Bottom of the class to top of the pops

Laura Mvula performing on the Main Stage at the Isle of Wight Festival. Yui Mok/PA Photos.
Laura Mvula performing on the Main Stage at the Isle of Wight Festival. Yui Mok/PA Photos.

Laura Mvula’s debut album Sing To The Moon has been a huge success, but the rising star still battles nerves. That’s not to say she doesn’t have the odd diva moment, however,

In a few weeks’ time she will start her biggest-ever UK tour. You might think she’d be busy rehearsing, but when asked if she’s been practising at all, she bursts into laughter. Although after the year she’s had touring the world and playing festivals, she and her band will be in fine shape.

“I’ve always had this passion to be creative, and wanted to be in bands, but I didn’t have ideas as to how I’d do it,” she says. “I didn’t think it would be me at the front either. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that was something I’d prevent.” She formed The Laura Douglas Band and later, after marrying singer Themba Mvula in 2010 and, persuaded the rest of the band to call it something else. They became Judyshouse and competed in unsigned competitions. “Lots of people think I’m telling porky pies when I say how nervous I get about singing,” she says. “I was good at working out how music was put together, but if you asked me to sing upfront I looked like I was going to pass out.” This was a constant theme throughout her time at the Birmingham Conservatoire studying composition.

“I was a terrible student,” she says. “Bottom of the class, but it turns out I was really good at improvising, which is how I write songs now.”

“Maybe there’s something in vulnerability?” she asks. “It’s endearing to watch, isn’t it? Someone so shy singing these big songs. But it’s cruel! I have to suffer so much for other people’s enjoyment.”

But there are rare occasions when Mvula has “a diva strop”. Her keyboard player has even given her petulant alter ego a name: “He calls me Gregory when I go in those moods. The band roll their eyes and say, ‘Here comes Gregory’ and leave me to it, but it’s useful to get things done.”