Hey, honey bees, you know we love it when women. Yup, exactly we love spreading the love to fellow women, and we just love to see them thrive and achieve their dreams. One of these awe-inspiring women is newcomer UK-based soul singer Mica Millar.
Yup, Mica is one powerful woman. If anything needs to be done concerning her music Mica is doing it herself. She is a true all-around talented woman that is doing it all (we really mean all!) and all of that as an independent artist. Can we hear some noise for this queen? We fell in love with Mica’s empowerment anthem that she dropped for International Women’s Day called ‘Girl,’ and before that, ‘Preacher Man’ had us in awe!
Mica Millar is set to drop her debut album Heaven Knows this coming June, and you bet we are ready for it! Luckily, we had the chance to talk to Mica all about her music and musical journey to get us even more hyped for her upcoming project. Read our exclusive interview below!
Your new single ‘Girl,’ was released on International Women’s Day and during Women’s History Month which we find really inspiring. Women empowerment is very important to us here at THP and obviously with this song also for you. How do you try to empower yourself on a daily basis? Any tips for your fans to empower themselves?
I think empowering yourself is a very different process for everyone. For me, I really value personal growth so I try to make sure that I’m always pushing myself in terms of developing creatively and learning new things whether that is emotionally, spiritually, creatively, or intellectually. I like to make a point of doing things that are particularly challenging and that push me outside of my comfort zone. As well as being an artist I also teach, and particularly when I work with young women, I think helping them develop confidence in their own abilities gives them a real sense of empowerment. I love to watch other people grow and be part of that journey too. I find it really inspiring. Empowering others is very empowering.
With the world being a really hard place to be in right now, your music is bound to be a place of comfort and happiness for many fans, including us. What do you do when you want to recenter yourself, and how do you stay positive?
As you say, music is really powerful when things in life are challenging so I do the same – turn up the speakers and take in the vibes. Songwriting is also really healing for me, I find it very therapeutic.
Outside of music, I meditate regularly and try to take time out to be compassionate to myself which I think is really important. It feels like there’s so much going on in the world right now and I think we can put a lot of pressure on ourselves and feel the burden of that sense of powerlessness. I think it’s important to know when it’s time to switch off and take some time out to be still or just allow ourselves time to process. I don’t do that enough but I know when I do, it’s very good for me.
How did it feel collaborating with Brian Malouf and Geoff Pesche on Heaven Knows? Did they give you any advice that you think will stick with you for a long time?
It’s quite triumphant really when you find people who understand you, love your music and just intuitively get what it is you’re trying to achieve. Having aligned visions and standards is so important when you’re working on an album or a project of this scale and that’s where me and Brian really connected.
Mixing this album was a long journey and there’s a lot that Brian taught me technically but I think what I got out of working with him most was having someone who I trusted and felt I could rely on to help me get my album over the finish line. At that point, I was pretty exhausted, confused, and uncertain about what I’d created – when you’ve largely been in a room on your own creating for a couple of years it becomes hard to see the wood from the trees really. I always compare the process of making an album to birthing and then molding and shaping of your children before you send them off into the world and hope they’ll do OK (I don’t have any kids but my sister has two twin boys and I often joke with her that my songs are my children).
The mixing stage is when the child is really little and you can see the mother a bit worried about other people holding them because maybe they’ll drop them. You have to really trust someone at that point and Brian gave me that sense of trust. Now that I’ve experienced that, I know it’s possible in the future and that makes embarking on future albums much more exciting than daunting.
Goeff Peshe at Abbey Road was brilliant to work with – we both love Soul music and cups of tea so we were on to a winner as soon as we met. I chose to work with Geoff not only because he’s one of the best in the business and working out of Abbey Road but also because he understands Soul music and has absolutely no ego about what he does in the studio. I think that’s really what I learned working with him. He’s not going to just add a load of unnecessary EQ to feel he’s done a good job. If the mix works well as it is, he’ll only make the small adjustments that are needed to perfect it. I hadn’t sat in on a mastering session prior to this so it was great to get a better understanding of the process. He also taught me about lacquer cutting and vinyl pressing which is super interesting! (Wow, I’m such a geek…sorry! haha). We filmed this process which I’m going to put out on social media at some point
You are truly a woman that can do it all, you run your own label, write, produce and arrange your own music, and you are even behind the whole designing process. How do you manage it all and blow fans away every time with your art and music? What’s the most fun part for you in this process?
Thank you, I don’t know about that but I try my best! It’s taken a lot of time and been really challenging taking on all aspects of this release but I think as an independent artist, that’s just the way it has to be done.
