This interview appeared in Marie Claire South Africa (April 2017)
Multi-award winning British singer-songwriter Laura Mvula is celebrated for her vocal strength and soulful compositions. The protege of the late musician Prince makes her way to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival this month, where she’ll perform music from her canon, including her latest album The Dreaming Room.
She chats to us ahead of the show.
You’ve filmed two music videos in South Africa, and you’re back to perform at the CTIJF. Could you share your connection with the country?
South Africa has always been important to me. That’s where I created some of my most symbolic music videos; the first time I worked on one was in South Africa. So it’s a country that holds memories of a virgin experience to me; it takes me back to a special feeling. My parents are Caribbean but most people think I’m from SA because of my surname; I’m yet to tell them I’m not. The country really holds a special place in my music foundation. I grew up listening to South Africa music like the Soweto String Quartet, who I got to see perform in my hometown of Birmingham when I was young.
Your music videos are visually striking, and so is your personal style. How much creative direction do you when deciding on your wardrobe or video/stage visuals?
When the first record came out, I was determined to be safe. That quickly changed by the time the second record came out. I realised there was an opportunity for me to be the truest expression of who I am. I love colours, vibrancy and interest shapes; and things that don’t fit into a box. That extends to the music. That comes from idolising musicians like Earth, Wind and Fire or watching Michael Jackson videos, which were unmistakable and striking.
You wrote the music for the Royal Shakespeare Company show Antony and Cleopatra, which premiered in March. How are you feeling about it?
This is the most excited I’ve been for a long time, and it came at the most perfect time: when I was just dropped from Sony and began to reimagine my career. The show’s director, Iqbal khan had a specific idea about the music and he wanted my sound translated into theatre. I’ve yearned to make music for film and theatre, so this made sense.
Last year you spoke out about the lack of diversity at the Brit Awards. How are you feeling about the award show this year? Do you think diversity has been achieved, compared to last year?
This whole thing is complex. I spoke about it and then I didn’t get a nomination [this year]. So it’s quite political. The nominations themselves should reflect accurately the music being made in the country, and it wasn’t.
You recently tweeted about being dropped by Sony. How are you feeling now? And what plans do you have for the future?
I feel as though the public have been comforting and encouraging me but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel hurt. I got caught up with the illusion some how that the label dictates the direction of my career. Prince tried to warn me before he died, he urged me to own my masters, and be independent. But I was so caught up in my journey, and didn’t know if i could do it on my own. But now I know I can, which puts me in the best position I’ve been in the [last] couple of years.
Laura Mvula will perform at the The 18th Annual Cape Town Jazz Festival, 31 March – 1 April