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 Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir on Mica Paris

This month sees the welcome return to the fray of Mica Paris - one of Britain's most respected and accomplished female soul singers - with the release of her acclaimed new album "Gospel", her first since 2009's Paul Meehan and Brian Rawling-produced "Born Again" and currently pioneered by the melodically-uplifting, inspirational single "Mamma Said".

Indeed, featuring London's Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir and representing a return to her deep-set early musical roots of singing in her Lewisham church every weekend with her grandparents, "Gospel" follows the success of Paris' BBC Four television documentary from earlier this year "Gospel According To Mica: The Story Of Gospel Music In 6 Songs". Which found Mica tracing the origins of six famous gospel songs from the American South and discovering why some of her contemporaries have returned to their gospel roots.

All of which results in a musically-diverse 12-track set which - released through Warner Music's EastWest label - seamlessly weaves together new material, traditional gospel classics plus contemporary covers, with Ms Paris providing her own authentic gospel interpretations of such timeless popular music as U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", Rag'n'Bone Man's "Human", plus a stirring cover of Labi Siffre's "(Something Inside) So Strong".

All of which brings us back to this month's release of the aforementioned "Gospel". As an ever-talkative and down-to-earth Ms Paris reacquaints herself with "Blues & Soul" Assistant Editor Pete Lewis for a revealing, in-depth interview...

Let's start by discussing how you came to record a gospel-themed album at this stage in your career

"It all started from the BBC Four documentary I was doing last year called "The Gospel According To Mica", which I shot in places like Atlanta, Memphis, the slavery museum in Louisiana... You know, it was all about going back and finding out about the people who wrote the original gospel songs, and for me, it turned into a very powerful, moving experience. I mean, probably the best way to describe me as a black person visiting the slavery museum, for example, is to compare it say to a Jewish person going to Auschwitz for the first time - you know, it was a very emotional moment... So anyway, we finished shooting the documentary in November 2019. And what was bizarre was that just four/five months after that the whole George Floyd/#Black Lives Matter thing happened. Which meant that when the BBC put the documentary out in May it met with huge, massive support, which in turn led directly to Warner Music offering me a deal!... So yeah, in a nutshell, that's basically why I'm here talking to you now with a gospel-themed new album. All of which I guess shows the sheer power of that documentary. Because before that happened I had no desire to make a new record at all - I wasn't even thinking of it”.

The album's current single is actually one of its two original songs, "Mamma Said"...

"Well, the whole album is dedicated to my grandparents, because they're the ones that kept me from losing my head in this game we call the music industry. And "Mamma Said" was written by Paul Barry who's just an amazing writer. You know, he wrote "Hero" for Enrique Iglesias, he wrote some of my last album "Born Again" with me... And what happened with this particular song was, he watched the "Gospel According To Mica" documentary, felt inspired to write it, sent me the demo... And this is not a word of a lie, as soon as I heard it - though I'm not one of those people who cries easily - I just immediately broke down! You know, the producers were like 'Mica, are you alright?' - and I was like 'It's just that the lyrics of this song are saying exactly what my grandmother used to say to me!'! Because no matter where I was in the world, I always used to call her at 12:00 midnight London-time and have a whinge! You know, I'd be like 'Oh the band are driving me crazy' or 'I'm so fed up of this tour'... And she'd come on the phone and she'd go 'Mica it's going to be alright, don't worry' - that's all she would say - and suddenly everything was good again! And with her now having been gone for 10-years for him, out-of-the-blue, to say 'Mamma said don't worry', it was just too much! Because there's no way he could have known from watching the documentary that I had that kind of relationship with her. And so for him to come up with that line was like she was talking directly to me through him! So yeah, that song was very, very emotional for me, to where even now when I hear it I still start to well up."

The album “ Gospel” is released December 04 through East West/Warner Music. The single “Mamma Said” is out now.

You can read more from B&S assistant Editor Pete Lewis' interview with UK soul royal Mica Paris, including more on her first studio album in 10-years, "Gospel", featuring London-based Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir, her early days singing in your grandparents' church, how the artist feels about her recent MBE and Paris' debut in popular UK soap, EastEnder. All in the latest 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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