Hi Mica, how you doing?
MP: Hello, how are you.
UJR: We're not too bad.
UJR: We saw the new video and found it very energetic, is that what you wanted to portray on the video?
MP: Yeah because the song kind of reminded me of Tina Turner's Nutbush, you know, Nutbush City Limits, it kind of reminded me of that so I kinda wanted the video to be more about the performance more than anything else.
UJR: It looked like you got a lot of energy.
MP: Well I was terrified before I went in to the studio to record this album, because I'd been away so long, I was thinking could I still do it, you know, you get so nervous doing something again that you haven't done for a while, you just get terrified. Especially because I'm from south London originally, you get properly roasted if your stuff isn't good.
UJR: Well, we love music too much, so if you're not dealing with it properly, we'll say so.
MP: Which is a good thing.
UJR: We don't know if you agree with that, but like back in the day when you were a youngster and everyone is saying your great, your great, now doesn't that sometimes get a bit boring?
MP: It does, and to be honest, it's not healthy. I'm very very down to earth in that way, I want people's real comments I think that's the reason I'm still here, I'm very real and because I am so real, it made me more terrified to record this album. Because I'm also the same, if you make a record and want to give it to me, it better be good. I'm very critical. Even more so of myself.
UJR: Now we've noticed over the years with the current crop of people out there at the moment, looking at the industry now is like it's starving real soul food. People are wandering out in the desert looking for soul food. With this album that you have out now, do you think that you're fulfilling some of their needs?
MP: Oh definitely. I mean the thing is when you've been around as long as I have, you have to find a way to cater for all of the people who have followed you along the way. Some people like me singing soul, some people like me singing pop, some like me singing Jazz, some people like me singing Hip Hop, some people like me singing Dance, Gospel, you know, the list goes on, there are many people who like me doing lots of different things.
UJR: Although we're predominately Jazz, we love the Soul.
MP: Me too. I love it all, so I had to find a way to cater to the Soul man, the Jazz man and the Dance guy. So I had to find a way for catering to everybody. And I think that I did it.
UJR: The track that we like on the album is "Nothing But The Truth".
MP: That's when I know that you're on it!
UJR: Because that one was to us a Soul/Folk tune, and the thing is, it made us think, is this about a relationship or the music business?
MP: The second! You're just scoring points all the time, you're just killing me.
UJR: With this track We were talking about before, number 8 of the 12 tracks on the disc, featuring Summertime and also My One Temptation. One of them is acoustic.
MP: Yeah, My One Temptation.
UJR: What do you find you like - the live presence with all the band, or the stripped down sound? We personally like the stripped down track cos then you find the artist for what they really are, what they say in the lyrics.
MP: Well, the thing is, I come from the church so we didn't really have accompaniment back then. I was in the church from the time I was born until I was 15 and I was always singing in church with no mic. It was all about your voice, projecting in that place and touching people. I come from that background. You can't get a better school than that because you just have to be brilliant at what you do cos you've got no mic to give you reverb, you got nuthin. You're out there cold and it taught me to be out there performing without having anything there behind me. What do I enjoy most? All of it. I like having the band kick it, then in between I'll make everything real quiet, just me and a piano, me and a guitarist. I give the audience both.
UJR: Now we also notice that you've got Eric Benet, who we also admire as an artist.
MP: Yeah, he's great, great writer too.
UJR: Is this album like a diary, looking at recent goings on? It's like showing to people, relationships are broken up, but saying you know what people, have a look, have a listen.
MP: It is like that, but it's not just a person or a guy, it's all of it, it's a lot of stuff that has happened to me. 20 years is a long time, it's a big journey, and it's been really really turbulent. I look back and think, why was it so turbulent? But it just was, that was my thing, it was my fate. And you're right, the album is very much a biography of the last 20 years of my life.
UJR: Well let's lighten it up a bit now.
MP: It's getting really depressing!
UJR: Yeah, we don't wanna do that.
MP: The deal is, it took me 2 years to make this record. The first year I was making this album, I had to throw all the songs out, they were so blue. It wasn't until the second year when I recorded I Remember, which is a Keisha Cole cover, and the minute I recorded that song, everything changed, the album just came.
UJR: Was that purely just having a youngster write something, and you just threw back the years and thought, damn, that was me back then?
MP: Not at all, it was my producer who just came along, said Mica, listen to this, it's a great song by this artist called Keisha Cole, cos I'd never heard of her, and he put it on and I said, yeah I can tear that up in a minute, it's my kinda vibe, throw me down some soul chords, cos I'm a soul girl like that, so I went in there and I just let rip. There's something about me singing soul, I feel like I'm lying down in my bed and it's so comfortable and everything feels perfect.
