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- Posted on Jul 18th 2012 4:00PM by Robert Ham
But that's not the real reason she sounds breathless and giddy.
"I played a show last night, and all my dreams came true: Stevie Wonder came to the show," she told Spinner as she sat poolside at her hotel. "I can't believe I can say that sentence. It was amazing. I was very emotional, and I cried! He said he liked the show. That's all I wanted."
It's quite a stamp of approval for any artist, let alone one whose album hasn't dropped yet. But that's the beauty and power and La Havas's work. Her laidback, soulful sound that pulls equally from the worlds of vintage R&B and pastoral English folk-pop has a radiance and spirit that urges listeners to lean forward and drink it up in huge gulps.
At least that's what happened with another famous fan: Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.
Vernon saw La Havas perform for the first time when they appeared together on the long-running BBC program, "Later...With Jools Holland." He was so smitten with what he heard, he brought La Havas over to serve as opening act on a string of tour dates in the Midwest.
"That was a really amazing time in my life," La Havas says. "Justin is such a soulful person. To be around him and to know that he likes what I'm doing is a great honor."
Of course, celebrities aren't the only ones who have fallen for La Havas's work. The young musician sold out a series of dates in the U.K. last year, and anticipation for her full-length on that side of the pond is huge.
The person looking forward to it most, of course, is La Havas. Understandable, too, considering the winding path she took to reach this point. The daughter of Greek and Jamaican parents, La Havas fell into performing at the age of 13 when she auditioned for her school's choir, catching the performing bug instantly.
It was another five years before La Havas decided to put her full weight behind writing her own songs, though, thanks to her decision to finally start learning the guitar. "I could play the piano," she says, "but I could never feel it as much as I could feel the guitar."
On the strength of some demos, La Havas netted a deal with Warner Brothers about two years ago, a move which gave her some time to take a break from performing and concentrate on writing some new material.
"I loved playing live, but I felt like I didn't have enough material really," she says. "It was a very meaningful and useful time where I could really work on it and focus on getting my thoughts and feelings out in song form."
That writing period obviously paid off as those emotions pour out of Is Your Love in beautiful, sometimes heartbreaking waves. The mood can be stomping and pleading as on the title track, or can be mournful and repentant (the rain-soaked "Lost & Found"). And as with any artist putting as much of their personal life and their most deeply felt emotions into their work, the experience for both listener and performer can be a cathartic one.
"That's why I do it. It's my way of talking about it and getting it off my chest. I can't help but remember how I was feeling when I wrote the songs. That's a good way of channeling your emotions into a good performance."
The next steps of La Havas are, of course, more performances here in the U.S. and abroad, with the possibility of meeting more of her musical idols and fans. But from the contented sound in her voice as she lounges poolside on a sunny day in L.A., she could retire today and not have a touch of regret.
"I maintain that I never expect anything, therefore I'm always pleasantly surprised. I know that deep down, I'm very happy with the record and the work that we've done. There's a lot of love that went into it. Even if it's not a huge success, I'm still happy."
Is Your Love Big Enough? is due out in the U.S. on Aug. 7.