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Arts and Entertainment

Laura Mvula's Retro-Soul Sound Dubbed As Adele-Meets-Nina-Simone

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When Laura Mvula's debut album "Sing to the Moon" was released last year, critics compared the British singer's voice to the likes of Amy Winehouse, Nina Simone and Adele. But it's hard to quite pinpoint where her music lies since her tracks range from upbeat pop orchestral tunes to gospel and soulful jazz. Her song "Little Girl Blue," most reminiscent of Simone's voice, was featured in the 12 Years a Slave soundtrack.

The 27-year-old British singer made her way out to Coachella this year and LAist caught up with her following her afternoon performance in the Gobi Tent over the weekend. While she told us that she was most blown away by The Knife's performance at the 3-day music fest in the desert, we also chatted about her past as a teacher, how U.K. festivals are different from Coachella, and more.

On Her Influences

Miles Davis is someone whose music is something I always [go to], my default. When I’m not sure what to listen to, that’s what I listen to. But I’m definitely inspired by church music; I grew up with church. And some classical music when I started playing violin when I was younger. I’d been hearing orchestral music music, that really impacted me, really moved me. And also movie scores. I became obsessed with TV and film music when I was young. Disney was a big part of my upbringing...I like to just be moved, generally. At the moment I’m just listening to a lot of old soul, a lot of James Brown.

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On Being a Music Teacher

I used to work in school as a teacher there—secondary school...I was a supply music teacher. I struggled. I did it straight after university which was quite difficult. I wasn’t really prepared [and] I wasn’t trained as a teacher. I just had all this passion for music and thought I could just waltz into a school and change everybody’s lives. It was more about behavior management and crowd control which wasn’t really my bag. I learned a lot. It was tough.

On Coachella

To me, it doesn’t feel like a festival. It feels like a music holiday resort. It’s because it’s so clean and everybody’s happy and everyone dresses really well. In the U.K., it’s more about being at home, being muddy and wet and cold, [and] drinking. A festival is not a place in the U.K. to put on your best.

Who She Gets Compared To The Most

[The] biggest one is Nina Simone. That comes up a lot. I don’t know yet. I’ve gone from rejecting it entirely to being completely baffled by it. I’m somewhere in the middle.

On Becoming A Singer

I always had a focus or a yearning to be creative, to do something. But I didn’t know what, I didn’t know how. So when I was signed, so when I did the album, that was the first moment—my first sort of realized dream. Being in a studio and working with musicians and having put the music out was a huge step for me. I didn’t know what format this was going to take. I was going to do my masters at one point. For me, it was just sort of a homecoming.

What Her Younger Self Would Think Now

My ten-year-old me would be very chuffed. [I] was very shy. I have memories of being in performances and crying because I couldn't deal with it in the moment. It’s been a long journey.

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