UJR: That's what we felt about Stay as well. And Nothing But The Truth. They were the one where we could feel the gutsy soul. You've talked about your voice, how people ask if your voice has changed. Do you still smoke?
MP: No. It's just life. It's 40 years of being on this planet. The voice gets more raspy as time goes on, there's a couple of vodkas in there! It's just weathered.
UJR: Cos you got a lot of elements of Tina Turner in there.
MP: I'm older now, you have to remember the song you played earlier, from the album So Good, I was much younger then, I was 17 years old and your voice is up there when you're a teenager. When you hear this album you can hear I'm more seasoned.
UJR: You mentioned how you find it difficult finding songwriters.
MP: The right type of songwriters, there are loads of writers, but good ones.
UJR: We've come across some songwriters and like we mentioned earlier, people are screaming out for good songs and lyrics. We're a bit perplexed it took you 10 years to come across these artists. With the album, we personally think you could have come out with any song and it would have been great...
MP: It doesn't work like that. I wish it was that simple. It doesn't matter how great your voice is, you have to have an amazing song. The song is the key. It's like Quincy Jones said, melody is king. I can sound good on any song, but people won't remember that song unless it's a great song. That's the difference.
UJR: What is a great song then?
MP: Baby Come Back Now, My One Temptation, Where Is The Love.
UJR: When you're making a decision, a choice, you want to go and work with whoever, and their resume says that they worked with whoever, written this number one, does that class them for a good track?
MP: Yeah, you got to like their style, it's exactly like that. The thing with Brian Rawlings, I love his music, I love the artists he's produced like Lemar, Craig David, James Morrison, Daniel Bedingfield, Tina Turner, Cher, the list goes on, he's even done Andrea Botticelli, one of your boys! He's done everyone, he's really amazing and what I love about Brian is he's a song man. He did that song Justice with Lemar, did you know that song was written by the same people who did My One Temptation? But it was Brian, my producer, who found that song 18 years later. See what I'm saying? He has a thing about songs, he finds great songs which is why I wanted to work with him so much. It's the type of song. There are loads of songs, you're right, but you know when that lyric engages you, it kills you and you get sucked in by the words and you go "I get that".
UJR: We're looking at the angle that when it comes to the great musicians that never make it and they never get heard, does the climate of today mean that when someone gets to number 1 do they really deserve to be there, or is it who you know?
MP: Well to be honest with you it's a couple of things, it's some of the things you mentioned, it's who you know cos I always say to people in these times it isn't really about talent anymore unfortunately. You gotta have a little something that's special, that stands out from the rest, but if you're hooked up with the right cats you're definitely gonna get through a lot easier.
UJR: You made a comment like, you gotta love what you're doing cos years down the line you have to be able to appreciate it.
MP: Yeah, you don't want to be embarrassed by it, that's why I make sure I look fit on my album covers so my grandkids don't ask what happened there! But what I was gonna say, a lot of the young people are obsessed with being famous and we need to tell them that fame is transient, and what is long lasting is the content. What are you giving, is that song moving people, is it making them think, making them feel good. That's where your thoughts should be, you should be making music that is touching people and moves people. It shouldn't be about being famous.
UJR: Has that affected this album, you being a mother as well?
MP: Yeah, totally, I have a teenager and I'm surrounded by young people, I know the angst that they feel and the stress that they feel because they feel that no-one knows who they are and understands them but we've got to keep telling them always go for the passion first, for the things that you love, always make that the focus and the rest will come.
UJR: What are you wanting people to take away from this album? Their lasting memory of it?
MP: I want the lasting memory to really be that life is sometimes incredibly tough, but the message is don't give up. The whole album is really about redemption, the journey hasn't been easy but don't give up. Even when it looks really rubbish out there and you think that there's no hope for you, just hold on, it's going to get better.
UJR: But what about the flip side for you?
MP: It doesn't bother me, I can smooth it over, I've been in a restaurant about to put a piece of steak in to my mouth and someone has come over for an autograph. It's all good, the worse thing you can do is tell that person to get lost, they're going to go home and think you know what, I've been in to her music for years but she's really not a nice person. That's not good.
UJR: But on the other hand you are a human being, doesn't that put you in a robotic....
MP: Do I look like a robot?! No, I'm a people person, I love people and I love making people happy. I'm a performer. I've met many stars, much bigger stars than me, and I wish sometimes I hadn't met some of them because the way they behaved was so terrible, I can't believe I followed you all these years.
UJR: So thanks for talking to us, we'd love do it again, it's been really enjoyable.
MP: I'd love to, sometime soon!
UJR: Ok, take care, and see you soon.