Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Hello, My Name Is: Lianne La Havas

| July 31, 2013

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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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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