NEW YORK (AP) — An artist whose album debuts outside of the Top 100 on the Billboard charts would normally be considered a flop, but for Lianne La Havas, whose fans include Prince and Stevie Wonder, that may not be the case.
The London-born singer's debut album — "Is Your Love Big Enough?" — came in at No. 142 on Billboard's 200 albums chart this month. Despite that, Wonder was in the audience for her first headlining Los Angeles show, and she was invited to play her songs for music icon Prince.
"I mean, it's what I've always wanted," La Havas, 22, said of her career buzz. "It's amazing 'cause all I'm doing really is singing because it feels nice and writing because it feels nice."
La Havas, whose sound blends folk, pop and soul, will open for John Legend on a U.S. tour in October, giving her album more exposure in America (it debuted at No. 4 in the United Kingdom). She talked with The Associated Press recently about Prince, Wonder and the lyrical content on her album, which NPR says "is the stuff of best new artist Grammys."
AP: You wrote or co-wrote all the songs on your album. What's your songwriting process?
La Havas: All songs happen in a different way, and I don't really know where they come from, but I just have to be there to receive them, and then I have fun forming it and shaping it into something that will make me happy. All the lyrics are autobiographical in some way, some are more literal and some are metaphorical, but they're all kind of just about various situations over the last few years.
AP: The first song I heard of yours was "Lost & Found," and the hook is pretty dark ("You broke me, and taught me to truly hate myself"). Why did you write that?
La Havas: I was about 19 when I wrote it. ... As you can probably hear, I was particularly unhappy at the time and my vocab wanted me to just kind of say it in almost layman's terms, you know. But I don't know, I'm happy with how the song's come out overall.
AP: Has the guy you are referring to heard the song?
La Havas: I don't think he's heard the song. Particularly my relationship with him, it was always like, we just didn't communicate very well (with) our actually feelings, and so a lot of my angst was internal, which is kind of what that song is about. So, yes, if he has responded, if he's heard it now, I don't know. But we've patched things up pretty much.
AP: What was it like to meet Prince?
La Havas: That was some cray, cray business. He heard my music through a friend of his and decided to get in touch. ... We basically talked (on the phone) about music and songwriting and which artists we like. He was very complimentary about my own music and I was very complimentary about his. ... And then a few weeks later he invited me to come meet him at Paisley Park, which I did. That was probably one of the most surreal, probably the most surreal thing that has happened. But it turned out he was an absolute sweetheart and very accommodating, very welcoming. And we kind of just met up to do more of the same, talk about music and play a little guitar and I played him some songs. It was really, really chilled and really amazing.
AP: And Stevie Wonder?
La Havas: My other favorite! Stevie came to one of my shows. ... So I just had this, like, fire in my belly the whole time going to the venue. ... And afterwards he spent like 45 minutes just chatting to me. ... And he was playing me music in his earphones and he brought his son along. He was also really lovely. They were both just chilling; they were just lovely. I will never forget it. Never, ever forget it. It was just the most amazing thing.
AP: Was he playing his own music?
La Havas: He played me some new material of his own.
AP: How was it?
La Havas: It was really, really good. It made me cry. It was so good. And I just was sitting there just like a wreck next to Stevie, who couldn't understand why I was crying, so I had to explain, you know. But he was very comforting. It was his own material, something that's about to come out maybe. But it was beautiful.
Follow Mesfin Fekadu on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/musicmesfin