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Arts & Culture

A Rush Of 'Blood': Lianne La Havas Turns Up The Volume

Lianne La Havas' second album, <em>Blood</em>, expands on the cool, nuanced tone of her debut, while adding a shot of intensity.
Lianne La Havas' second album, <em>Blood</em>, expands on the cool, nuanced tone of her debut, while adding a shot of intensity.

At 25, singer Lianne La Havas has established herself as a guitarist, a songwriter and a singer, with fans that include Stevie Wonder and Prince. Her new album is titled Blood, and it's almost like a reintroduction. La Havas tapped her own heritage for inspiration: Her father is Greek and her mother Jamaican, and it was a holiday visit to the latter island that got her thinking about her sound.

"I loved how acceptable it is everywhere to just listen to music really loud, you know?" she says of Jamaica, where she recalls seeing a car rigged up with a makeshift sound system, its speakers pointing out the window. And yet there are moments on Blood that recall the cool, nuanced effects of La Havas' debut, Is Your Love Big Enough? The song "Wonderful," one of the barest on the new album, looks into the past with both its music and lyrics.

"Basically, I was going through a breakup, and at the same time I was starting to write about maybe trying to get back together," she says. "'Wonderful' kind of was the culmination of all those feelings, so I thought, 'I'm just going to fondly remember and write a nostalgic ode to him, so he knew it meant something to me.'"

La Havas' impact keeps growing, and she's spending more and more time in the U.S. — where she says she's found a different set of expectations than in the U.K.

"The first time I ever was called black was when I went to America," she says. "In London, it was just always the norm that all kids from everywhere all hung out, being mixed. It wasn't a thing, basically — you are Lianne. I feel very lucky that the album came out the way it did, you know, how it sounds, because that's all I really want to be judged on."

Hear more of La Havas' conversation with NPR's Audie Cornish at the audio link.

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