Mica Paris took the UK by storm in 1988 when her debut single, My One Temptation – from her platinum-selling first album, So Good – hit the Top 10. The soul singer, presenter and author, who grew up in Lewisham, is currently treading the boards in the hit musical Love Me Tender, which celebrates the music of Elvis Presley. We caught 10 minutes with Mica backstage…
Words: Victoria Purcell
What was Lewisham like back in the day?
Lewisham was great. I was born in Islington then we moved when I was about nine. My grandparents bought this beautiful big Victorian house on Aspinall Road. At that time Lewisham was a very conservative area and we had Haberdashers’ Aske’s just round the corner, a very good grammar school. Everything was proper, you did the right thing, it was very posh.
How did you discover that voice?
When I was three I used to sing the Rupert the Bear theme song, it was my favourite show, and my grandmother started telling everyone that I had a voice, so they started putting me in church to sing (my grandparents were ministers, so I had a hardcore Christian upbringing, Pentecostal, very much like The Blues Brothers, with the spirit and the music!). I got discovered when I was 14, singing at the New Testament Church of God on Lee High Road, then I got signed to Island Records at 17 and it all kicked off.
How did you go from gospel choir to platinum-selling artist?
I started doing backing vocals for Shakatak, who were really big at the time, and Hollywood Beyond, who had a number one record just after I joined them. Then I started making my own demos and one minute we were visiting all these record companies, then the next minute I was signed to Island Records. It was fast. Island Records back then was a great place to be. It was Bono, Bob Marley was on the wall, Grace Jones would be walking through the lobby… I just thought, this is right, I need to be here. They all believed in me and they gave it everything they had.
What do you enjoy most about playing Sylvia in Love Me Tender?
When I read the part of Sylvia I just thought, she’s me, with an American accent. She’s feisty. And the story is great; it’s a comedy, loosely based on [Shakespeare’s] Twelfth Night and set in the 50s, which was a great time, the fashion back then was incredible – women were women and the guys all looked like James Dean. But there were also these other things going on, there was segregation in the Midwest, but it’s a light-heated take on those issues, it’s hilarious. On top of all of that you’ve got all these Elvis songs. It’s brilliant.
The singing is always number one, that’s who I am. The other things are like adventures
What’s your favourite track to perform?
There’s Always Me. I’d never heard that song before. My mother was obsessed with Elvis and as far as she’s concerned I’ve only started my career now because I’m doing this show – thanks mum! She adores it. It’s a fantastic song and I get to belt it out every night. It’s amazing.
If you had to choose between music, theatre or presenting, what would it be?
Music. The singing is always number one, that’s who I am. All these other things are like adventures. I like to try different things, it’s fun. But when I go off and do them and then come back to music it’s like, ‘ahhh’, it’s great.