exposed to so much music from young, and I was encourage to discover as much of the musical records and understand it if I could.
Tell us more about how you got picked up by the label.
I had a friend who used to be in a band with me who had a seminar in London. He asked if he could send my music to some producers - one of them being Steve Brown. Steve asked if I had any plans to record an album, and I said no. But he encouraged me to keep writing. We met up in the end to record. Before I knew it I had a manager, and a publishing deal.
You mentioned in a Guardian interview that you didn't think you have a great voice...
In my childhood I grew up around a lot of amazing singers. I'm more interested in making the music, not just singing. I think that's how my mind works; it's about the craft and the instrumentation - everything else comes after.