Thursday, 7 November 2013

#JoeCopplestoneMeets... Laura White! The RE-Introduction.

Laura White, the spectacularly voiced, crazy-haired Manc lass from the 2008 run of X Factor, has emerged triumphant after 4 years out of the spotlight with her debut EP What My Mother Taught Me. The EP has received an unprecedented amount of acclaim from critics and fans, with its raw soul edge and emotional but catchy song-writing allowing Laura’s spectacular powerhouse voice to shine beyond anyone’s expectations. And that voice is effortless, breathtaking and characterful, even better than we remember it.

I met up with Laura to chat about her new EP, how her X Factor experience shaped her, and to find out why it's been a whopping 4 years since her debut single “You Should Have Known” in an industry that waits for no man. What exactly took her this long to return?

“The last 4 or 5 years I've really been focusing as a writer”, Laura tells me with a beaming pink lipped smile that makes you fall in love with her instantly, “I've been crafting what I wanted to eventually release myself, as well as writing for other artists. The debut EP that’s out now was only written over the last year, but as a writer you have to write for years before you know what you want to release yourself. I traveled to Denmark and America and really studied the art of songwriting.”

After Laura was unceremoniously booted out of X Factor 2008 in its fifth week (a week notorious for shocking exits on the show), she returned in 2009 with a disappointingly mediocre single “You Should Have Known” and then dropped off the radar.

The infectiously positive Laura sees it all as a learning curve. “I'll be honest, my fans, who are so beautiful, were begging me to release something. At that point I had a writing team around me, and they were the ones who wrote “You Should Have Known”, so I'm not as passionate about it anymore. I write everything myself now, and I feel like these days I'm being much more true to myself. But I AM proud of the song - it reached #14 on iTunes!” For someone with such breathtaking talent, she's endearingly down to earth.

Being true to yourself is something most X Factor alumni don’t really get to indulge in. Yet the emotionally powerful and raw What My Mother Taught Me EP sounds like an introduction to Laura White as an artist with a vision, as opposed to just a singer.

“I've been really lucky in that I've been a writer for years", explains Laura, "Along the way I've met with so many different writers and producers including some amazing names; I've been to Denmark to work with Cutfather, and worked with Steve Booker who wrote "Mercy" for Duffy. The producer on What My Mother Taught Me was a guy called Guy Robin, and he's a very new and modern producer, and that was really important to me - getting someone to create a fresh and new sound that I'd never had before."

“Because my sound is so specific, some producers couldn't really capture this sound, but Guy completely ‘got’ my sound immediately, and the very first song we wrote together was "Rush Hour", which made the EP. He's got a very American sound which I love.”

This “American” sound is one that runs noticeably through the veins of explosive Motown throwbacks “Come On Josephine” and “Rush Hour”, the steamy soul of “Jimi Hendrix”, right down to the classic soul vibes of heartbreaking “To Be Loved” (a timeless ballad in the making), so Laura’s main influences come as no surprise.

“Aretha Franklin has been my idol since I was tiny", Laura gushes enthusiastically, "and I love a lot of Jazz singers such as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. I also remember hearing "Heatwave" by Martha Reeves in a coffee shop whilst I was making the EP, and the day after I went and said "I want to create a pop sound, but keep it soulful and Aretha-ish", and that was the day we wrote "Rush Hour."

It’s clear that Laura has infinitely more creative control over her music than she did when her X Factor run was fresh. Although I am not keen to dwell too much on her X Factor days, Laura seems surprisingly grateful for the experience.

“Before I did the show, I was doing so much music, and a lot of people say I didn't need to do X Factor, that I could've got out there and done it anyway. But before X Factor, I'd spent six years just gigging and travelling, desperate to get heard, and when I went on the show it gave me a really big platform and a massive fan base  I was really lucky on the show because they trusted what I was doing musically and allowed me to pick the songs I wanted to perform, and I look back and I'm proud of every performance.”

Laura was especially fond of her old mentor Cheryl Cole: “Cheryl was a down to earth girl, and musically she understood that I knew what I wanted to do. She'd say "Laura, what do you feel this week?" She really looked after me, and understood how shy I was and how I'd gone from singing to about five people in Jazz bars to about 18 million on live television! She was really helpful. I think it would have been harder with someone like Simon who's so busy!”

Despite her positive account, it’s safe to still say Laura was very lucky. As a fully formed artist, all she really needed from the X Factor was the exposure. It’s no secret that those who go into the X Factor for more than just exposure as musicians are destined to fail, and no one knows that better than the industry-savvy Laura.

“I'd say you really need to know yourself before you go in; be very strong minded but also remain humble. It's so easy to get carried away with it all, but you've got to remember you're doing it because you want to make music. Music to me is everything, so I think music should always remain the main thing rather than anything else.”

“After the show, for a while I just wanted space, to go away for a bit, a few years to write on my own, to tour, make music. I turned down a lot of TV and celebrity things, because I wanted to establish myself for the music rather than doing all that. I didn't want to sell my soul! If I'd done that I think I would've lost everything I am.”

As far as what’s next for Laura is concerned, jumping into releasing an album isn’t high on her agenda – she’s more concerned about giving something back to the fans that have stuck by her through 4 years of musical soul searching.

“I’m going to probably release another EP first”, she says when quizzed about a debut album, “I want to just release a few things for my fans, as they've so stuck by me. Though when there is an album, we had this idea of a double album – the first album very much like “Come On Josephine” and the other more stripped down, with loads of instruments - just beautiful!”

Laura definitely has the same warmth and glow as she did 5 years ago, but unlike the shy, quiet girl we saw on the X Factor all those years ago, Laura now comes across as chatty, friendly and infectiously positive. There are times when talking about her beginnings that one would expect her to make a negative comment, but she is surprisingly and humbly grateful for her X Factor experience. There's no bad blood here - she hasn't got a single bad word to say about it. Or anything for that matter.

Laura White's debut EP, What My Mother Taught Me, is out on November 10th on iTunes. For those that missed her Ronnie Scott's performance on the 29th October, you've got a chance to catch her at The Social in London on Monday 18th November. Buy tickets here.

Listen to "Come On Josephine" from What My Mother Taught Me below.

- Joe Copplestone, 7/11/13

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