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Laura Mvula says she felt trapped after being categorised as a “classically trained” and “orchestral” musician.
The 35-year-old singer-songwriter studied at the Birmingham Conservatoire before launching a music career and earning a Mercury Prize nomination for her 2013 debut album Sing to the Moon.
On her forthcoming third album Pink Noise she eschews her classical influences in favour of 1980s soul and pop.
She told the PA news agency: “I think I had really got used to certain tags like ‘orchestral soul’ and ‘classically trained Mvula’ and perhaps I hadn’t realised that I felt almost trapped by that.
“And I had to find my way out of it. Because really that was never the whole story for me.
“I needed to make something that showed much more of who I am and not be so obsessed with sticking to a script.”
Mvula described being dropped by her record label in 2017 as a “positive” and “maybe even a lifesaving” thing.
She was let go by Sony subsidiary RCA Records despite having recently released critically acclaimed second album The Dreaming Room.
She said: “I feel relieved. I quite honestly – the last three years – feel like there is a really good chance it might not have happened for me.
“Or maybe that is just from my perspective. But it took a lot to readjust after everything changed for me with the team that I started with for the first few records.
“It is now not the same team and that has been a positive thing, maybe even a lifesaving thing for me.
“It’s been an adjustment period and a time to figure out what kind of sound I want to make next.”
Mvula, who features in the latest edition of Google’s Nest Sessions, said the reason she was pigeonholed as an artist was “a combination of things”.
She said: “I think it is laziness and I would include myself in that.
“I think it is really easy to put things into boxes and genres and I understand you do that, why there is a need for that, because it makes things digestible in a way.
“But I also feel like I cursed myself by deciding I could only do one thing really well, which is true.
“I think because the orchestral thing seemed like such an alien concept for a young black female coming out of Birmingham who is making music in the commercial market.
“It seemed like, ‘Well if that is what it is then that is who she is’.
“And nobody expected me to move anywhere else.”
For her Nest Session, Mvula’s song Church Girl from her upcoming record was remixed by producers Dimitri from Paris and Romare. The music videos are available now on YouTube.