Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Mica Paris: From Paris With Love

Mica Paris
Mica Paris Mica Paris Mica Paris Mica Paris

British soul royal Mica Paris talks to Chaz Brooks about her musical upbringing and her new project Mica Sings Ella.

Why Ella Fitzgerald?

I chose Ella’s songbook because she is ubiquitous. She wasn’t afraid to try new styles and had a voice that wasn’t particularly black but if she wanted to go black, sounding gospel I mean when I say ‘black’, she would turn that out as well. Then she’d go into that smooth thing and then she’d pull it back. It’s very unusual for a singer to be able to be that adaptable vocally.

She had a sound like no-one else. She’s the song of our lives, everywhere you go you’ve heard her somewhere. She’s the one that’s weathered and lasted the longest. 

Tell me about working with Guy Barker?

When the idea of doing Ella Fitzgerald with an orchestra came, I immediately said Guy Barker’s the one, so we got together and recorded the first two songs on the album and everyone’s just gone mental for it.

I love Guy because he gets it, he totally gets me. I come from soul and gospel, it’s not a stretch for me to do jazz but I needed someone like him to understand me doing jazz.

It feels like I’ve reinvented myself. I feel now that soul needs reinventing. I’m not ready to do that yet because it’s not time but I think the resurgence of jazz and what’s happening at the moment is very exciting.

Tell me about your musical heritage?

I grew up with my grandparents who were ministers. We went to church pretty much seven days a week and every day was choir practice, bible study. My whole life was church. The first time I sang in church I was seven.

What is the first music that influenced you?

My auntie would import records from America by artists like the Hawkins Family. I would study them and learn all the runs, the ad-libs, the timing. I was eight, nine years old and obsessed with those records. I played them over and over again until I got the runs exactly like them.

I’d go and see my dad at weekends, and he’d be playing Miles Davis Kind of Blue and Curtis Mayfield, so he educated me on all that other stuff.

Dad’s favourite was Ella, like Miles (Davis) she was outside the box - they would experiment with different music. With Ray Charles these guys were pioneers.

What do you think an audience experiences at one of your shows?

I believe that the music is the essence of these traditions and will continue to be special as long as we make it about the people and what they get from it. You go to my concert, you got to know that you were lifted from your mundane, bullshit life when you hear my music, whether I’m doing soul today, jazz tomorrow, whatever… You’ve got to have an experience at my show. Life is tough. There’s some good moments but music and art are there to lift us away from all this stuff.

I grew up with music, in my house if it wasn’t my auntie rehearsing it was my uncle…I’d leave for school in the morning and hear doo-dah-dey, I’d come home from school and hear the same. Sometimes I’d go and scat with them. I’d do all that stuff because Ella was on telly, she used to do that Memorex advert and I wanted to be like her, breaking the glass (with my vocals).

Catch "Mica Paris Sings Ella Fitzgerald" across the UK this February, including; Islington Assembly Hall, London (11th) | The Fleece, Bristol (13th) | Ruby Lounge, Manchester (14th) | The Jamhouse, Birmingham | 2 Funky Music Cafe, Leicester (16th)

"Mica Paris Sings Ella Fitzgerald" BUY TICKETS

You can read more from our interview with Mica Paris, including her thoughts on Gospel music and her personal faves Ray Charles, Nat King Cole and of course, more on her admiration for Queen of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald in the current issue of Blues & Soul Magazine - click the 'BUY NOW' link below to order straight from the B&S shop or read on for high street retailer details...

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