English singer/songwriter and guitarist Lianne La Havas arrived in the early 2010s with a mostly acoustic and hushed hybrid of alternative folk and soul. Influenced by the likes of Lauryn Hill and Nina Simone, she found success with the release of her debut album, Is Your Love Big Enough?, which reached number five in the U.K. and earned her a nomination for the BBC Sound of 2012 poll. She has continued to refine her increasingly distinctive style with Blood (2015), a number two U.K. hit nominated for a Grammy, and her third LP, Lianne La Havas (2020).
The daughter of a Jamaican mother and Greek father, La Havas was born and raised in London, England. She was a member of the Paris Parade with Christian Pinchbeck (a future member of Elephant), but the act proved to be short-lived. La Havas eventually shifted to solo work and released Lost & Found, a four-track EP featuring a duet with Willy Mason, in October 2011. Two months later — the same month she opened for Bon Iver during a North American tour — it was announced that she had been nominated for the BBC’s Sound of 2012. Is Your Love Big Enough?, her debut album for Warner Bros., was released in the U.K. in July 2012 and reached number five; the U.S. release from Nonesuch followed a month later. The set was produced almost entirely by songwriting partner Matt Hales (aka Aqualung). One major fan was Prince, who had La Havas contribute to his 2014 album Art Official Age. Around the same time, she also appeared on recordings by Alt-J and Tourist.
La Havas’ second album, the bolder and more produced Blood, followed in 2015. Informed by a trip to Jamaica but additionally inspired by her Greek heritage, the set was preceded by the tracks “Unstoppable” and “What You Won’t Do.” Even more successful than the debut, it entered the U.K. chart at number two immediately after its release that July, and was subsequently nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Urban Contemporary Album. La Havas took an extended break and returned in early 2020 with a small batch of singles that led to the release of her self-titled third album. Another July arrival, Lianne La Havas was written and recorded after a breakup. Hales remained her primary collaborator, while Beni Giles, Mura Masa, and Nick Hakim made additional contributions to the material, which also included a cover of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes.” ~ Andy Kellman