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  • January 22, 2018

    Legendary singer, Mica Paris, talks new tour & women in music

    “This is a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl,” were lyrics sang by James Brown 50 years ago. For the most part, it’s still a man’s world, however, equality, diversity and gender have never been hotter topics than they are in 2017.

    Although women have come a very long way in terms of respect and success in various industries, progress has been slow in bridging the gender divide within the UK music scene. One woman that has witnessed the changes in the music business and hopes to inspire a new generation of women coming through is vocal powerhouse Mica Paris.

    The range, power, and sheer soulfulness of Mica Paris’ singing made an immediate 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’ and from 1988 to 1998 Mica was rarely out of the charts.

    Her career has spanned over 3 decades with no signs of slowing down. February 2018 will see the UK Queen of Soul honour the undisputed Queen of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald with a 5 day mini tour across England, a theatrical show about Ella’s life and an album Mica Sings Ella. She will also release a book on women in the music business in the 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 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. Then I started singing in church and started winning awards. My first award I won at Wembley and I was 11. At a convention, Pentecostal Convention, which is a church body and it all kind of started from there. 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 this year and my very first memory of Ella Fitzgerald 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. That was the advert. I said I need to do that. I remember asking my dad, who’s this Ella Fitzgerald, who is it, and then he started to tell 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 everything really. You’ve heard her your whole life, but you don’t realise it’s her, this is what’s interesting. Like, 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. But she had this kind of sound very similar to how Nat King Cole had the sound that 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 she was, 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 the consummate worker. But I wanted to celebrate her, also to educate the young about her contribution to music and how she still influences us today, and how many singers have been influenced by her voice and emulated her style, she was incredible.

    On doing a mini tour singing Ella Fitzgerald songs…
    We’re going to do a proper tour instead of spot dates in 2018 because the album comes out in 2018, Mica sings Ella and we decided we’re going to do a mini tour from the 11th – 16th February, around the country. I didn’t really expect to get the demographic that we’re getting, which is, it’s young, middle and old that are coming to the shows and literally losing it. We’ve made it contemporary. I’m not trying to copy Ella Fitzgerald. What I’m doing is interpreting Ella in my way because it would be pointless to just copy. So this is why, it doesn’t sound exactly like Ella, it’s Mica’s version of Ella. And I think somehow that’s making the younger people want to come in and get, you know, everyone’s boogying. Believe it or not they’re all dancing and it’s all going off.

    On what changes she wants to see in the music industry…
    Personally for me, I want to see more people of colour in the music industry. I want them in the business. That’s what I want. 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 now. That’s what we need to do. We know we can do this, you know if I came in the industry now I wouldn’t even bother being an artist, I’d just go straight to working within the industry to bring people in.

    On why women in the music industry tortured…

    Because unfortunately there is no equality when it comes to the sexes yet. We’re still behind. I’m not a feminist, I love men. Trust me, you can see my track record, but it’s more to do with the way that society is set up. We still haven’t really moved forward with equality, so women are still expected to be in the home or having a job but coming home every night. The industry and being a singer in the music industry, you can’t really be that 9-5 type of wife or girlfriend, and so what happens is we have to take on the role of being sort of male because we’re out working all the time. So this dynamic hasn’t quite sit well with society. Women being like the man and running off!

     

    On motherhood…
    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’ve had to juggle and 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 tough for a guy to deal with. Most of the women that I research in this book, it’s always been the partner is the problem because the men have not quite gotten used to women being more in the front than they are.

    On society…
    Society hasn’t moved on. Society is still portraying the men as being the breadwinners of the family. So this is causing stress on relationships so the men can’t identify themselves as being with a woman that makes more money or is more famous than them. This dynamic is killing the relationship because the men can’t cope with it, because mostly they’re not used to it because society is telling them that’s not what’s supposed to be the case. See, so until women and men make the same money, sorry to go there but it really is, when we have the same wage then things change when that happens. People only think about money so until you change the money, people don’t really pay it any mind. The money dictates the decisions.

    On money affecting relationships…
    Every female singer I know will sit down and tell you what I just told you. Many times the women singers, what we try to do is have the partner manage or get involved with their work just to appease them. But it still goes back to the man feeling emasculated. So then it goes wrong again. So you can’t really get it right until society changes or stay single. That’s an option. Just have visitors, that’s always an option. Just make sure the children are with the grandparents, not saying I do that by the way. (Laughs)

    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, let the accountants deal with it, lawyers, that’s the only thing I would have done different. I would 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 80’s 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. And that you know where your money is going, 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 round 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, and the only way you could deal with me and take me, is if you had a few. There’s four or five of them or something, what can you do with that? But it wasn’t like that. I didn’t get any of that at all. And Harvey Weinstein, I’m like, come. Do you know what I mean? As long as he’s on his own I’ll tear that man up, I’ll break him in two. Believe.

    On dressing classy…
    Well I try, it’s not easy. My grandparents are ministers so we were always having to dress up properly. We couldn’t wear our Sunday clothes in the week. My Sunday shoes were for Sundays only. I’m the same with my children, and I drive them potty. Mum, I just want to be casual. ‘No, no casualness in my house, you must always look good.’ It’s true. My grandparents, man, my grandad, he wore a tie every day, suit every day, my whole life he had a tie on. Even my mum and dad, I come from a serious family of dressers, so I couldn’t let the side down, I’d get roasted. It’s important to always look your best and respectable.

    Join Mica Paris for an extraordinary night of classic live music at the following shows:

    MICA PARIS TOUR DATES 2018

    LONDON                     11th FEBRUARY                       ISLINGTON ASSEMBLY HALL

    BRISTOL                     13th FEBRUARY                       THE FLEECE      

     
    MANCHESTER          14th FEBRUARY                       RUBY LOUNGE

    BIRMINGHAM          15th FEBRUARY                       THE JAM HOUSE

    LEICETSER                16th FEBRUARY                       2FUNKY MUSIC CAFÉ

    Tickets are available now: http://punch-records.co.uk/mica-paris-sings-ella-fitzgerald.html

     

     

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