This year has been a revelation with regards to new bands and artists emerging on the musical radar of many. If you could have predicted the success of acts like Alt-J, Michael Kiwanuka, Tame Impala, Frank Ocean, Alabama Shakes, Ben Howardetc, then I want your Grey’s Sports Almanac. Though she hasn’t quite reached the level of the aforementioned artists, British-born singer/songwriter Lianne La Havas does have something in common with some of the musicians mentioned above: she too was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize.
Born in London to a Greek father and a Jamaican mother, La Havas began singing when she was only 7 and with parents as diverse as hers, she picked up on eclectic musical tastes at a young age. Though on initial glance, one would think that La Havas would have picked up on the sounds of her parents’ homeland, but not so much. Her mom would jam to Mary J. Blige and Jill Scott while her father, who is an accomplished musician, taught her how to play the guitar and piano, both of which serve as the foundation of her sound today.
From there, the singer wrote her first composition at the tender young age of 11 and though for many, this would be the symbolic start of a burgeoning career in the arts, it took La Havas some time to pursue music as her career. Even though her father taught her the finer points of the above-mentioned instruments, she didn’t fully learn how to play guitar until she was 18. After going to school at Norbury Manor Business and Enterprise College for Girls in Croydon, where her initial plan was to study art and planned to take an art foundation course, she dropped out to pursue music.
With the help of singer/songwriter Allan Rose, La Havas was introduced to singer Paloma Faith, who in turn gave her her first gig, singing backing vocals on Faith’s tour. From there, after honing her craft for a few years, the 23-year-old inked a deal with Warner Bros. Records. In 2011, she released Lost & Found and Live From LA as EPs, which introduced her to the world.
La Havas’s breakthrough came when she performed on Later…with Jools Holland. As luck would have it, sharing the bill that night was the one and only Bon Iver. Following that appearance, La Havas hit the road with the Wisconsin folkies on their December 2011 North American tour, which helped her build a fan base in the States.
As we said in our album review of Is Your Love Big Enough? La Havas is clearly on the rise, and apparently a lot of other people think so as well. She’s been a fixture on the late night television circuit in this country as well, and has toured the States numerous times since the album’s release. Though many don’t take credence in award nominations, La Havas’s nomination for the Mercury Prize proves that she’s clearly on the rise and has caught the eye of music critics in her native England. No matter what happens for her next, the future seems very promising for this singer/songwriter.