Sunday 23 February 2020

Interview with Mica Paris

Ahead of Mica Paris' performance at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, SoGlos chats to the British artist about her love of music, recording with Prince and how Ella Fitzgerald influenced her forthcoming album.

British musician Mica Paris has carved out a successful career in the music industry that spans almost 30 years, with the platinum-selling soul artist set to appear at Cheltenham Jazz Festival for the second time when she takes to the stage in 2017.

Taking place on Saturday 29 April 2017, Mica Paris sings the Ella Fitzgerald Songbook will offer audiences the chance to hear an exclusive preview of her forthcoming album Mica Sings Ella.

In this interview, SoGlos chats to Mica about her love of jazz, recording with Prince, and discusses how the industry has changed during her time in the music business.

What made you want to return to Cheltenham Jazz Festival?

It has a lovely atmosphere and it’s also really nice when you’re with real musicians playing live music. What can you say about live music in a beautiful setting with music lovers? You can’t really beat that, it’s incredible. So for me it’s being in my happiest environment.

I’m a musician singer, I don’t just come and sing and walk off. I’m involved and that’s why I love it so much because it’s where all the true musicians come together.

How did the idea come about for your performance?

I haven’t made a record in nine years; Mica Sings Ella is my first album in a long time and this one is about me celebrating Ella Fitzgerald. Usually I perform with a big band and this time it’s a quartet so that’s why I’m really excited.

I’m a big fan of Ella Fitzgerald and grew up loving her. For me, interpreting her songs in the 100th anniversary year was the perfect thing to do at Cheltenham Jazz Festival because it matches up with the album that I’m doing with Guy Barker and his orchestra.

What can the audience expect from your show?

People usually see me with an eight or 10-piece band, but this time I’m going to be with just four musicians and it’s going to be beautiful and stripped down.

It’s a fresh take on what people know me to be; they know me to sing soul all the time but doing straight up jazz is kind of a new thing for people to see.

What is it about Ella Fitzgerald that resonates so much with you?

She was an incredible vocalist. When I was a little girl there used to be this advert on television and she used to hit a note and the glass would break. I was always fascinated by her after that advert and got into listening to her music.

Her voice wasn’t a typical gospel voice for a black woman, why she was so unique was that she was a little bit like Nat King Cole in that she had that universal sound and they didn’t necessarily sound like black singers.

What’s your favourite Ella Fitzgerald song?

The song that I really, really love is ‘Dream A Little Dream’, the duet she did with Louis Armstrong, it’s a beautiful song and everybody knows it. But the song that’s not so well know is ‘Imagine My Frustration’, it’s just so good, she tears that song up.

What first inspired you to get into music?

Gospel was the first. I was brought up in church and then I went into jazz because of my father. He played the trumpet and the flute and he was a great singer – that’s who I get my voice from. Between Ella there’s a whole list of other people including Dinah Washington and Nina Simone.

Do you think jazz has become more popular in recent years?

There’s a resurgence of jazz at the moment with La La Land. People want to go back to that era when women were women, men looked like men, they dressed really well, and it was a great time for music and fashion. People are a little bit nostalgic at the moment and want to go back to that time.

You’ve sung at arenas and small venues, and appeared on the West End, what’s your favourite setting to perform at?

For me, the intimate stuff is my favourite because you feel like the audience is right there and you can touch them; it’s a powerful feeling when they’re really close to you.

How are you finding being on tour?

Doing straight jazz instead of just my hits is a new thing for me so I feel reborn. I think when you’ve been in the industry as long as I have you have to reinvent yourself to get excited about things otherwise it gets a bit boring.

How has the music industry changed during your career?

It’s just different. Nothing stays the same and I think it’s much harder for artists to get through now. As long as you keep performing live you can build up a name for yourself on the circuit. But you have to be consistent and persistent and you’ll become successful. You can’t be a quitter, and you have to have a lot of patience too.

What was it like to work with the late, great Prince?

Prince was great. I went to Minneapolis and he did my second album and that was really great working there. I saw him the year before he died in Camden, which is funny because that’s the first place he pulled me out of the audience when I was 17.

He was wonderful; he loved good voices and was very encouraging to me. I lost a lot of people last year, including Natalie Cole, she was one of my oldest friends and encouraged my whole career.

How do you encourage aspiring performers?

I try to always encourage artists and educate young people so they know who were the greats. You can be too obsessed with new, new, new, but you need the old and that’s why there’s been this resurgence of jazz.

Technology’s got a bit too ahead of itself which makes the art suffer and when you go back to the old days and you look how they did it, with just raw natural talent, you can’t beat that. No technical instrument can do that.

Are there any artists you’d like to perform with?

I like Paolo Nutini, I think he’s amazing. I love everything, jazz, funk and I’d even love to do some rock stuff. Right now I’m on jazz but I think rock’s gone a bit dead and needs to come back. There are so many music genres that I think are going to come back. I think pop’s kind of eaten itself a bit.

Cheltenham Jazz Festival runs from Wednesday 26 April to Monday 1 May 2017. To see the full programme visit directly.

By Anna Marshall

© SoGlos
Friday 10 March 2017

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