Lianne la Havas - she's just like us, except with really amazing hair an incredible voice and a guitar and a lovely Bristish accent and, um, sorry I think our girl crush is showing… What first drew our attention to folk/soul songstress (long before we found out how super-cute she was) was her honey-sweet vocals wrapped in bittersweet lyrics of love and heartbreak that anyone could relate to. From particularly specific lyrics ("I found myself in a secondhand guitar") to that rare tiny crack in her otherwise perfect vocals, you know that Lianne didn't simply purchase a perfect pop/folk/soul love song— she wrote it and lived it. And that's really something these days. While the album is a sometimes sullen, but always pretty, chronicle of love "Lost and Found" (also the name of her first EP and a favorite off the new album), when you meet Lianne, she's all laughs, a little mischievous and totally down for an afternoon whiskey and ginger. Aka, our kinda girl. We sat down cross-legged on a hotel couch with Lianne to chat hair, makeup and Prince - read on to see why she meets all the criteria for our latest Band Crush.
Where did you write most of the album? The title track, "Is Your Love Big Enough" is about New York. Did you write it here or home in London? I wrote it in various different places. Some at my house and some at my producers house in London. Then he moved to LA, so some there, and then some in Brooklyn last summer. Different places make you feel so, well, different! I wrote "Is Your Love Big Enough" here in New York.
And that one's quite happy! So I take it you like it here. I really do! I found generally, that coming away from my home was beneficial to me feeling really, properly like myself. Just getting to be alone with my thoughts. And then I shared them with my best friend, who's my producer.
And then with us. And thank you for that. Excuse the overshare, but your Lost & Found EP was totally my breakup album! I just played it on repeat. Aww wow, really? I'm so sorry! But glad it could help! Funny how that works.
It really did. So "Is Your Love Big Enough?" has a lyric that's been confusing me. It goes either "I scream on 2nd Avenue" or "Ice cream on 2nd Avenue." Am I totally projecting the latter? No, it's both! I literally saw a guy eating an ice cream on 3rd Avenue, not 2nd. I asked him where he got it, and he said 2nd Avenue. It's quite literal. The "I scream" is more metaphorical. I was embracing my freedom of being alone in New York. I was so happy I felt like screaming!
We all scream for ice cream! Mystery solved. Thank you. No problem.
Another one of my favorites on the album is Au Cinema. It's a little twee without being unenjoyibly frivolous. And since it's kind of about movies, what's the last one you saw? Hmm the last film I watched was Woman in Black. It's a horror movie. That one with Danielle Radcliffe. It was quite scary! Most horror movies aren't very good anymore, but this one made me jump!
I'll have to check it out then. Now, what led you to music? When I was 7 and I'd heard Sister Act 2 with Lauryn Hill. I thought that was so cool. That was the first time I tried singing. I just fell in love.
And when did you realize that you were singing, like, way better than everybody else? [Giggling] I guess I realized it gave me a really nice sensation. Like, it felt good to sing. So I kept singing. Then I sang in public for the first time when I was 13. I had to audition for the choir, which was the first time I'd sung in front of anyone.
Spoiler Alert: You got in, right? Yeah I did! And that really built my confidence. I was really shy at first in front of an audience. Then I learned to play the piano and picked up the guitar about 4 years ago. My dad taught me some stuff, then I took it from there myself.
Outside of what your parents listened to, what was the first music you really called your own My mum loved divas and girl singers and I love that too. Mariah, Whitney, Jill Scott and Lauryn Hill. Then I discovered for myself Erykah Badu and India Arie… also the greats like Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. She's probably my favorite singer. I love rock, too. Kings of Leon, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Then like, hip-hop: Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes, Eminem…
Em is the greatest. I feel like people are getting too cool to admit that anymore! I know! He's absolutely amazing.
Will we get you rapping on your next album? I dunno about that. I can't speak fast enough! [laughs] I don't think there's any point to, like, slow rapping is there?
You could do like a Drake thing! That's true! He's cool, he's got swagger. I'd love to hear that collab. What was a big "holy shit" moment for you so far? That's tough, there have been so many. But I think meeting Prince!? He just invited me to come and meet him —
Hold up. You say that so casually, but how does one just get an invite from Prince one day!? Did he call you? Mail you a letter? Text you some symbols? [Laughs] It was crazy! He just phoned me and told me that he was a fan! He's amazing. It's like talking to an old friend, but I was quite starstruck. I just had to assume it was actually him. I knew it that was real when I actually met him in Minneapolis at Paisley Park studios, his studio. It was amazing. We just talked about music and he showed me around and we just hung out. It was unreal.
That is unreal. Fun Fact: Prince and I actually have the same tailor in LA! Really? That's so cool!
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but I have to ask you about your hair! [Laughing] Oh, I've heard it! Well, I can tell you that it's difficult to look after. It takes a lot of time and products. Let's see. I braid it before I go to bed, I condition it more than I wash and then trim it every three months. I really love Morcoccan Oil, but it's quite expensive isn't it? I also use this line called Mizani. It's by L'Oreal, but it's specifically for Afro hair. So I use their stuff, too.
Calling it now: the'll be paying you to say that soon! Hah! Let's hope so!
Good stuff. Now one more beauty question: We both love a winged eye - what's your favorite liner? I really love drawing, and especially drawing eyes, so I like doing that! I like the MAC liner in the little pot with a brush when I have the time to do it. When I'm in a rush, I also like just the regular Rimmel liquid liner. Thanks for spilling your secrets! How else do you like spending your free time? Well, I'll have one day off when I get back to London. So I'm looking forward to going to sleep and doing laundry. It's going to be fun to just chill and hang with my boyfriend! Sounds amazing. Have fun! Lianne's new album Is Your Love Big Enough? is out today in the UK and August 7th in the US. Breakup or not, it's a must-listen. And to those who read about Lianne in Our Music Issue: she finally met and shared the stage with her idol - Erykah Badu! — JAZZI McGILBERT
Is Your Love Big Enough?