Last night was Laura Mvula‘s birthday. It was also the London singer’s first ever show in New York City, and she was nervous. It was a private, invite-only show, and she noted that she was trying to keep her composure even though she knew who was in the room.

It didn’t take her long to settle in. Surrounded by keys, strings, brass, and drums, Laura carried herself with the grace of Nina Simone—gentle but exuding power and carefully handling a command of the room that was made clear by how silent things got whenever the instruments fell back and gave way to a single voice.

As the night went on, Laura seemed more and more comfortable, probably because her orchestral soul was translating beautifully and everyone in the room felt it. After what she said would be her final song, someone started singing happy birthday. The crowd joined in, Laura blew out her candles, and she sat down for one more song: a minimal, beautiful cover of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.”

On May 14, Laura Mvula drops her debut album, Sing To The Moon, on Columbia.