When I first heard Laura Mvula‘s “She” on the radio I was struck by her originality. Then I heard “I Can’t Live With the World,” another cut that sounded (wonderfully) like one of Miguel Atwood-Ferguson’s inspired arrangements. But no, it was Laura’s. She did all the arrangements on her debut album.
I automatically assumed that she was South African with a surname like Mvula, but it turns out that’s actually her married name; she is married to the Zambian-born, classical baritone, Themba Mvula. And yes, Laura herself is a classically-trained musician with a degree in composition from Birmingham Conservatory, which is where she met her husband. She is also a choral director. (I was thinking of the England-based but American composer, Eric Whitacre when I first heard “She.”) You can hear that training in her arrangements.
My two favorite songs on the new album are “She” and “I Can’t Live with the World.” “She” concerns a child moving from a rougher part of town, a concrete jungle, to a more gentrified part of the city surrounded by nature and beautiful gardens. In the Brit Music Awards performance (below) she reminds me of another dynamic female vocal legend: Nina Simone, who was also classically trained. Both have that sort of stunning originality that feels like it’s become more and more rare these days. Laura’s debut album, Sing to the Moon, will be released digitally on April 16th. The album will be released on May 14th.