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Laura Mvula: “You need to know who your people are – who your ‘ride or dies’ are”

Speaking to NME on the red carpet of the Mercury Prize 2021, Laura Mvula told us about the rich variety of her pool of inspiration, as well as sharing advice for artists who might be up against adversity. Watch our video interview with Mvula above.

  • READ MORE: Laura Mvula – “I’ve heard that I’m ‘frowned upon’ within the music industry”

The singer-songwriter was in attendance at the London ceremony where she was nominated for her acclaimed 2021 album ‘Pink Noise‘ – her third record to receive a Mercury nod.

“I’m not sure about this familiar thing I keep being asked, whether the third time is the charm,” she told NME. “I don’t know. It’s just nice to be here.”

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Asked about what sets her latest record apart from her other work, Mvula replied: “Anybody that paid attention who has stuff to say about music in this country probably thought they knew what I was. They loved that too and that was great, but I think a lot of people didn’t have a Scooby-Doo about me! It’s just nice to put an album that says, ‘This is also a part of who I am’.

“I’ve had a really rich, creative upbringing. I’ve got big ears, a big heart and come from a musical, creative background and a family of musicians. In terms of limitations, there were never any.”

Laura Mvula onstage during the Hyundai Mercury Music Prize 2021 at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith on September 09, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by JMEnternational/Getty Images)
Laura Mvula onstage during the Hyundai Mercury Music Prize 2021 at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith on September 09, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by JMEnternational/Getty Images)

On the subject of what direction she might head in next, Mvula said: “It could be anything. The key for me is to keep pushing forward. I know there are obvious references on ‘Pink Noise’, but I don’t think anyone can say it’s funk or it’s soul. For me, that’s the point. It just has to be something that you feel in some way. That’s the goal for me.

“I would like to do some collaborations – some happenstance, serendipitous meetings with people I respect. It would just be great to do something outside of my world. I’d love to jump into someone else’s world for a bit.”

It’s been a long and fraught journey for Mvula to get to this stage, having been plagued by label trouble – once even finding out that she’d been dropped via a forwarded email.

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Her advice to other artists who might find themselves up against hard times?

“Know who your people are; who your ‘ride or dies’ are,” she said. “That’s a good thing, because constants are what seem to be quite rare. I thought I had a million best friends when I was doing [2013 debut album] ‘Sing To The Moon’ and suddenly had my first moment.

“Most of those people are nowhere to be seen now, so it’s great to know that my family, my chosen family, members of my band, the people that have been around for ages, they’re the ones that I tend to be able to rely on for going to the next stage.”

Last night’s Mercury Prize went on to be won by Arlo Parks, beating off competition from the likes of Ghetts, Wolf Alice, Mogwai and Berwyn.

Having previously spoken out about being “genuinely hurt” by a BRIT Awards snub, Mvula took to social media today to speak out on losing out last night’s prize, later admitting her comments were “tongue in cheek”.

“I get robbed. A lot,” she wrote on Twitter. “Mercury Prize can lose my number. I don’t expect to be understood by the British public. I knew I would get called names after sharing my pain a bit (was meant to be tongue n’ cheek).”

Check back at NME for more interviews from the Mercury Prize 2021.

Last night’s Mercury Prize went on to be won by Arlo Parks, beating off competition from the likes of Ghetts, Wolf Alice, Mogwai and Berwyn.

Having previously spoken out about being “genuinely hurt” by a BRIT Awards snub, Mvula took to social media today to speak out on losing out last night’s prize, later admitting her comments were “tongue in cheek”.

“I get robbed. A lot,” she wrote on Twitter. “Mercury Prize can lose my number. I don’t expect to be understood by the British public. I knew I would get called names after sharing my pain a bit (was meant to be tongue n’ cheek).”

Check back at NME for more interviews from the Mercury Prize 2021.

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