Our reviewer Matty Houghton spent some time with Mica Paris before her concert at St George's Hall in Liverpool last weekend. You can read the review of her concert HERE!
NWE; Hello Mica. So…..Liverpool on Saturday….
MP; I’m looking forward to it, it’s going to be wicked
NWE; When was the last time you played in Liverpool?
MP; I was only there last year with the ‘Love Me Tender’ tour. We stayed there for two weeks in the Liverpool Empire. I was on tour for 6 months, so you’re running around to different parts of the UK and it becomes a bit of a blur where you were. When I was in Liverpool with that show, the love we got there for that show was insane.
NWE; Are the audiences different depending on where you are in the country?
MP; Totally. Basically in London, they’re so spoilt. So they see everyone. It can be a bit too cool for school. And when you come out you get an appreciation, especially up north. The minute I’m up there…I don’t even have to warm up the audience. From the time my toes touch the stage it’s kicking off. So for me it’s always a joy because they just love their music there and they don’t care who’s watching them.
NWE; What can we expect on Saturday Mica, what sort of show will it be?
MP; When I do a concert, I throw down. You have to wear good shoes. We’re not messing around. There’s funk, soul, jazz and all with a full live band. They’ve been with me for years. This year I’m celebrating 28 years in the business and I still love it. Music is a funny one. You never retire from it. When you come to see me, you get everything. You get the hits and some classics from back in the day, you get everything. You get elevated and you forget that you have an outside life. And that’s what it’s about.
NWE; I’ve recently been listening to your album ‘Born Again,’ will there be tracks from that album played on Saturday as well as some of the earlier stuff?
MP; Yeah we’ll definitely do that on there. It’s always hard to put that body of work, because you’re talking eight albums and 28 years of stuff, so you try and push that into a one and a half, two hour show. But when you come to see me, it ain’t hearing the record again, it’s four or five notches up from the record. This is knowing what the song is and hearing it different. I’m a very spiritual person so if I can’t make you feel something, I ain’t doing my job.
NWE; When I listen to songs, it’s lyrics that get me first and one that stood out was from the song ‘Nothing But The Truth.’ The line was; ‘In world of lies and alibis, it’s hard to tell a hero from a fool.’
MP; You’re like me. It’s like one of those Mike Tyson punches to the stomach. You go ‘Damn, I feel that.’ And this is what’s wrong now, the songs don’t talk to you anymore. And even some of the young ones are feeling it too. People discredit young people and think they’re transient and fickle and it’s not true. There’s some of them who are really on point and they say ‘I came to you because I want to listen to real music.’ And people are getting tired of hearing the same rubbish and times are changing. There’s only so much X Factor you can have. It’s cyclical.
NWE; I believe you’re currently recording a new album?
MP; Yeah. I’m recording some new stuff now. I’ve made like three records in the last 5 or 6 years and none of them have seen the light of day. And it’s interesting how that works, because you get people who think you’re sitting down doing nothing. And it’s not like that. There’s a lot of politics and sometimes records you make don’t see the light of day. It’s happened a few times to me. But I always look at it like ‘It wasn’t meant to be.’ There’s a time when you make something, like a record or book and you don’t have to try and the doors suddenly open. And my life is like that. I’ll be there pushing myself saying ‘I’ve got to get it out,’ and nothing happens and then suddenly ‘BOOM’ and everything comes and that’s how I put it down with my music. There’s times when I’m hot and times when I’m dead as a door nail. In between that I just keep gigging.
NWE; Well you’ve had a career spanning nearly 30 years so you’ve got a fan base so getting out and gigging must be easier than being a new artist trying to build up a new fan base?
MP; Oh yeah. They call us heritage artists now.
NWE; You’ve also recently performed on some shows with Yolanda Brown.
MP; Yeah, she’s a very sweet girl. I gave her a MOBO a few years ago and she asked me to come and guest on a couple of shows. Courtney (Pine) is still one of my oldest friends in the business and it’s nice to see a female do what he was did nearly 30 years ago. I always try and support the new artists coming through, it’s important.
NWE; Talking of collaborations, you’ve worked with many a legend; Bobby Womack, Prince, Boy George, Natalie Cole…..
MP; Aw yeah. I lost Natalie in January. I saw her a couple of years ago and I knew she was weak. There was me, her and Dionne (Warwick).
And I’ve known these guys as long as I’ve been in it and they’ve been really good to me over the years, I can’t even tell you the love and support I got when I lived over in L.A. They’ve always been really good to me. And the last time I saw Natalie, she said ‘I’ve just finished a kidney dialysis machine and it really wiped me out.’ And I never thought that’d be the last time I saw her. We went back to the hotel and we hung out like we always did and talked about life, the kids you know how you do. And the same with Bobby. I saw Bobby Womack 6 months before he died. I met him at the Kensington Hotel and he says ‘Girl, I’m in the hotel up the street. Come and see me.’ I went down to see him and I was doing a podcast and I interviewed him for it. I met Bobby when I was 19, I’ve known him for years. He was on a song I wrote called ‘Wish I Never Met You.’ It’s a wicked tune, it’s rare but you can still get it and basically we’ve been friends since. And I had a Radio 2 show and he came on that a few times. So I had this chat with him and we had a wicked time and he looked great and you never think that will be the last time I saw him and then 6 months later he’s was dead. And Prince, I saw last year. I hadn’t seen Prince for about 6 years. When he was in London I was away. And last year they called me and said ‘Come and see him down in Camden.’ I went down to see him and I said to my boyfriend ‘He looks too thin.’ Prince was always muscular. In all the 20 odd years I’ve known this guy, I’d never seen him this thin. My boyfriend said ‘He’s probably just working too much.’ And then he’s gone. It’s strange what I’m going to say, but I think it’s the end of an era. The industry has been dying for a while and it’s like this is the last chunk of that era. It’s like falling away of those greats. And what that means is that there’s a new cycle that going to come in and who knows what that’s going to be. But I tell you what, the old way is going. And everything that is part of the old way is dying away.
