Screenshot: Lianne La Havas / Can't Fight (Official Music Video / YouTube
British singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas has just released her third album, Lianne La Havas, a rich, intimate album filled with lyrics that could cut you right open and vocals that make your whole body feel warm. Most importantly, this album is made up of songs that Lianne has complete ownership of - they are a reflection of her true self, more than anything she has released in the past.
Lianne spoke to me over the phone about the album, and why ownership is so important to her as an artist, a writer and a woman:
You’ve said that the “best part” about these songs is that you own them - why is that so important as an artist or as a woman?
I feel like it’s just very important for all artists... I guess I was always frustrated, because I felt like it could be more like me. All my music, or whatever. It could be more accurate in representing me. I felt like, well this can’t be the only opportunity, you know, to express myself in this way. So, I always felt like I wasn’t satisfying myself enough with my musical output. So, it just was always important for me to express myself and I think this time I finally was able to do that and get my point across in a really big way, like what I really, really meant to say.
But it’s important because that’s all I have. That’s how I choose to express myself. You know, somebody else may choose to make jackets, or to draw, or something. But (...) it’s such a part of how I process things that it feels physically painful, if you can’t express yourself the way you want to, do you know what I mean? So I feel very strongly about doing that, you know, whoever you are. I don’t know, I just think it’s important and especially as a woman - did you say that?
I feel like that especially as a woman. I feel like, you know, for centuries, women haven’t been allowed, you know, for our voices to be heard. Like, I don’t know, again it’s a privilege to be a woman and to be able to express myself in this way. Because you’re a human at the end of the day!
So, this is your third album, and it’s self-titled, why did you decide to make it self-titled?
I guess kinda like what we talked about earlier. With the whole...ownership of, you know, of my expression and my own career. Kind of taking charge of whatever this thing is that I’m doing. I guess I realised that I had creative freedom, or, if I ever feel like I didn’t, I sort of took my freedom back. And I knew, like, before I even wrote the album, that it would be called my name, because I felt like I had something to prove to myself. It has to be coming from me this time. Not that the other ones weren’t! But they definitely had a lot more involvement with other producers and people that I didn’t know. This one is only people that I know and love and they were all trying to help me see out my vision.
I love how the songs on this album feel very intimate, like you’re in the room hearing them played live, was that an important element for you?
Well, I didn’t think about it at the time. But I’m really happy how that came out, ‘cause, yeah, I don’t know, I look at production on a song by song basis, and I think because of the content of a lot of these songs it sort of seemed more appropriate, sonically, to have a bit more intimacy on these.
Who would you say were your biggest musical inspirations with this album, or just generally?
I mean, generally, I like a lot of singers, as you can imagine. A lot of female singers. People like Lauryn Hill, when I was growing up, and India.Arie and then later on I discovered people like Laura Marling (...) she’s just amazing. I love, you know, people that write their own lyrics so you can kind of listen to what they are saying and fall in love with them as an artist. So, yeah, people like Laura Marling and Joni Mitchell. My huge inspirations.
And then, um, just loads of Brazillian music, as well. Loads of Brazillian artists, particularly Milton Nascimento in recent years has become an all-time favourite of mine and I listened to him a lot when I was making this album... Caetano Veloso - a lot of Brazillian artists. They’re just amazing artists, amazing songwriters.
I love what you said about how they write their own songs about their own life, because I find it makes it so much easier to connect to a song, when you know it comes from the person singing it.
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, exactly. And it makes you able to, like, like them. That’s what makes you become a fan, I think. I don’t know, for me personally, if I were to ever meet Joni Mitchell, I’d just probably start crying in her face.
She probably gets that a lot.
Yes! Exactly! Because people just, I don’t know what it is, but she’s so... relatable, yet untouchable.
The world of touring and live gigs is obviously very different in this current climate, how are you feeling about those restrictions? Usually it’s such a huge part of releasing a new album.
Yes, I feel, like, a little bit sad that we weren’t able to do this album campaign in the traditional way. Because of the live aspect, I think that was the thing that was mostly missing for me. And also being able to make videos and go to different countries and, you know, talk about it.
But I think lots of positive things in other ways have happened. You know, I think people who were in lockdown... mostly, if it was okay for you, then you were able to have a bit more time to appreciate music, listen to things and, you know, cook a meal and really be there. I found that in a way, it helped me to learn to be more present and kind of take care of myself a bit more instead of rushing around all the time. So, yeah, I mean I miss live and I don’t think you’ll ever be able to, you know, compare anything to that.
So, as soon as the borders are open, I’ll be there!
Lianne La Havas (the album) is available wherever you stream your music.Support Villainesse