Mica Paris is one of the UK’s most respected female singers with a career full of top 10 hit singles and albums worldwide, including Black Angel, Stay and Carefree. The range, power, and sheer soulfulness of Mica’s singing made an impact on the UK music scene in 1988 when she released her debut, platinum-selling album, ‘So Good’ from which she had her first massive hit, ‘My One Temptation’.
The talented songstress has also carved out a successful career in London’s West End stage starring in Mama I Want to Sing, The Vagina Monologues and Sweet Lorraine.
February 2018 will see the UK Queen of Soul honour the undisputed Queen of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald with a five-day mini tour across England, a theatrical show about Ella’s life and an album Mica Sings Ella. She also plans to release a book on women in the music business this summer.
Here she talks about her forthcoming shows and shares her experience on what it’s like being a woman working in a male-dominated industry.
On how she found out she could sing…
My grandparents found out that I had the gift when I was five years old. I was singing Rupert the Bear and my grandmother started running around the house telling everybody that I had this amazing voice and that’s where it all started. I started singing in church and winning awards. My grandmother was like my first agent. I mean from the age of nine I was singing in every church around the UK, Scotland, I was everywhere.
On singing Ella Fitzgerald’s music…
Ella Fitzgerald had her centenary in 2017 and my very first memory of Ella was when she had this advert on TV. I must have been about seven or eight, but I remember it coming on because she broke the glass and I was like, wow how did she do that? And back then, there weren’t many black people on TV so it was just like, there’s a black woman, she’s got an amazing voice and she broke a glass. I remember asking my dad, ‘who’s this Ella Fitzgerald’, and he told me everything about her, played all her stuff and that’s where it all began.
On why Ella Fitzgerald’s so special…
She’s an unsung hero. She’s the music behind so much of what we hear. You’ve probably heard her your whole life, but you don’t realise it’s her. So many adverts use her songs, and what’s unique about Ella is the way she sang. She had a very universal sound. Her voice wasn’t necessarily what you would call a black voice but she could turn it on if she wanted to. She had this kind of sound very similar to Nat King Cole, it wasn’t necessarily termed as a black voice. It transcended colour. That’s why she was so unique and then she would be able to interpret all different types of music. She was very outside the box.
On why Ella Fitzgerald is overlooked…
The reason why people don’t really speak a lot about Ella is because she wasn’t a drug addict. And unfortunately, she was good. So, it was one of those things where people always sensationalise drama and tragedy, so at that time when she was really on the scene, it was her and Billie Holiday. Billie Holiday got all the press really because number one, she was better looking, and number two, there was a lot of drug abuse and stuff like that. Ella outlived all of them, all the way to the end, she lived a really long life and was the consummate worker. But I wanted to celebrate her, also to educate the young about her contribution to music, how many singers have been influenced by her voice and emulated her style, she was incredible.
On what changes she wants to see in the music industry…
I want them in the business. We know we can do this with our eyes closed. What we need is executives who are black within the music industry, especially in the UK, we’re desperate for it. It’s not so much like that in the States but in the UK, we need more, and I would say to all the young people, stop trying to be in front of the camera. Go behind the camera too. That’s what we need to do. We know we can do this. If I came to the industry today, I wouldn’t even bother being an artist, I’d just go straight to working within the industry to bring people in.
I’ve really had to juggle hard with my two children. I mean, one is an adult now but the little one is 11. I had a 15-year gap between my children. I could never have had them together. I had to do it that way because I’m constantly on the road touring and working and stuff like that. And thank God I have a great team of people around me. Mum, sis, nannies, I’ve got everybody helping me out. But it’s very hard for a woman to hold the children up, and the career up, and be famous, look good and do all that stuff, and all the other stuff. It’s even tough for a guy to deal with.
On advice she’d give her younger self…
It took me a long time to get my head around business. I was terrible. I was such a creative so I let the accountants deal with it, lawyers; that’s the only thing I would have done differently. I should have been more on top of my game with business because it’s so important…I got out of college, the contract was there and it was just like six figures. The 80s was all about excess. No-one really cared where it came from. We were just glad we had it. You got that big fat pay check and you were just down at Carnaby Street and then you went to the shop and bought your car. Range Rover or BMW or whatever it was, and that was what you did.
On how the music industry has changed…
Females have a lot more input and a lot more control. There’s more clarity now. In my time, you just didn’t know what was going on, but you didn’t think about it because there was just so much happening. It was all private jets and flying here, flying there, hotels etc. But now it’s nice to see a lot of the younger artists, I find them to be quite on top of their game. They know who’s getting what, what percentage is what and stuff.
On sexual harassment in the industry…
I’m a 5’10” black woman. I dare anybody to mess with me. I never got touched in the industry. No-one messed with me mate. I can only remember one incident where someone tried to even remotely suggest, I’m going to put it there, suggest that we get busy, and I turned around and I sacked him. One time. That was it, he was sacked, yeah. I’m Jamaican. That’s how we do it, we don’t play around. I didn’t get any of that at all. And Harvey Weinstein? I’m like, come. As long as he’s on his own I’ll tear that man up, I’ll break him in two. Believe.
Join Mica Paris for an extraordinary night of classic live music at the following shows:
MICA PARIS TOUR DATES 2018
LONDON 11 FEBRUARY ISLINGTON ASSEMBLY HALL
BRISTOL 13 FEBRUARY THE FLEECE
MANCHESTER 14 FEBRUARY RUBY LOUNGE
BIRMINGHAM 15 FEBRUARY THE JAM HOUSE
LEICETSER 16 FEBRUARY 2FUNKY MUSIC CAFÉ
Tickets are available here.