NWE; When you work with other artists, what do you look for in a collaboration?
MP; To be honest with you, most of the people I've worked with have called me out. For example Prince called me out when I went to see him. And this was before 'My One Temptation' came out. I was 18 and I got the golden ticket like 'Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.' I dragged my mate with me and I was so excited, I can't tell you. I was obsessed with this guy and I got the tickets through the record company and I was standing there with my girlfriend from school and I remember my heels were killing me, I couldn't feel my feet. But I was so happy and he was killing it with 'Purple Rain.' And after that he turned round, looked directly at me and said 'Don't you sing?' And I was speechless. It was unbelievable and then he pushed a mic in my face and said 'This is Mica Paris.' And then I had to sing 'Just My Imagination.' You know that song and I know that song, but honey for the life of me I was so frightened and remember in the audience there's Bono, Steve Winwood all these people and here's this little old girl from South London with a light on here and I turned round and started singing the first line but couldn't remember the rest. Honestly you had to be there. And the people went crazy and it looked all glamorous but inside I was dying. And after that Prince called me up and said 'I want you to join the band.' And at that time, I'd literally just signed to Island (Records) so I said 'I can't really do that man', cos I was thinking to myself I didn't want to be another Sheila E. I wanted to make something in my own name, I probably should have joined him ha-ha. Then I flew out to Paisley Park and he wasn't a big talker the boy, he didn't talk much but he wanted me around, so after we done the Pailsey Park thing, if he was in England, he'd call me up at like 2 in the morning and I'd go and meet him, and I'd always take my sister. He was a wonderful guy but he didn't say much. The most I'd got out of him was 'I just love your voice, you remind me of a young Chaka and I can't wait to work with you and I'm going to write a song for you, but first I've got to do the Batman soundtrack.' And I was like 'Yeah I can wait.' And a few weeks later I was in my hotel in LA and he calls me up; now how did he know where I was? And he called my hotel and sent over the demos. And then I flew to Minneapolis. And he was a real supporter of women, that's what people don't talk about with him.
NWE; Well, his band was all women wasn't it?
MP; Yeah, he was all about the girls. And people didn't understand him sexually. He was proper heterosexual that guy. He loved women. But it's such a shame. You know we lost the King, which is Michael (Jackson), we lost the Queen, which was Whitney (Houston) and now we've lost the Prince. You can't sustain fame. It's not a natural habitat for human beings. We need to be normal. I learned from these guys. They are my teachers and I promised myself I would never end up on drugs. Because I was with them and I saw what it was doing. I didn't want to be like Billie Holiday and people who have suffered. There's got to be a way to be in this business without losing it. And I found a way. And the way to not lose it, is to keep it separate. It's a job. You go and you do that job and when you go home you shut that job off. At home I'm Michelle and out there I'm Mica Paris. This cool Jamaican chick. Once you do that, you're sweet. And a lot of them have got it down. Like Bruce Springsteen. He's a lovely guy. This guy is what we're talking about. He's the nicest human being you could ever meet. I've met him in Sweden a couple of times with his wife. The guy has time for everybody. You could sit down and have a beer with this guy. He's over it. He's not feeling that fame stuff and Celine Dion is another one as well. There are some artists who get it.
NWE; I suppose being in the industry as long as you have Mica, you see the opposite of that; people who have only been around a short time and have big egos. You're quite straight laced and say it as it is, do you have trouble giving advice to younger artists with an ego?
MP; You know what, I don't even get in there. Unless you come to me and say 'I need you for something', I don't invade. I just think everyone is going to grow in their own time and who am I to interfere with your progress. But when they come and ask me for advice, absolutely I throw it at them. I love to help, I really do. And I say the same thing; 'Make sure you love it and if you love it, it means you're going to suffer for it. Yeah, you're going to be hot one minute and the next minute they're going to shut you down. And what do you do then? You find another way. You're not a record company, you're an artist. The record company will come in and come out at times of your life but the bottom line is being on stage.
NWE; One final question Mica. If you were to go away on a desert island and you can only take one album/record, what would you take?
MP; That's tough. It's very hard, but it'd probably be Marvin (Gaye). Probably 'Distant Lover.' My favourite song is 'Distant Lover' by Marvin Gaye, it's a killer, it's insane. It's not a big well known tune but it just destroys you.
Interviewer: Matty Houghton