Laura Mvula Q&A: “The world of online dating is such a heinous process”

The singer talks Miles Davis, building tents in the living room, and her love of perfume.

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What’s your earliest memory?

Playing make-believe and building tents in the living room. I would spend hours doing that, and imitating a video by Psalty The Singing Songbook, which my siblings and I used to watch on repeat.

Who are your heroes?

My childhood heroes were the band Eternal. I remember the feeling of seeing people that looked like me on TV singing and performing. They’re still big heroes of mine! Prince is one of my adult heroes. His talent and musicality, but more profoundly the encouragement and advice he gave me, are something I continue to go back to.

What was the last book that you couldn’t put down?

I’ve been reading James Baldwin religiously for the last few months. So much of what he says is relevant and pertinent today and his words have such power and clarity.

What politician, past or present, do you look up to?

Nina Simone. She was one of the most vocal politicians of her time – not only through her music but in how she lived, uplifted and encouraged.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Perfumes – is that allowed? It would be a sensory version of Mastermind because I’m a total fragrance addict.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

Late 1950s to mid-1960s New York – in the jazz scene hanging out with Miles Davis.

What TV show could you not live without?

I’ve recently recovered from the sadness of finishing Dexter – I’ve been filling the hole with some of my other favourites: Grace and Frankie, Orange Is the New Black, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Who would paint your portrait?

I recently sat for a portrait, actually, which was a great experience. I would have liked to be interpreted by Basquiat.

What’s your theme tune?

I was just discussing with my band some of the great theme tunes from our childhood. “Postman Pat” is actually a killer theme! Mine is probably a Michael Jackson track.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Have you followed it?

My mum told me to write when I was feeling emotional. I didn’t always follow it, but it seems to find me when I’m writing music. There has to be an essence of truth.

What’s currently bugging you?

The world of online dating. It’s such a heinous process!

What single thing would make your life better?

A dog. I really want a puppy that can travel with me.

When were you happiest?

There’s a picture of me as a child, mid-air, jumping into a swimming pool. It’s one of my earliest, happiest memories. That freedom of a child’s happiness is so special.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?

A teacher, I think – especially now that I have a bit more confidence.

Are we all doomed?

Never. It’s easy to feel that way in recent times but human resilience, and our ability to overcome, are far greater than doom. 

Laura Mvula, 31, studied composition at the Birmingham Conservatoire. Her albums “Sing To The Moon” (2013) and “The Dreaming Room” (2016) were nominated for the Mercury Prize. She plays London’s Barbican on 21 July.

This article appears in the 06 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Corbyn mania