What Joy Sounds Like: An Interview with Laura Mvula

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Image © Laura Mvula via Facebook

We chat to the award-winning singer about stage fright, teaching and Glastonbury

Following the success of last year’s Summer Series festival at Somerset House, July sees a repeat of this live music event, with the courtyard providing a visually attractive, intimate setting for the performances. One of its stars is award-winning West Midlands’ singer Laura Mvula, 30. London Calling catches up with her during her busy schedule.

London Calling: How would you describe your music? What subjects and emotions are you trying to convey with it?

Laura Mvula: I would describe my music as what joy sounds like. It's a happy experiment that always pushes forward. It should feel often like a wall of sound, as though it's difficult to define what all the individual sounds are. It's surreal like a dream.

LC: You’re an award-winning performer (two Mobos, including Best Female Act) and you've been nominated for three Brits, the Mercury Prize and an Ivor Novello, but you seem to shun the limelight. How do you feel about fame?

LM: I don't think I shun the limelight, not consciously...honestly I wish the public would pay more attention to me.

LC: You started your musical career singing in a church choir. How do you think music and singing can be encouraged among children who don’t have that background?

LM: A lot of my most treasured memories as a kid are of times when I would just get friends from school together or my siblings and make up songs or dance routines, I try to encourage kids to explore their creative potential early on. Rather than sit in front of the telly watching X-Factor go and make your own noise! Make your own sound!

LC: You’ve been a supply teacher. Have you ever considered teaching music as well as singing?

LM: I would love to go back and get my PGCE and teach secondary school kids. I think young people are often the most liberated creatives, I learnt the most when I taught in schools and led workshops.

LC: You’ve also been Director of the Lichfield Community Gospel Choir. Have you thought of becoming a producer?

LM: I already produce really, I co-produced my new record. One day I'd love to work with other artists as a producer.

LC: You’ve mentioned suffering from stage fright. How did you overcome it?

LM: I didn't really suffer from stage fright. I got nervous a lot but I got more confident the more I practiced performing. I just played more gigs.

LC: Cultural appropriation is a hot topic today - at least, in universities. What are your thoughts on that regarding music, and culture in general?

LM: I think the time has come where we are increasingly dissatisfied with mainstream music's over emphasis on just one corner of British culture. We are such a culturally rich and diverse nation, our music industry needs to work harder at accurately representing its diversity.

LC: You’ve worked with Nile Rodgers [on the single ‘Overcome’] How did that come about? What is he like to work with?

LM: Nile Rodgers is an angel. He wrote to me expressing interest in working together. I didn't believe it until he called me up. He is a real genius. He brought the funk to my record in ways I couldn't have imagined.

LC: What future projects and events have you got lined-up?

LM: I can't wait to play Glastonbury main stage in June. I'm thinking more seriously about writing film music and have met with some exciting possible collaborators. There may even be an acting gig coming up for me soon!

LC: Finally, what do you like about London life in general?

LM: I love that London always feels busy and exciting. There's always something going on especially music-wise. I recently moved to Shoreditch, it's nice to feel at home there already.

Summer Series at Somerset House runs from 7-17 July. Laura Mvula performs on 10 July

For further information, including tickets, see Somerset House's website.

Her new album 'The Dreaming Room' will be released on June 17th.