MICA PARIS ON GOING BACK TO JAZZ
Soul star Mica Paris is a consummate Londoner. Born in Islington and brought up in Lewisham, she now lives in Holland Park. Here, she talks career longevity, going back to her jazz roots and why My One Temptation will always be special
Mica Paris took the UK by storm with her soulful, gospel-infused vocals back in 1988 with her debut single My One Temptation – and there’s still no stopping her today. When I speak to her on the phone, she’s immediately apologising profusely, because I’ve caught her on a run with her trainer.
As well as working on shows for Radio 2 (the most recent one, Sound of Philadelphia, takes listeners back to the disco grooves of the 70s), she’s currently making a new album. ‘I’m going back to jazz,’ she tells me, ‘singing Ella Fitzgerald with an orchestra. I’ve never done that before. So that’s my next project, and then touring – you know, going to Dubai next week, the usual!’
Her energy is full throttle, and I’m struck by her sonorous belly laugh. ‘I’m also writing my second book at the moment, all about women in the music industry – the first was called Beautiful Within and was more about self-help, whereas this is more about the business. I’m a busy girl and I’m a mum too, so there you go!’
In early March, Jazz FM hosted a one-off live recording session with Mica and jazz musician Chris Sandring at Cadogan Hall – a chance for her to get back to what she describes as ‘raw music’.
‘It’s like we’ve gone around in a circle, and now everybody wants to go back to a time when music was just real music.
‘It’s going to be wicked,’ she enthused before the event. ‘He’s an amazing player. His hands are like a voice when he plays. I can really appreciate the artistry. Put that with someone like me – and I’d say I’m a musician singer – and it’s going to be amazing. They complement each other.’
Paris, who grew up in Islington and Lewisham but now lives in Holland Park, has performed in her fair share of London venues, even flexing her musical theatre muscles at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley and New Wimbledon Theatre during 2015’s Love Me Tender tour.
London’s got some really proper venues, but for me personally my favourite one of all time is Shepherd’s Bush Empire. The sound is amazing
Does she have any favourite London venues? ‘Wigmore Hall is a really nice one, as is the Royal Albert Hall, and the Shepherd’s Bush Empire is fantastic,’ she says. ‘London’s got some really proper venues. And a lot of people go for the big stuff, but for me personally my favourite one of all time is Shepherd’s Bush Empire. The sound is amazing, and for us it’s all about sound. It’s across the road, it’s just next to Holland Park.’
And where does she go in her local area? ‘My trainer takes me out on the road, he’s running me up and down the street and throwing me all over the place, so the dog gets a walk as well, which is nice!
‘I was born in Islington, then brought up in south London, moved to Lewisham when I was nine and then I moved out when I was about 15. I went to east London and bought my first place there, and then I left and I’ve been in Holland Park ever since. I’ve been here for a long time now with my family – the big one’s 25 now and the little one’s 10.’
She was signed to Island Records at just 17, and her career skyrocketed from there. ‘I remember the first thing Chris Blackwell, who used to own Island Records back then, asked me was, “what do you really want from your music”? And I said, “I want it to stand the test of time”,’ she laughs.
‘You say these things and you don’t really believe they’re going to happen, but here I am. I’m very grateful that I’m still in it and I’ve never had to take another job.’
My One Temptation is really powerful for me, because it’s about what I was going through when I first started my career. I never get bored of singing it. I still think it’s still great!
For Paris, one of the best things about her career to date has been the chance to collaborate with the likes of Bobby Womack, Natalie Cole and Chaka Khan. ‘I’ve been very fortunate,’ she reflects. ‘All the artists I grew up obsessed with have stuck with me all the way. I ended up becoming best friends with all of my heroes.’
Though she is sad to have lost some of the greats of late, not least Frank Sinatra, and other artists she admires include Anderson Paak and Tania Maria. ‘I listen to a lot of Brazilian jazz,’ she says. ‘I appreciate music sometimes that has no vocals. Just let it breathe.’
Thirty years on, Paris admits that My One Temptation will always have a special place in her heart. ‘It was my first song, and it was based on the true story of young love at 17. I was madly in love with this guy and I had to leave him to pursue the big city and the big career. I knew it wasn’t going to endure,’ she looks back candidly.
‘That song is really powerful for me, because it’s about what I was going through when I first started my career. I never get bored of singing it. I still think it’s still great!’