The first time Laura White graced our television screens was on the fifth season of the X factor.
Powerful vocals, soulful runs and a sweet smile to match – she had the whole nation enchanted. As the favourite to win the competition, her shock exit sparked national outrage even to the point where she was mentioned in parliament and a nationwide petition to have her reinstated on the show gathered serious momentum. Almost ten years on, Laura has pushed onto new heights, relentlessly pursuing her dream to have her music heard by millions of people. The Manchester native has risen up the music industry as an esteemed and multitalented singer/songwriter. Her work includes writing songs for the likes of Rita Ora, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson and has earned her a Grammy nomination for the soulful track ‘New York Raining’ performed by Charles Hamilton and Rita Ora.
Her new EP ‘The Painted Door’ was in the top ten bestselling pre – ordered albums on Apple Music and she is currently on a nationwide tour of the UK. When we first saw Laura perform on tour, not only were we blown away by her astounding vocals but we were captivated by her grace and humility. Often pausing between songs to thank the audience for letting her live her dream of performing and staying right to the end to thank every single fan who approached her; we could tell that there was something unique about this kind – hearted woman. She took time out of her busy schedule touring to have a chat with us about the release of her new EP ‘The Painted Door’ and reflected on her journey to success.
Hi Laura, thanks for joining us today. Absolutely amazing performance the other night, we’re still blown away by it. I think it would be really good to start off with your influences. I noticed you have a really jazzy and soulful vibe, could you tell us which artists you were listening to around the house when you were growing up?
Thank you so much! We’re doing it all the same again in Leicester tomorrow. Growing up I loved Motown, Old School Soul and Jazz. I remember the first song I ever loved was Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares To You’ and immediately I was massively drawn to music. To be honest with you it’s always been the really strong, good melody songs I’ve been drawn to – Soul, Motown, Old jazz.
We noticed you tweeted recently about Aretha Franklin…
She’s my favourite! She’s my ultimate idol. Last year I flew to Atlanta to watch her live in concert. And it was just one of the best performances. I love Aretha’s songs and melodies - her voice is just incredible. I’m all about voices that move me and make my heart fly. Aretha’s my favourite.
Having listened to your last EP ‘No.95’, we could definitely hear the influences you mentioned. How much would you say that other artists have influenced you and how did you find your own voice?
I think it comes very naturally to me because I write all of my songs. My songs have a lot of originality because they are true stories; it’s all authentic. Though I collaborate with a lot with producers, I’m still very much writing full song so I’m massively involved. You can hear the musical influences and the melodies of my influences like Aretha Franklin because that is the music I love which has helped my song writing and shaped the music I make.
Really happy you mentioned song writing because we have big debates here about musicians who don’t write their own material. We know you’ve written hit songs for other artists like ‘New York Raining’ for Rita Ora. How important for you is it as an artist to write your own material and what’s the difference between artists who do and don’t?
It’s definitely important. For instance, at the moment Jennifer Hudson has one of the songs I’ve written for her on hold. She’s an incredible vocalist. An artist like Jennifer, I would never judge and think ‘Why doesn’t she write?’ because I think her true gift is her incredible voice. I still think that makes her an artist because of her level of talent. But in the same sense I love an artist who does write their own songs and has that authenticity. With an artist that writes you can very easily know that person a lot faster and build that connection with them – it’s really genuine. When someone writes you connect with them a bit more.
We picked out something really fascinating you tweeted earlier: ‘Listen to every song sent to me, read every letter I receive and listen to every person I meet.' We know that’s true because we saw how nice you were with us when we first met. Could you tell us a little more about why you tweeted this and about the challenges you’ve faced in the music industry?
Throughout my journey I’ve been completely real about everything. When I first started out I came from nothing. I moved to London, I was living in hostels and just had this absolute belief in my songs and my artistry. I would write to endless big song writers and immediately because I was an unsigned artist none of the big writers who could have given me that break got me in the studios. I said to myself I’d put myself in any studio every single day and one day the first hit song I wrote ‘Damn Baby’ by Jin Lee went number one in China. From that day on I’ve had endless opportunities to work with artists all over the world, but even to this day I still make a conscious effort to listen to every single songwriter who sends me songs and I will work with anyone whether they’re published or unpublished. So many people only look at who they know but it should really be based on talent. So that was the sentiment behind that tweet.
Do you feel like the music industry is becoming more accepting of unsigned artists?
Definitely now, there are so many artists who have come through independently. Though a label can be great if you have the right team behind you, I think there have been so many big artists who have come through like Chance The Rapper and Kehlani who have remained independent. Nowadays, if you can use your socials in the right way, you can succeed. I have an independent label behind me and my EP has been in the top ten bestselling pre-ordered album for the last three weeks, so achievements like that have been so amazing as an independent artist.
Since we’re on the subject of the EP, could you tell us about the inspiration for the name ‘The Painted Door’?
I used to live in Notting Hill and there’s actually a very famous door called the painted door. I was seeing this guy on and off and all the stories, the heartbreak and the intense love were all based in this house. That’s why I called the EP ‘The Painted Door’ because it’s all stories about what happened in that house.
What has changed since your last EP ‘No.95’ to your latest EP ‘The Painted Door’?
The first EP I did ‘What My Mother Taught Me’ was produced by Jonas Blue and though I’m proud of the songs, the production at times was slightly more Pop than I wanted. At the time I was under Rita Ora’s team, and they were an amazing team but the production naturally was always swaying on the pop side. With the second EP, the production progressed more to my style but still had more of an urban feel to it whereas this EP is full of just true classic songs. With this EP I feel like I have found myself artistically; it’s perfect timing.
You've talked a lot about gigging. What's the best thing about gigging and what are the most memorable gigs you've done?
My dream was always to play Wembley and the MEN arena in Manchester. I went through and was able to do so with the show (The X Factor). The biggest venue I've filled independently was Bolton Reebok Arena which was a good few thousand people and the Lowry in Manchester - I put on an orchestra with all my own original music. I love gigging, seeing people hear my songs and knowing they can connect with them. To be honest because I've been that girl who's built it from nothing I'm so proud of the venues I'm playing and I'm so grateful.
So you briefly mentioned the show. The X Factor quite a while ago for you now but your exit was still to this date one of the biggest shocks. What’s different about you that you were able to put that disappointment aside, not let that stop you from getting to where you are now and use it as motivation?
I think the difference with me was that I came off the show as the favourite to win, the only one discussed in parliament, so it was so big. I was playing four shows a day for three years after the X Factor so my life never stopped. I was offered films, TV presenting and some things that weren’t quite right for me. The thing was I felt that there was nothing else I wanted to do in life but sing. Though I wasn’t helped out early on or picked up and signed after the show, I still just thought I couldn’t let Louis Walsh sending me home make me give up on everything I believed in. In my head I said it doesn’t matter I had to keep fighting in what I believed in.
This has been an absolutely amazing interview but the last thing we want to ask you is this: What is the ideal 2017 for Laura White?
Thank you, can I just say this is the most creative interview I’ve ever done! For me this year is just about being completely true to who I am. Making the music I want to make. I’m going to be doing a lot of features this year with artists I love like Cypress Hill; I’ve done a track with Bipolar Sunshine. I’ll be writing for many different artists this year, I’ve just written songs for Alicia Keys and Jess Glynne. I guess just keeping my music as authentic as possible and continuing on my journey.
Follow Laura White on Twitter @LauraWhiteOffic and listen to 'The Painted Door' available on Itunes and Spotify from February 10th: