Behind Soul Songstress Laura Mvula’s Rapid Rise To Center Stage

3_LauraMvulaPhoto: Courtesy of Josh Shinner. Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Music has always been at the center of Laura Mvula's life — from her upbringing as a classically trained pianist to her degree in composition at the Birmingham Conservatoire — but it was only recently that her passion became her profession. Born outside Birmingham, England, Mvula was working as a receptionist at an orchestra when she sent some demos out with only meager hopes of getting discovered. As it turned out, composer Steve Brown wound up with the recordings, and the rest is history. Brown went on to produce Mvula's first EP, She, as well as her debut album, Sing to the Moon. Fast-forward a year and she was opening for The Rolling Stones at Glastonbury. We spoke with Mvula about her many inspirations, what she's looking forward to next, and her milestones (so far).

Debut Album
"It's really exciting! It feels like a whole new adventure. I've never done anything like this before, so I never really expected my music to connect with so many people. I'm just taking it as it comes and savoring all of the wonderful moments."

Rolling With It
"When we played Glastonbury Festival, which I had never been to before on the Pyramid Stage, before The Rolling Stones — that was an awesome moment. A realization, I guess. And when we supported Prince in Stockholm [at the Stockholm Music & Art Festival], that was really special. Then we did the BBC Prom at Royal Albert Hall. That was the first time I heard my songs set to an orchestra, so that was also a moment of recognition and taking it all in, I guess." 3_LauraMvula_quote

Inspiration, Everywhere
"My favorite singer of all time is Lizz Wright. Her voice and music inspire me, but it's also the way she talks about musical ideas and philosophies. I listen to her interviews as much as I listen to her songs. Playing with a youth orchestra when I was very young made a real impression on me, and I think my studies are, hopefully, evident in my music. I had teachers and peers who were always about listening to all sorts of music. When I studied at university, I was hearing so much music that I had never heard before and met with so many people who performed — whether it was Irish folk music or with the amazing jazz department at the Birmingham Conservatoire or the singing department. It had a heavy influence on the way that I write, and the way that I think about music."

"I like to be at home. I like to be isolated — I get really self-conscious if people can hear me improvising. I love being outside as well, in the garden especially at my family home. I don't put pressure on myself. If it happens, it happens, but if it doesn't, you move on. Music is supposed to a be a fun release. If I'm not in the right frame of mind, I just step away from it."

Future Perfect
"Even in the last week, we've had so many things happen and have met so many people. Playing with a full orchestra would be fantastic. That's what I had in mind for the original sound of the album. We managed to create an orchestral sound, but we used musicians in the studio, and we would layer up all the parts. [For now], we're touring, touring, touring. I'm really excited to play New York, there's so much excitement about what we're doing!"

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