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Lianne La Havas interview

clock April 8, 2016

Singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas is Coldplay’s main support for the Latin American and European legs of #AHFODtour. We called her up the morning after her first show with the band, in Buenos Aires.

Lianne La Havas interview

Hello Lianne, how are you?
I’m very well, thank you.

So, how was the first night of the tour?
It was amazing. So amazing. Yesterday felt like the first time of everything. I’ve never played in South America. I’ve never supported Coldplay. I’ve never played in a stadium before. And it was so, so electric.

That’s great!
I know! We could have ended up using all that adrenaline wrongly, or something. But my band and I were all equally excited to do it and felt equally honoured to be there, and so, so grateful to Coldplay. And I think we used that the right way on stage.

And the fans were attentive?
They were absolutely amazing. They were very responsive and eager to join in and to clap and sing. They even started singing “Olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, Lianne! Lianne!” That was a real highlight! It was all kind of overwhelming.

Lianne La Havas BA 310316_1Resized
Lianne in Buenos Aires, by Ollie Smallwood

According to your page on Songkick, last night was the 300th show of your career!
Really? That’s crazy! Wow!

So it sounds like you celebrated in style.
Yes! Although it does feel like I’ve done more than 300.

In fairness, I can’t really vouch for the accuracy of your Songkick page.
Yeah, that’s only the ones that they know about! There might be more.

Either way, you’ve done a lot of shows. Have you played many support slots before?
I have, yes. Nothing on this scale, though. I supported Bombay Bicycle Club, most notably. And I’m about to support Leon Bridges in the USA as well.

Do you approach a support slot slightly differently to a headline slot?
Yes, absolutely. My mindset is to be as good as you can be, doing your thing. And I’ve got a shorter set than I would for a headline show, so I think about if I were playing to people who have never heard my music before, what are the songs I would most like them to hear. And depending on where I am geographically, I will say something in Spanish. I studied the language, so I feel it might be nice to say what I’m feeling, but do it in Spanish.

That must’ve gone down well last night.
It seemed to. Although I was panicking a bit about my grammar.

In case you accidentally asked for directions to the train station?
Haha! Exactly!

For those who haven’t heard of you, how would you describe your music?
I would describe it as an eclectic variety of sounds, but all held together with my singing and guitar playing. I guess it’s important to point out that I play guitar, but I have a way that I like to do it. It focuses around finger-picking rhythms. Mainly on an electric guitar with a clean tone.

How did you find out you were doing the Coldplay tour?
I was doing a solo tour in the USA, back at the beginning of February, and there was some talk from Coldplay’s camp. So I was told it might happen, but we wouldn’t know for sure until I heard from Chris. Then I got an email from him asking me on behalf of the band. That’s when I knew it was official!

And you replied saying, “I’ll think about it…”?
Haha! Yes. I said I’ve got a very busy schedule… No, I was just so pleased. I’ve been a fan of the band for many years. My friends and I essentially grew up listening to Coldplay. So for me it was a no-brainer.

Did you see the band’s show last night?
Yes, it was just amazing. It does cross my mind, how would you entertain 50,000 people at once, and keep them entertained? But then you realise that, of course, they have written amazing songs, so that’s in the bag. And then visually, that’s in the bag if you see the show. It’s just beautiful. And the show just feels like them. You are actually inside their minds when you watch. I think that is the essence of a really good show, whether it’s massive or small.

You said you’ve never played in Latin America before, have you ever been there?
It’s my first time in Argentina. And it’ll be my first time everywhere except Mexico, where I went on holiday, for New Year’s just gone, to Tulum and Cancun. So it will be my first time in literally every city that we’re visiting. Exciting!

Will you get the chance to see the cities?
Well I hope so! But then the reason I’m here is to perform well and to support Coldplay and be a good warm-up act for them. So I’m obviously concentrating a lot on my work. If there’s ever time, then I’ll definitely have a little explore with my band. But I’m also so paranoid about my singing. I don’t want to lose my voice. And I lose it really easily. Even just by talking even.

Ah. So I’m jeopardising the tour at this very moment?
Ha! No, I didn’t mean it like that! But I do like to look after myself when I’m on tour.

And by the time we post this interview, we’ll have announced that you’re doing the UK and Europe with the band as well!
Yes! Amazing.

Including four nights at Wembley Stadium in your home town of London.
I know. That’s just incredible. I don’t know how this happened! The more I think about it, the more terrifying it is!

Oh, but you’ll be well used to playing stadiums by then.
Maybe. I hope that feeling never goes away, though. Like, “Oh my god, I’m about to play IN A STADIUM!”

People say you have to make your gestures bigger for a venue of that size. Are you having to change the way you perform?
That’s interesting. I’ve only got the one show to go on, but I found that it felt really right. I think I actually felt less exposed because there were more people. I find that in really tiny gigs – which I’ve done a lot of – I feel really vulnerable. But here I didn’t feel that as much.

For those that see you and enjoy you on this tour, how can they find out more about you?
Well, I have two albums out. My second, Blood, was released just under a year ago. So that’s all on the internet and in some shops! And, also, I mentioned that I was on a solo tour and to accompany that I released an EP of solo versions of my songs. So you get to hear the essence of what I do. That’s called Blood Solo and that’s also out. And then I’m working on my third album in between all of my amazing touring adventure. I hope to release that next year.

Your last album was influenced by your Jamaican and Greek heritage. Can we expect a bit of a Latin American flavour on the next one?
You know what, I’m so excited to be over here because I’ve always been so inspired by Brazilian music and Latin music in general. My father listened to all kinds of things when I was growing up, including that. And I feel like my guitar style perhaps lends itself to Latin American music. While I’m here I really hope to see some live music. So you never know! I like to take in things from everywhere that I visit.

And finally, what is your favourite Coldplay song?
That’s a good question! Last night, I was reminded what it is because I saw it live. I got a bit emotional, actually. It’s Politik. I just think it’s amazing. I remember when I was younger, thinking how bold it was for the drum beat to be that pulsing explosive sound throughout. And I realised how impactful that was last night when I saw it. The melodies are incredible too. And can I have a second one?

Of course.
That would would be Parachutes. It makes me feel so warm and happy when I hear. And I love that it’s just this short, perfectly-formed, tiny snippet and they never extended it. It’s just perfect.

For more info on Lianne, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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