Interview: Mica Paris on Life in Music | Features | MN2S

Ahead of her upcoming tour, we caught up with Mica Paris to discuss her illustrious career.

Mica Paris is one of the UK’s most successful soul exports. With eight studio albums and multiple musical theatre roles behind her, Paris is gearing up to release Mica Sings Ella, a brand new album featuring her interpretation of Ella Fitzgerald’s catalogue. MN2S spoke to Paris about her upcoming tour, and her 30-year career in the music industry.

Mica Paris released her debut album So Good in 1988, but it still sounds fresh today. From Solange to The Weeknd to Mercury Award-winner Sampha, today’s young soul singers are making music that sounds a lot like So Good and the soul music of the late 80s. When we point this out, Mica Paris isn’t surprised.

“It’s coming back round again. Everything in art is cyclical and everything in life is cyclical,” she says. “We were inspired by the older generation when we made our records, and they were inspired by their older generation. It keeps going round and round.”

Asked if she thinks this cycle will last forever she says, “Absolutely. And thank god. That’s why it’s so important to make quality music, and it’s good to borrow from the greats. When you make music inspired by the greats, you music will never date.” This principle is important to Paris, and it’s something she’s had in mind since the beginning of her career.

mica paris so good album cover

In the 4th & B’way offices in 1987, label bosses asked her what kind of record she wanted to make. “The first thing I said was I want to make a record that will hold up 50 years from now.” It was an bold aim. “They signed me straight away. I was only 17, but I listened to the greats then, because of my family.” Paris’ parents raised her on the greats, her father especially — a talented singer, flautist and trumpet player. As she says herself, it’s as if she had no choice but to pursue a musical career of her own.

30 years down the line, Paris says we’re entering another era of jazz-influenced soul. From around 1987-1994, there was a string of jazz/soul artists who were delighting audiences and selling thousands of records. Artists like Sade, Courtney Pine and the Jazz Warriors were blowing up. Then of course there was Paris. “That’s when I got my deal. So for me it’s like a whole rewind of that time again.” Her recent live performances with Guy Barker’s orchestra at Cheltenham Jazz Festival and elsewhere have been going down a storm. “It’s gone a bit mental!”

Though a lot may seem the same, there have been some major changes to the way the music industry works over Paris’ career. “The beautiful part of what’s changed is that we’re able to own our own music, to control it. Before, everything was wrapped up in the record label. You can own your music, you can put it out now.” For Paris, this is fundamentally an improvement. “It’s a different world now, we’ve got more autonomy now, it’s great.” The downside of the modern industry model is the lack of money afforded to artists for their recordings. But Paris is optimistic. “As time goes on, we’re hoping that things change and that all the musicians get what they’re supposed to get, artists get what they’re supposed to get.”

At the moment, Paris seems focused on the upcoming Ella Fitzgerald tour and accompanying album, but asked if she has anything else coming up, the answer is a resounding yes. “I’m doing a play as well,” says Paris, who recently starred in a production of Chicago. “I’m writing a play with Clarke Peters who did Five Guys Named Moe.” It’s a reunion, of sorts. “He was the one who first put me in theatre years ago.” Their new play will be in the same vein as the album, exploring Ella Fitzgerald’s life and career. Starring, of course, Mica Paris.

mica paris in chicago

And there’s more on her plate than just the play. Paris is currently writing her second book, which is all about women in the music industry. “Women have been so tortured in the music industry. 30 years I’m in the business now, so I thought it was time to write about it.” There’s no doubt Paris will have particular insight when it comes to this topic. “It’s good to get it from a female perspective, and from someone who’s a singer as well.”

The book will look at specific cases as well as general issues. “The women I’m speaking about—I knew them. I knew Amy, I knew Whitney, I knew all of them. Natalie Cole. They were my friends.” It’s a difficult topic for anyone to write about, especially someone so personally involved. “Shocking. All the stories are just shocking.” For Paris, this isn’t even about feminism. “Men can’t get their heads round women being more powerful than men.” We’re still unequal, says Paris, but there’s no doubt her book will shine a light on some of the disparities, and help change the industry going forward.

The first single from Mica Sings Ella is out now on iTunes. Download it here.

Mica Sings Ella is going on tour early next year. Stay tuned to find out more.

Book Mica Paris to bring the Queen of Soul to your venue.

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