Laura Mvula: 'I believe that it will be triumphant'
- Megan Merino
- 14 July 2021
Ahead of her Edinburgh International Festival performance, the award-winning artist tells us why it's time to dance again
It's been five years since the Ivor Novello-winning singer-songwriter Laura Mvula released her last record The Dreaming Room which, along with her 2013 album Sing To The Moon, was nominated for a Mercury Prize. Since then, after publicly separating from her old label and contemplating a change of career, Mvula is re-emerging with a lyrically soul-baring album disguised in the vibrant sounds of the 1980s.
Pink Noise, recently released by Atlantic Records, already marks a new era for Mvula. But she believes being able to perform it live for an Edinburgh International Festival audience is the transitional moment everyone needs. 'We all need to move from this period of intense anxiety and uncertainty into something familiar and exciting that we can all be passionate about. I think music, of course, has always serviced that. For me it kind of feels like the most ordinary thing and the most extraordinary thing all at once.'
Mvula was born in 1986 and has formative musical memories listening to Earth, Wind & Fire, Chic, and Prince (latterly himself a big fan of Mvula's), but her biggest 80s idol was the King Of Pop, Michael Jackson. 'I thought of not much else. Michael Jackson wasn't just a teen idol for me. I inhaled the Jackson legacy when I was 11 and 12. Everything about the story, the wanting to make music together as a family, has parallels with me because both my siblings play in my band.'
These influences are joyfully evident in singles 'Church Girl' and 'Got Me', which are brought to life with masterful production by Mvula and New Zealand producer Dann Hume. 'It was just sort of down to him and I,' she recalls. 'It's a noisy album so it was like, "how are we going to do this, just the two of us?!" But we found a way.' Mvula and Hume drew from her love of synth baselines, gated reverbs, and 80s snare drums to create an infectious sound that makes listening to Pink Noise and standing still a near impossible combination of activities.
'I've always been a dancer or wanted to be a dancer,' Mvula admits. 'When I was a kid, dancing was more important than the songs or music. But I think as I got older maybe I did away with it more. You get self-conscious and move less. But I knew it needed to happen. Probably now more than ever because we've been so restricted from movement in one sense. But it's definitely time to dance now.'
After an incredibly difficult period for artists around the world, Mvula's Edinburgh performance marks the first time her full band have played together in two and a half years. 'We all want to go, "oh yeah, 19 July is the end of this", but at the same time we're all kind of not sure what's happening.' One thing is for certain, audiences can expect a musical and physical spectacle with a dance-heavy influence. 'And not just with me but with the band as well. I believe that it will absolutely happen and it will be triumphant.'
Laura Mvula, Edinburgh Park, Sunday 29 August, 8.30pm, £21–£26.