Velvet voiced newcomer, 26 year old Laura Mvula is quickly evolving into Birmingham’s most promising export. A classically trained musician who successfully merges orchestral harmonies alongside soulful indie, her unique sound has landed her onto the BBC Sound of 2013 longlist.
What’s your musical background?
I started learning the piano at age 8 and violin at age 10. I was always fascinated by orchestral music and as a child I thought playing in an orchestra was the most glamorous thing ever. In my teenage years I aspired to be a film music composer and as a kid I was obsessed with Disney music. When I saw my auntie’s acapella quintet group perform in Birmingham Town Hall I knew I wanted to make vocal music. I wanted to be a part of a singing group. I also thought that Eternal were the best in the world.
How has a city like Birmingham shaped your sound and inspired your writing?
Growing up in Birmingham, I had the opportunity to have instrumental lessons through the Birmingham Music Service. Part of the criteria for studying an instrument through BMS was that you had to audition for and go through the music services training ensembles/orchestras. One of my favourite musical memories was playing in a string orchestra for the first time and rehearsing in an old school hall, the sound was lush and electrifying. When I write string parts in my songs I always have this memory in mind. I’m always trying to achieve this sound with the way I voice chords and use the instruments.
You’re a self proclaimed R&B geek. Who were your musical inspirations now when you were growing up ?
I grew up listening to lots of jazz (that’s what my dad was mostly into). He introduced me to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie etc … When I started playing piano at about Grade 5/6 standard I was really into listening to Debussy’s piano music. The first album I bought was the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. I also love gospel music…
If you could work with any other musician who would be your first choice?
We’ve heard comparisons of your in-progress LP to Nina Simone, Gershwin and Fleet Foxes… What can we expect?
I’m really excited about it. It’s basically me as a kid in a candy store. Working with Steve Brown who is a great producer, I had total freedom in using orchestral instruments. Listen out for the tubular bells which I got to play and playing a real celeste was incredible.
What’s your ideal wonderland?
A land where everyone sings rather than talks and there is no traffic. That would be perfect.
You can pre-order Laura Mvula’s debut album Sing To The Moon on iTunes. www.lauramvula.com
Words: Shane Hawkins