Thursday 8 December 2016

Soul singer Laura Mvula reveals comforting advice given to her by Prince

Published 05/05/2016 | 00:06

Singer Laura Mvula
Singer Laura Mvula

Laura Mvula revealed the comforting advice her mentor Prince gave her after she lost at the Brit Awards in 2014.

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The 30-year-old soul singer, who boycotted this year's ceremony over its lack of diversity, found a kindred spirit in the late singer when she attended an after-party thrown by him just after losing out on best British breakthrough and female solo artist awards.

After Prince asked how she felt, Mvula said: "I was like, 'You know what? I'm disappointed that I'm disappointed'. And he said, 'I understand.'... And he talked with me for 40 minutes about how he's tirelessly worked to create and own his music.

"He was the most relaxed, angelic presence. It's not a facade; his coolness is genuine. To the core."

Mvula paid tribute to the Purple Rain singer's "fearlessness" as she called him "one of the biggest champions of my work" and explained how Prince worked as her own personal John the Baptist.

She told ES magazine: "He spent time putting my name out - I can't tell you the amount of times of times I'd go places in the world and people would say, 'I know your music because of Prince'.

"There was no one like him. And I just remember he smelt so divine, that's the thing."

She continued: "There's no bullshit (with Prince). And that's rare. In our culture... we're obsessed with what's not real and so sometimes it's easier for people to play up to things. He did not, ever. And he was fearless."

Talking about her new album The Dreaming Room, Mvula explained how early experiences of racism at primary school influenced her lyrics, including the line, "Her skin was a terrible thing to live in".

She admitted: "(Kids) would say, 'No, I'm not holding her hand because I'm scared the brown's going to rub off'.

"At that point in my life, as a five or six-year-old, being taught subconsciously that there's something not quite right with my skin led me on a very difficult and distorted path in terms of my identity, self-worth and self-esteem."

She called the paucity of black women in the entertainment and modelling industry "abominable" and praised Beyonce's Lemonade visual album for opening up dialogue.

Mvula said: "It's like when black women come up to me and go, 'Sister, your natural hair, man, I love that, it's amazing. And I'm like, 'It's my natural hair - why is that revolutionary in 2016?' There's a huge alarm bell there. We have so far to go."

She said the industry instead was shedding light only on "beige".

"I don't just mean that literally - I mean metaphorically. We live in the Donald Trump times of music and in the entertainment industry we create McDonald's produce.

"So music, what beauty is...why there's even a question of what beauty is.

"We're kind of a bit lost. It scares me."

Read the full interview in this week's issue of ES Magazine, out May 5.

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