England spawns smart, lovely songbirds like Adele and Lily Allen and its latest ingénue is Lianne La Havas.
With jazz-soul production and haunting pipes, comparisons to Norah Jones or Lauren Hill are to be expected. But La Havas’ style is remarkably original and uplifting.
"When I started playing the guitar my songwriting changed, I started exploring different ways I could write songs," Lianne says.
In June and July she showcased her new record in New York City, playing to a packed house at the Village Vanguard. At The Darby, she appeared alone onstage with her guitar where she wowed the hushed crowd and set the room into a love tizzy. Small rooms behind her, the artist returns to play Bowery Ballroom in September.
Lianne’s look is Paris boudoir meets English country road. She is a retro vision seeped in Sade echoes and jazz guitar. Songwriting has a through-the-looking-glass sort of poetry that keeps the listener hooked on every syllable so as not to miss a poignant turn of phrase.
"It’s quite an eclectic record," the singer says. "There’s an overall theme of love. The sounds are very electric guitar led."
Guitar lines alternate from harp-like tinkles to rhythmic slide on songs like "Empty" and "No Room For Doubt" and bass-y riffs on her powerful "Forget."
"My single 'Is Your Love Big Enough' means a lot to me because it is not about any of my boyfriends and it’s written literally about a great time I had when I was in New York."
With lyrics that are both earnest and whip-smart, La Havas effortlessly weaves whimsical with wise. Even her blues sparkle. Dropping in on the artist’s world is a pleasure, her Victorian neckline and cozy-chic side bun package a homespun musical treat.
"It’s quite easy to write about your pain but you should write about your happiness as well," she explains. "It’s just as strong a relationship."