Mica Paris's gospel on fame
by Margaret Chrystall
IT’S like a light going on as singer Mica Paris rouses from pre-show rest mode to talk about the show Fame and her own 30 years performing.
Raised as a child singing gospel, Mica became an international pop star before moving on to explore stadium, stage and screen.
As Mica enthuses about touring in her sixth musical, playing the passionate teacher Miss Sherman, it’s like listening to the purr of a sleepy tiger.
“I’m just a bit tired today but we’re having a fantastic tour. I love this one so much I’ve taken it on for another year,” Mica says.
The musical – also starring Keith Jack and Jorgie Porter – is based on the 1980 film following students at New York’s High School For The Performing Arts and it opens at Eden Court on Monday.
But after decades of performing behind her, it’s hard to believe Mica has said in the past that she is still always terrified when she does.
But she confirms: “I am terrified all the time! But I go through it anyway. The fear doesn’t stop me.
“I’m always frightened because I want to be the best I can at whatever I do,” she laughed.
With seven albums and 27 singles, two series co-hosting TV’s What Not To Wear, starring as a diva in ITV’s Marple and musical roles including Mama Morton in musical Chicago, Mica’s CV shows a variety of successes packed into her career.
But down-to-earth and candid, Mica herself mentions her Strictly stint where she reminds you she was the second one out of the show.
Giving everything in a performance is how she likes to do things and it began from her earliest days using her voice to sing gospel in church, going on to sing as young as 10 at Pentecostal conventions in Wembley Stadium in front of thousands.
“The thing is it is a gift, you know?
“But what’s quite frightening is you never had to acquire it, you never had to cultivate it - it was always there.
“My grandparents discovered it when I was five singing Rupert The Bear.
“I was raised in a gospel environment where my grandparents were ministers and everything is given to you to serve others.
“So I’ve never quite felt that it’s mine, you see?
“I feel like it is service to touch people with your gift, that is what you are here to do.
“I think it is important as artists to always have this reverence for the gift.
“Something happens that’s magical when you are there to think only about what it is going to do to your listener. This in turn only makes you more inspirational.
“I don’t know how to word that any other way.
“What is wrong with a lot of artistry today, is it is self-motivated and about vanity and foolishness, but it is always supposed to transport people.
“If I can’t do that then I’m not doing my job.”
Mica feels sorry for many young performers today who are not given the chance to learn their craft of performing live, she believes.
“What we are seeing is like Macdonalds way into the industry, people trying to make it look easy as if there’s no graft behind it.
“And that is why I love Fame the show so much. It’s about the reality, the dark and the light side of it.
Mica looks back to her own busy early years as a singer.
“I didn’t even realise that I was being groomed when I was singing in church at seven in front of 100 people with no microphone – learning to project.
“I had no idea I was getting ready to do this as a living.”
And Mica was lucky enough to see some legendary performers and learn from them too.
“My dad would take me to see Al Green and other incredible people when I was a kid and when I went to see these kind of artists they sang and gave you their instestine, their bladder, everything was given when they performed. That is where I come from.”
She also knew Prince who wrote a song for her in 1991 which she recorded in his Minneapolis studio.
“He knew about me before my record even came out! He’d say ‘Mica, you remind me of a young Chaka’. He was a massive fan and we were friends for a long time.”
Mica takes her fitness seriously when it comes to performing in eight shows a week.
“Being an artist you do have to be like an athlete, I have to be in the gym six days a week otherwise I couldn’t do it!”
Mica will also be busy with other projects this year- recording a new album, finishing a book on female performers, meeting some legendary names for her new Radio Two interview show Mica Meets which starts in March - and going to America to trace gospel music for Lenny Henry’s TV production company.
“The book is basically about why female singers are so tortured, from my perspective. I want to explain why females have such a tough time in the music business.
“I started writing it in 2017 and since #MeToo has taken off, suddenly it has become all about women now.
“But women have always been my focus. No-one really knows our plight and I think it’s time they did.
“The first thing that makes it difficult is being a female, that is the challenge right there.”
In Fame, Mica sings a big gospel number these Are My Children.
Does it take her back to her earliest days?
“I don’t think it ever leaves me. My voice is a gospel voice, there is nothing you can ever change about that. I have worked with loads of different styles of music, but I can’t change that about my voice. That is who I am.”
Fame The Musical is at Eden Court from Monday to next Saturday.