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Hello, My Name Is: Lianne La Havas

| July 31, 2013 | 0 Comments

Illinois Entertainer: When you headlined Lincoln Hall last April promoting your debut, Is Your Love Big Enough, you wore this great belt that spelled out a Prince lyric.
Lianne La Havas:
Yes, it did. It said “When Doves Cry.”

IE: Prince actually invited you out to Paisley Park after seeing you perform. What transpired in that meeting?
LLH:
He did indeed. Well, we just hung out, you know, like old friends. And it was amazing and I love him and I can’t believe that I know him. I don’t know, I think he’s really nice.

IE: You started as a backup singer for fellow Brit, Paloma Faith. What did you learn about performing from that gig and from her?
LLH:
To be honest, it was a good first job to have after leaving school. It was the best first job to have. Because I was in the choir a lot at school, so I had that choir experience as my pre-Paloma preparation. You learn a lot about singing in harmony and singing with people and copying people’s phrasings so you can get it nice and smooth and stuff like that. It’s different . . . because she is a pop singer. I learned quite a bit about style from her. She had a wonderful sense of humor and sense of dress, and she used to dress me up basically. I never had anything smart to wear for stage before I met her. So she taught me about presentation onstage. And I love it. I love getting ready and I love the process and I love feeling very fabulous before stage, and she taught me a lot about that. She would dress me up like a doll.

IE: Female artists seem to get slotted into categories: songwriter or singer or guitar player. But you do it all.
LLH:
It’s interesting you say that. I did get a lot of comparisons to a lot of different people at the beginning, but now I feel like I have definitely carved out something of a small genre for myself and more people are becoming aware of it and accepting it. And it wasn’t necessarily difficult in the beginning, it was just, you know, something that [people] had to get used to, I guess.

IE: Your guitar playing is so dynamic and unique, and it seems to take a little bit from jazz and rock and even some ’90s grunge acts. How did you develop that style?
LLH:
Thank you so much. Well, I guess just as you described, it’s taken from everything . . . that I love and somehow it manifested itself in the way that I choose to play. I guess I find chords that I think are satisfying and a rhythm that I think is satisfying. And then it just developed into the thing, whatever it is, and I’ve just gone from there  – just playing stuff that I thought I liked the sound of. But it seems to be quite broad, which I’m very happy about.

IE: Do you consider yourself more a singer or a guitar player?
LLH:
A singer. I think if I had to choose between the two, as much as I love playing guitar, the voice is the only non-man-made instrument, so I think it’s much more important to sing.

IE: On the song “Age,” you sing, very cheekily by the way, about a relationship with an older man. Since releasing that song do you find that a greater number of older men come up to you or ask you out?
LLH:
It’s very funny. I think in general they always used to talk to me anyway [giggles]. I never really went out with an older guy before and then I just happened to meet [the song’s subject]. It’s very funny. I do see a lot of older gentlemen in the audience sometimes, particularly in Europe. I don’t know why. It’s all good fun and games. They’re all generally charming.

IE: Broken hearts come up a lot in your music. What was the first song that broke your heart?
LLH:
Ahhh . . . lovely question. That broke my heart? I’ve got one song. A song I heard when I had my heart broken and it summed up how I was feeling: “The Greatest” by Cat Power. I probably cried to that song a lot.

Lianne La Havas appears at Lollapalooza in Grant Park on Aug. 4.

Janine Schaults

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