“This was a much bigger, longer, harder process” - hmv.com talks to Laura Mvula about new album The Dreaming Room
Soulful singer Laura Mvula unveils her new album The Dreaming Room today (you can preview and purchase it on the right-hand side of the page) and we sat down with her to find out about how the album came together, why this is a very different record from her debut Sing To The Moon and why Nile Rodgers is “an angel in human form”...
How did you find the process of making The Dreaming Room?
“The last year and a half has been everything I’m not. I’m not a hard worker, but I’ve had to work so hard to get this album right, I’m not a patient person and I’ve had to wait months and months to put this thing out. I feel like a brand new artist, I felt a bit straightjacketed with Sing To The Moon mark Laura Mvula, it was wonderful, but very controlled and contained, which is not what my life has been.”
How did creating this album compare to making your debut album Sing To The Moon?
“Sing To The Moon was quite a simple process, just me in my room, there was a purity to it. They started as synthetic sounds and then become songs that were played by real musicians, which was wonderful to see happen. I’ve always been in music, but this was a massive growth period for me, I’d never gone into writing music knowing that it would definitely be heard and played by real musicians before."
Was there more pressure this around?
“The commercial side was completely new to me, learning how to work a record and create a Laura Mvula brand, which is now my daily life. I relate it to my new kitten, I’ve only had her for a few weeks, she’s called Marley and she’s terrified of everything, you can’t go near her. I was a bit like that with Sing To The Moon, everything that moved I just jumped and handed it off to someone else. This time I was really in it, I’m an all or nothing girl, I’m totally consumed by this record, I listen to it everyday.”
You worked with some great people on this album, Nile Rodgers particularly...
“I got to work with legends, that wasn’t the plan to do that, everyone thinks that because you’re signed to a major record label things like this just get organised for you, but it doesn’t happen like that. So when Nile Rodgers picked up the phone and said ‘I love your music, can we connect?’ I was just taken aback. I actually sent Prince some early demos, he was a real creative mentor and a supporter from afar, I wanted him to hear how I was progressing. Stuff like this gave this album a life force that was all its own.”
How was working with Nile?
“Nile Rodgers is the groove man of all time. No one can hold a groove like he can. You don’t realise until you see him up close how good he is and how hard it is to make something seem so simple when it’s so hard. I got sent his part and I put it on and instantly I could tell there were parts I loved and parts I didn’t. But he’s not just any guitarist, so I tried to get someone else to tell Nile to ask him to change it, I didn’t want to speak to him. Eventually I plucked up the courage and he was so nice and so gentle, I think that’s the sign of a genius, when you’re that good and you can still be humble and still be collaborative. He’s an angel in human form.”
Did knowing you had a bigger audience change how you wrote?
“I didn’t write Sing To The Moon knowing where I’d get to sing it. I didn’t plan to go to Glastonbury and these big stages, so for The Dreaming Room, which was lots of different studios, working in London and then Electric Lady in New York, I had to be a bit more compartmentalised, I had to do things in stages. This was a much bigger, longer, harder process, lots more people involved, lots more to do and lots of stress.”
How did you find writing the lyrics for the album?
“It was a bit of a tug of war, I don’t actually care much for words, the music always comes first for me. I occasionally get lyrical ideas, but I don’t write reams and reams of poetry and then set it to music. I enjoy making the sounds and then seeing how it makes me feel, I let the music speak to me and something comes, often they make no sense at all…”
Are you a lyricist who writes all the time? Do you pick topics out and try and address them?
“I’m not savvy enough to do that. I never sit down with a message, the only person I’ve heard sit down and say something like that was Nina Simone. I need to start from a place where it doesn’t matter and then I’m able to create something with meaning. I’m too tired to write all the time.”
Finally where did you get the album title from?
“I need to sit down and remember properly, but I think it came from my therapist. She’s always saying really poetic beautiful things and we were talking about that space in your mind where you’re just witnessing events and not judging anything. That’s where you’re most free and that’s what I wanted this album to be. I’m not trying to do anything, this is just my music.”