23 Nov 2016

Lianne La Havas: Soul Journey

From RNZ Music, 2:46 pm on 23 November 2016
Lianne La Havas

Lianne La Havas Photo: creative commons

South London singer-guitarist Lianne La Havas will be supporting Coldplay and playing her own solo show in Auckland in early December. Nick Bollinger speaks to her about her music and roots.

Though South London singer-guitarist Lianne La Havas is just in her mid-twenties, there’s something of an old soul about her - or perhaps it’s that her latest record reminds me of a lot of old soul music.

‘What You Don’t Do’ - an upbeat dance track from her recent album Blood - has echoes of 80s R&B, while other songs lean towards the ‘quiet storm’ ballads of the late 70s.

Her first album, Is Your Love Big Enough? came out in 2012 and was less of a production, concentrating more closely on her own intricate guitar playing – though there’s still plenty of that on this latest set too.

La Havas -  is due to play two shows in New Zealand in December; one on her own at Auckland’s Tuning Fork, the other opening for Coldplay at the Vector Arena. She has previously toured with Coldplay in Europe and South America. But when I caught up with La Havas on the phone recently she was in Knoxville Tennessee, with just two shows to go on an U.S. tour with the soul singer Leon Bridges. I asked her about the differences between touring with someone like Leon Bridges and an arena rock act like Coldplay.

“I guess the main difference is the fact that Coldplay are … Coldplay”, she says with a laugh. “They’ve been around for a very long time, whereas me and Leon are in a similar boat where we’re both kind of emerging, so I feel like the audience has a mutual respect for both of us.”

Even so, she say she tries to give as intimate performance on the arena stage as she does when she’s playing smaller venues such as the Tuning Fork.

Her songs project a certain intimacy. She says the album title Blood refers to her increased interest in her Greek and Jamaican heritage; a theme she explores in songs like ‘Green and Gold’.

“My grandparents came [to London] from Greece in the 40s and 50s and my Jamaican grandparents came in the 60s. My parents were both born in London. But I was brought up in South London and raised by my Jamaican grandparents. And I never really questioned it… but I id always wonder, what is it like to go to Jamaica? What would it have been like if I’d learned Greek? I arranged a trip to Jamaica with my mum. It was just meant to be a holiday but it turned out to be a significant emotional journey for me.”

Related Stories

  • Blood by Lianne La Havas
  • Jumpy Lyricism
  • Coldplay - 2001 Radio NZ feature