This Thursday (20 Jul) Britain’s finest soul diva Mica Paris is making her debut at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. She was a star aged 20 with hits such as My One Temptation, Breath Life Into Me, Where Is the Love and her amazing version of One by U2. Dave Cross met up with Mica to discuss her career, working with Prince and Kate Bush, her childhood, and her gig at The RVT.
Hi Mica, are you looking forward to playing the RVT next week?
Absolutely, they’re my people. The gay community has kept me alive really. Even if a record doesn’t sell I can always count on them to keep me in their hearts. If it’s a Pride or a club gig I’m always getting love and I can’t really explain how important that is. The industry is fickle but the LGBT community have stuck by me.
What can we expect on the night?
I’m definitely going to do all the hits. Songs like My One Temptation, Breath Life, Like Dreamers Do… Oh and absolutely I’m going to do Bodyswerve, the club track I did in 2002 that I know was huge in the gay clubs. I’m really excited about this gig because I haven’t done a show like this, with all these different songs in, for ages. It’s lovely to go back and do these songs again.
I know you’ve always been into music, what can you tell us about your childhood?
My grandparents raised me while my parents went to work; that’s very popular in the Jamaican community. They were ministers and they realised I could sing when I was five. I was singing the theme to Rupert the Bear, and my grandmother heard that I really could sing. They got me up in front of the family every Sunday after dinner singing for the cousins, aunts and uncles.
How did it progress from there?
I must have been nine I think. I sang in front of about 100 people, stood there in my white dress and I was terrified, but my nan got me to do it. Then I did what a lot of kids do, they get a trick that gets them attention and they keep doing it, so for me singing was that trick. I realised that if I did things like hold the note for a long time, sort of Bill Withers style, that people loved it. Word started to spread about this little girl with the big voice and I started to do gigs all over.
What about the competitions you did?
My first singing competition was at a pentecostal convention at Wembley when I was 11. I won that and that’s really where it all started for me on a professional basis. I was then fronting a group and got asked to be on a BBC gospel show called People Get Ready and then I did backing vocals for Hollywood Beyond, who had a big hit with What’s the Colour of Money.
You were signed by Island Records at 17…
Yes. We’d made some demos in a gospel style and I was called in to meet the A&R guy at Island, Julian Palmer. It all happened really fast; we recorded the album So Good and I got to work with some amazing people such as Will Downing on Where Is the Love and Courtney Pine on Like Dreamers Do. Julian was the one who believed in me from the beginning and gave me that amazing start.
Throughout your career you have indeed worked with some amazing people, such as Prince…
I was at this private gig at Camden Palace and Prince called me up onto stage to sing with him. I had no idea he knew who I was, we hadn’t even released My One Temptation yet. After that he called me and actually asked me to join his band.
Oh my God!
I know, but what could I do? I had just signed to Island and we were recording the album. I couldn’t do that to Julian and everyone at the label. They were my little family and I couldn’t leave them, we’d only just started. I had been obsessed with Prince, he was my hero and when I was at home I had to listen to his music in secret because we weren’t allowed to listen to secular music in the house.
What did Prince say when you said no?
He was fine, he understood. He asked me to come out to Minneapolis anyway so we could write something. I sat there with him playing me all these amazing songs, how many times can one person say amazing in one day? He was music and I was so honoured that he wrote me a beautifu l song for the second album If I Love U 2 Nite. He was always so generous to me and the last time I saw him was actually at Camden again about a year before he died.
Another legend you’ve worked with is Kate Bush, how did that happen?
Yes, I did. Kate actually just called me up and said she’s always been a fan, which was insane and I’m like ‘Jesus Christ, I’m talking to Kate Bush!’ I remember being at school in the playground in Lewisham and singing Babooshka and loving that crazy video, I worshipped her. I went to her house and we hung out all day. I did some backing vocals for her and she’s incredible. Girlfriend does everything herself; she’s so technical and she’s such a laugh too. That was a great experience.
You’ve also done lots of TV and radio stuff, was it important for you to branch out?
I didn’t really think about it like that. Most of it like the radio shows just kind of happened with me standing in and then being asked back. But I love doing them and I’ve been very lucky.
Apart from the RVT, what’s next for you?
I’m working on a brilliant project right now, which is Mica sings Ella. It’s an album to coincide with the centenary of Ella Fitzgerald’s birthday and I’m recording it with a huge orchestra, which is amazing. I’m very excited about it and can’t wait for people to hear it.