In September 2012 I took my first solo trip to Los Angeles from NYC. I was 25 years old and had only ever been there to record an album when I was 17. I had no idea what I was going to do, I just impulsively bought a plane ticket and wanted a break from the east coast.
As soon as I landed I took a taxi to downtown L.A. and asked to go to Amoeba records. I had never been, but had this romantic idea that I would start my trip by picking up some great records and wander around the city by myself with no one else there rushing me.
When I walked into Amoeba I noticed someone was setting up the stage for an in store in 20 minutes. I killed some time record shopping and soon after a stunning woman walked onto the stage with a black electric guitar. She had an air of intelligence about her that intuitively informed me she was about to deliver something uniquely her own. “Hello, I’m Lianne La Havas”.
She started playing and within the first two minutes I was completely wrapped up in her emotional, smoky voice and intricate guitar playing. She was doing everything I wanted to do but way better. She played a song called “Empty” and I was so surprised by how quickly I had to find space away from the crowd so I could have a proper cry. I never cry in public, so it was embarrassing but probably a much needed release from my irish catholic upbringing.
I remember feeling so inspired after her set. She didn’t just play guitar like a polite folk singer, she really played how I wished I could play. She could dance in and out of minor chords, bordering on almost a prog/Radiohead feel while still injecting it with the soul in her voice. I was blown away by how she so naturally combined so many different elements so effortlessly. While the set was short, it really left a mark on me as a female artist. It inspired me to keep pushing into the interesting corners of music without feeling the pressure of staying in a safer mold. If she could do it and it made me cry, then why couldn’t I?
While I have seen plenty of incredible live shows in my life, this little window of serendipity has always stayed with me because of the feelings I took away from it on a personal level while trying to find my identity. It reminded me not to be so cynical about watching artists I don’t know, to stay open minded and keep pushing for uniqueness. And yes, I still adore Lianne La Havas.
Coco Reilly’s self-titled album is out now.