Laura Mvula’s most recent offering is a mellifluous, mystical re-release of her critically acclaimed debut album ‘Sing to the Moon’. The English soul singer-songwriter hails from a background in composition and jumped at the opportunity to re-arrange her masterpiece for a full orchestra.
In a brief, but sweet encounter we speak to Laura just after the release of ‘Laura Mvula with the Metrople Orkest’ behind the Main Stage at Electric Picnic. Laura, tea in one hand, is softly spoken and gentle as she starts to recall her summer adventures on the festival circuit.
Laura arrived to Electric Picnic straight from Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival in Oxford which she says, was “really cool”. Her stand-out shows of the summer include a slot at a festival in Latvia as well as Locus Festival in Italy.
“Every festival is different," she tells GoldenPlec. "I’m lucky because I get to play different kinds. I’ve been at a lot of pop and rock festivals as well as jazz festivals. There’s always an opportunity to reach a new fan base. This time is different because we have more of a profile and there are a few more people already engaged. It’s nice because festivals can be a bit daunting and scary.”
This is Laura’s first year at Electric Picnic and a hectic touring schedules mean she has to dart off to another destination shortly after her Electric Arena set. Time is tight but she is still keen to catch an act or two.
“I would love to see some other artists but I know we have to go pretty soon after our set. I’ll probably just gravitate to whatever sounds pull me in. I’ve been listening to Wildcookie and Beck a lot. There’s a song called Morning [by Beck] that really floors me.”
Laura’s fascination with classical music is something she's always had. Those who attended her Picnic performance will know that her house band includes a cellist, violin player and harpist to name but a few. Laura is a classically trained musician with a Masters in composition and she enjoys experimenting with unusual instrumentation and arrangements. This made her a natural choice for the highly respected BBC Proms.
Mvula made her debut at the Urban Proms last year and returned to the BBC once again in August 2014 to play four songs with the Netherlands-based Metropole Orkest.
”The BBC Proms was pretty special. It doesn’t get bigger or better than that for me,” she explains as a smile begins to spread across her face.
“It’s been a busy month. Rehearsals were on the 18th of this month so it has been intense.”
Is she exhausted yet?
“Yeah, probably. It doesn’t feel like it sometimes but overall I think I’m probably just whacked.”
Conductor and arranger Jules Buckley was an essential component of this project. Buckley and Mvula had previously worked together on the BBC Urban Proms in 2013 before coming together again this year to rework Laura’s entire album.
“My music is already orchestral. I can’t remember if it was Jules or me, but we wanted to do an album and then he said 'Why don’t we just do your songs?'. We were lucky enough to record it at Abbey Road. We got some arrangers and the Metropole Orkest, and I think it has actually become more of itself.”
The orchestral accompaniment and arrangements have indeed succeeded in amplifying and highlighting the ideas and sounds that were already present in the first release. Make Me Lovely is a prime example of this: Laura’s voice booms powerfully over magical, swirling string arrangements that are almost fairytale-like in sound.
“I decided to arrange one of the songs for an orchestra myself and that was super scary but it was the most amazing experience….arranging it and then hearing it back at you. It’s hard to describe how precious that moment it.”
The strength, power and clarity in Mvula’s voice in this recording are striking and leave us wondering how she manages to sustain this throughout months of festival touring?
“I don’t wanna sound bad like I’ve I stopped caring about it, but my voice at the moment requires me to be very honest. I obviously try to keep loose. Maybe that sounds like a bit of a cop out but, if I’m tired, I’m tired, that’s what it is and if I’m not it’s another kind of sound.”
Honesty is a trait we admire and whether it is lyrically or otherwise Laura has it abundance. She crosses over into different genres with ease and the results are impressive. With so many artists selling out for instant gratification, Mvula stands tall in contrast as an artist of integrity. With these principles and genuine talent, Laura Mvula is en route to being one of the most outstanding and respected musicians of her generation.