When Laura Roy played her first small show in London, England, in March 2017, she had a hunch it was where she needed to be. Returning to Toronto, where she was based at the time, Roy packed up her car and drove home to her native Nova Scotia. Landing a bartending job, the singer-songwriter saved every penny she could, focused on her goal of getting back to the U.K.
“London gave me a feeling that I hadn’t felt yet,” says Roy. “The excitement I felt there and the music I wanted to create… It’s just such an incredible music scene.” Six months later, led by a gut feeling, she bought a one-way ticket to London and didn’t look back.
In the five years since, Roy, now 30, has established herself as an up-and-coming voice in the alternative R&B space. She has two EPs under her belt, along with an East Coast Music Award (her 2018 EP Forte was named best R&B/Soul Recording of the Year in 2020) and has performed as a backing vocalist with pop superstars Anne-Marie and Camila Cabello. Then last year, the American rapper and songwriter Doja Cat used one of Roy’s co-writes (with her partner, producer Geo Jordan, and friend, Linden Jay) on her 2021 album, Planet Her, which has since earned two Grammy nominations.
“It’s been a bit surreal,” says Roy, who’s been invited to attend the awards ceremony in April of 2022, in Las Vegas. “Not only are our names on the credits, but they kept my vocals on the track.”
But as much as she’s thriving in London, Roy’s latest EP, Tides, produced with Jordan and Grammy-nominated artist Lianne La Havas, is an homage to the place where she grew up. Born and raised in the village of Canning, N.S., Roy spent her early years singing along to artists like Carole King and James Taylor. “I was a little diva performer from the age of four,” she laughs.
When she started studying guitar at 13, however, things fell into place. When her teacher encouraged her to write her first song, Roy says she found her spark. “My whole world opened up to the idea of actually learning how to play and accompany myself,” she says. Roy began performing at coffee shops and in talent shows, eventually studying music at college in Dartmouth, N.S.
“It’s been a bit surreal”
Then at 19, Roy was invited to attend the Gordie Sampson Songcamp, where she learned to write with other people. “That was really eye-opening for me,” she recalls. But after participating for four years straight, Roy admits that her home province was “starting to feel a little small.” After decamping to Toronto, she began participating in songwriting camps in other parts of the country, through the Songwriters Association of Canada, as well as in New York and Nashville.
Though she tends to let melodies move her when she’s writing her own music, freestyling until she finds a nugget she can shape into a song, Roy also loves the challenge of co-writing.
“I think so much is about connecting with the other person, and just seeing what kind of space they’re in, and what they’ve been shaped by, and what they want to create,” she says. “When you get a good session with someone and you’re connecting, it’s like you’re looking in their soul. It’s really exciting.”
Roy, who’s self-managed, continues to push herself to try new things. Most recently, she’s been doing more producing, and is also directing her own music videos. She says she’s proud of what she’s been able to achieve on her own.
Though she doesn’t see herself staying in London forever, Roy is continuing to enjoy her time in the city, with plans to re-evaluate in a few years. She’s even open to the idea of one day returning to Nova Scotia, and the ocean where she spent her youth.
“I think the dream for me would be to buy a beautiful beach house and have my own studio,” she laughs. “I’d like to be producing and writing for other people.”
For now, Roy says she’ll keep listening to her gut as she charts a course forward. “I just want to tour the world,” she says happily. “I want to travel and perform, and to continue creating music that excites me.”