The title of Lianne La Havas’ debut, Is Your Love Big Enough?, poses a juggernaut of a question. The answer is wholly dependent on who’s listening to the British newcomer’s delicate odes to flirtation, doubt, and requisite heartbreak.
Decades in the Making
Born right on the edge of the ’80s, La Havas grew up during the melody-heavy ’90s and then soaked up the independent-woman mantras of the early 2000s. The 23-year-old singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist wrote her first song at 11 years old, and broke into the music industry after dropping out of college and meeting singer Paloma Faith, for whom she eventually sang backup.
Under the Influence
Though La Havas’ parents separated when she was a very small child, her music is thankfully devoid of pitiful ditties about divorce. “I was very young, so I’ve never known them to be together,” she says of her Jamaican mother and Greek father. “I was a very happy child, and was brought up by my grandparents.” However, her mother did shape La Havas’ musical tastes, playing Jill Scott and Mary J. Blige constantly. “Their voices really made me want to sing. I respond a lot to the honesty and soul in their lyrics and delivery,” she says of the R&B prima donnas. “There have been many artists that have influenced me in this same way, such as Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, and Laura Marling.”
Adele and Amy Winehouse have led the most recent wave of British soul, but La Havas believes any similarity to them lies in geography. “I am a fan, so comparisons are compliments. I do feel, however, that what I do is coming from a different point of view,” she says.
Many of her idols, including Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Erykah Badu, jumped in line early on to recognize her gifts. While accolades from music royalty would inflate the ego of any industry infant, for La Havas, it serves as inspiration. “They are legendary, so to know that I am acknowledged by the likes of these musicians is some of the best knowledge I have in my possession.”