Interview: Amy Bell
Independent, UK soul newcomer Mica Millar crafts a promising fate with a spiritual new single, ‘Preacher Man’, out now - the first taste of her debut album coming June 2022.
An effortless storyteller with soulful qualities delivered in abundance
“This song is about encouraging the pursuit of that gift, taking that leap of faith into the unknown. I don’t think as human beings we are here to work, 9-5 every day doing something that doesn’t inspire, empower or fulfil us. I really wanted to write a song that evoked this message.”
Manchester’s Mica Millar presents her strongest narrative yet in the forthcoming release, ‘Preacher Man’ - a heart-wrenching tale of a spiritual encounter that offers an empowering perspective on escaping from capitalism in pursuit of what it truly means to be human. With its addictive chorus imbued with her flawless smoky vocal Mica implores us to “jump for your life” and exhaust our time on Earth for all it’s worth.
Hi Mica, thanks for talking to ReVamp, who got you into the music industry?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved writing poetry and songs. My dad is a musician so he’d have other musicians at the house all the time when I was growing up - they’d be up late writing and playing songs on guitar around the kitchen table.
In the early years of writing, I had a lot of songs but never had the facility to create recordings. I started out in the industry working collaboratively with other producers. I’d write songs on the piano and then work with a producer on the recording and production - usually these were in home studio’s with people producing electronic music, mostly drum and bass.
I often found myself creatively frustrated during those days, usually sitting on a sofa behind someone else at the controls in a studio. The process and approach to production for electronic music is also totally different to live sound recording/production and I’ve always known that this approach wasn’t really “serving the song” in the way I had envisaged.
I signed a couple of these projects to an indie label who also had their own ideas about how my music should be branded and marketed.
I think going through these experiences was fundamental to understanding my own vision for the creative aspects of a release and it was through this that I came to the conclusion that the independent route would allow for the sort of creative freedom I really craved.
I’ve set up my own label and publishing company Golden Hour Music which my album, ‘Heaven Knows’ is being released on and now I oversee all aspects of the release from writing, arranging and producing my own music to conceptualizing how it is presented visually and promoted. I am lucky to have an incredible team on board who have helped make all this possible.
When you were growing up, what kind of music did you listen to?
I was exposed to a lot of artists growing up, my mum was really into Soul, particularly Motown and my dad has a pretty eclectic taste in music so it was anything from Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, The Beatles and Shawn Colvin to prog rock.
When I was about eight, my auntie gave me her old record player, both my parents had a massive vinyl collection and they gave me four albums: Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles and The Beach Boys. I fell in love with Stevie’s voice then and I’ve adored his music ever since.
Being a teenager in the 90’s it was all about R’n’B and Hip Hop. I first got introduced to a lot of this through those compilation albums you used to get. I remember discovering artists like Mary Mary who took inspiration from Gospel music and it just resonated with me. A bit later, it was Lauryn Hill, The Fugees, Bob Marley. I liked a lot of conscious rap then and I used to collect UK Garage tapes too but I was also always listening to artists like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Brandy and my Stevie Wonder vinyls of course.
These days I love anything Soulful old and new from Aretha Franklin to D’Angelo, H.E.R and Anderson Paak.
You have a single out named ‘Preacher Man’, what inspired you to write this song?
Preacher Man is about taking a ‘leap of faith’. I think as human beings, under capitalism, we’ve somewhat lost that sense of spiritual purpose; the joy of doing what you love and going for your dreams. I was thinking about the spiritual encounters that I’ve had in my life (whether those be through conversions, books, emotional experiences, synchronicities) which have led me towards searching for something more. I wanted to personify/embody this in the form of a ‘Preacher Man’.
Check out the music video to 'Preacher Man' here.
What was the writing and recording process like for this single?
This particular single was one of the last tracks I wrote and recorded for my album (‘Heaven Knows’ coming June 2022). At the time I wrote it, it was just before lockdown and just before I had a major accident that nearly left me paralysed from the waist down. As a result, I produced it from my studio in Manchester recording with John Ellis’ [Corinne Bailey Rae, Lilly Allen] (rhodes/organ) and Jerry Barnes [Whitney Houston, Nile Rodgers] (bass) in New York from their studio’s remotely. I was able to use drums and claps that I had recorded in previous sessions so it was very much a layering approach to the arrangement and production. In many ways, though the impacts of Covid and the shift to remote recording (which I did a lot of for this record), really allowed me to think outside of the box as a producer which led to working with people I’d always wanted to in other parts of the world, particularly the US.
The album was then mixed by Brian Malouf (Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder) in LA - we did the mix sessions live over Zoom. Then it was mastered by Geoff Peshe at Abbey Road - this was in December 2021 so I was lucky to be able to be in the session and work collaboratively with Geoff.
How has your music changed since you started releasing music?
I think the fundamentals of the songs are the same, I write from the heart. Writing is a bit like a meditation for me - I write to process and share my thoughts and emotions. I don’t think that will ever change. What has changed is that over the course of writing, arranging and producing this album, I’ve learnt a huge amount and been on a long, challenging and fulfilling artistic journey. I’ve had some great mentors including Lewis Hopkins who engineered a large proportion of the record and Brian Malouf who both taught me so much about live sound recording and sonics. Arranging has always come pretty naturally to me but having incredible musicians and recording, mixing and mastering the tracks with so much attention to detail and precision contributes hugely to the overall sonic of a final piece of music. For me, this album is the coming together of all of those important components and aligning them with my initial vision for the songs at the time they were conceived - that’s something I haven’t been able to achieve artistically before and it’s something I’m really proud to have accomplished.
You wrote this song days before your accident, after your accident, did it change your outlook and perspective on the single?
It’s an interesting question. A lot changes when you have an accident but my mindset on taking leaps of faith didn’t. I think when you realise your fragility and that your life can change in an instant, this message rings all the more true.
What is next for you?
I’ll be releasing the second single ‘Girl’ from the album for International Women’s Day (8th March) with the title track ‘Heaven Know’ and the album to follow - the vinyl is currently being pressed - it’ll be my first, so I’m excited about that! I’m currently putting together my live show with an amazing team of musicians and I’ll be announcing a UK tour very soon.