Q&A: Lianne La Havas

The belle of indie-soul debutantes talks with A&E about festival season, Prince and dropping out of college.

by Lucy Nieboer

What: Lianne La Havas

When: 8 p.m., Sunday

Where: Varsity Theater, 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis

Cost: $18-$20

Age: 18+


The past year has been a whirlwind for Lianne La Havas. Between her impeccable guitar playing, funky girlish style and sweet British lilt, she crooned her way into the hearts of soul fans everywhere with her debut album, “Is Your Love Big Enough.”

This young musician’s debut wove a delicate fusion of folk and soul with a smoky voice, evocative lyrics and complicated rhythms. Now, the U.K. native is singing her way across the country in her first American tour. A&E caught up with La Havas on the road as she made her way from one venue to the next.


You were just at SXSW. How was that?

That was cool — kind of crazy, but it was really fun. I played two shows, but then I lost my voice so I couldn’t play the rest of the shows for the next day. Then I had a couple of days of not talking, and then I was able to re-adapt with my voice there. The time I was there was really fun. I had never been to Austin before, so it was really cool. I did bump into a lot of my old friends like Paloma Faith, and I heard about Prince’s show, which is cool because we’re close.


You’ve been to Minneapolis before to visit Prince?

He invited me. It was a year ago now, and he just invited me to come and meet him and jam, essentially.

We didn’t make anything new, but I think he just wanted to meet me, which is great because I’ve always wanted to meet him.


Did he have any good advice for you?

He just said keep being myself and carry on doing what I’m doing. He was very encouraging and supportive.


What music do you listen to to get inspired?

All kinds of things really. I just like when new music comes to you and moves you. Growing up I was listening to Lauryn Hill and Mary J. Blige and Michael Jackson and that kind of stuff.


Did you always know that music was something you wanted to pursue?

It was a dream my whole life. It wasn’t until I was about 18 or 19 that I decided to try for real to see if I could do something with it professionally.


What made you make the switch from college to performing?

I was at art college. I was working as a backing singer. So really I was working in a bar as a backing singer. At the same time I had started a band. It was just me and another guy. It was a way of expressing ourselves for the first time I suppose. For me it was a big thing because I had never been in a band before. So seeing how music relates with all things and at the same time seeing how it follows you, I decided that I much preferred music. From then on I decided that I was going to write my own music for myself. It just happened from there.


You were a backup singer for Paloma Faith for a while?

Yeah, for about 18 months.


How was that different from being in the spotlight yourself?

It was just as fun. It was great to be in her band to see what moved. She’s a great friend, and everyone in the band was friends, so going to work was a lot of fun. I enjoyed watching her do her thing, and she was very supportive of me doing my thing when the right time came to move on. I just think right now I’m a lot more busy. Doing my own thing takes a lot of time.


What’s ahead for you after the tour?

Lots after the tour. Apart from beginning the writing process and recording for the second album I shall be performing at a number of festivals in the U.K., Europe and the U.S.A. I love festivals. Then I’m going to be performing and recording and writing I suppose. So there’s all that to look forward to. I really love festivals.


Any festival that’s your favorite?

Yes. I mean I like all of them like I said. I’m going to be playing North Sea Jazz Festival, which I’ve always loved, and all my favorite artists ever have played there. It’s in Rotterdam, Holland. It will be my second year playing, but this year I’m going to be one of the main acts. I’m so excited.