Managing everything is hard, I am very tired right now (haha) but it’s also really rewarding when it’s release day and you see everything come together and people message and tell you about how they’ve connected with your music. For me, once the writing and recording process is done (something I do for myself) – that’s what being an artist is all about – connecting with other people.
For this album and the campaign, I have worked on everything in stages – I think compartmentalizing everything and planning ahead is the only way to do it if you’re doing a lot of the work yourself. Whilst I was writing and recording the album, I didn’t use social media very much and I didn’t really do any live shows either. I just took three years away to really focus on the creative process. Once the tracks were mastered I started planning the music video shoots and creating press shots and artwork etc. and really spending time on developing ideas for how I wanted things to look aesthetically. Then I worked on putting the release team together. The development of visual assets is ongoing of course but all the videos were produced and filmed before I released the first single – I’m told that’s how major labels do things and I think it’s a much more practical approach. Running a campaign, you have to be in a very different headspace than when you’re writing/recording – releasing music is much more practical and task-oriented so for me having a plan in place for each stage was really important.
All these aspects of being a self-managed and self-releasing artist have fun parts and challenges. Making music is of course the bit that I love most but I actually found that I’ve become so much more passionate about visual art since taking on producing, creatively directing, and editing my music videos – I’ve loved that process.
I think marketing and promotion can also be really creative so there are aspects of that which I love too.
At the moment I’m also putting together my live show with an amazing group of musicians and I’m loving the creative process of translating all of the songs into live versions and structuring the show.
With your music being absolutely awe-inspiring. Whose music inspired you and shaped you into the powerful woman you are today?
Thank you. I always start with a song, and I write songs as a way of expressing my thoughts and feelings. I think inspiration happens on a subconscious level at that point – all of the things you’ve listened to over the years, the way people express themselves, and what you’ve taken from it all and stored in your memory.
I’ve always loved Soul music ever since I first heard Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and Etta James as a kid, I’ve spent years exploring back catalogs of Soul artists so that has undoubtedly influenced me very deeply – it’s music that just moves me.
As a teenager, I listened to a lot of RnB in the 90s and later I found Blues, Jazz, and Gospel. But I grew up on a lot of Folk artists like Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, Joan Armatrading so I think it all has its place in my memory that I draw from when I’m writing.
Vocally, I think Aretha Franklin has had the biggest impact on me. I remember listening to her sing ‘I Never Loved a Man’ and how she almost spoke/preached the words – every syllable had a tone that expressed an emotion – I hadn’t really intellectualized it in that way until that point.
We are a sucker for meaningful lyrics and your songs are full of them. What’s your favorite lyric from ‘Girl?’
I think the line, “Don’t need nothing but your heart to keep you whole’”.
That’s about reminding yourself that all the empowerment you need is within you and you don’t need to seek validation from anyone else. That sense of personal, internal knowing is something I find very grounding.
The second verse is also really important to me and brings up a lot of emotion when I listen back to it or think about it. ‘Girl’ was inspired by three women and in the third verse, I drew inspiration from an amazing woman and friend called Angeli Sweeney (Angel for short) who is one of the most inspiring people I’ve met and a friend that I know I will have for life. I’ve watched her on this really beautiful journey of empowering herself and others around her in such a powerful way, being an activist, and inspiring young people. When I sing “there with your feet on the ground, Angel, facing the long road ahead, and I know life is unjust, rise above, don’t give up, in time, change is gonna come,” that’s what I’m talking about so it’s very personal to me and to her.
I know that lyrics can become personal to other people as well and I received a message from a woman who said her little girl was having a hard time and she had said so many of the lines in this song to her. She talked about how much it resonated with her and how she couldn’t wait to play the song to her daughter. When I looked at her profile I noticed she was a white woman with a mixed-race daughter and she was on a mission to encourage her to wear her beautiful hair out and feel empowered by it. I thought that was just really beautiful – I hadn’t really considered how the song would resonate with mothers and daughters until that point or that the line “let your hair down and I’ll be by your side” could have such a meaningful interpretation to someone.
Your mind seems to be such a big and beautiful place. What does your writing process look like? What do you do to overcome writer’s block?
Thank you (You make me blush). For songwriting, I often use an approach called “stream of consciousness writing.” I might create a loop either with a piano part or a full demoed production and then I just press record and sing whatever comes out. I’ve written full songs using that approach but most of the time it just helps to birth an idea so you can listen back and pick out melodies, words, or themes that stand out and then build the song from there.
Other times, I’ll just sit at my piano and play some chords and feel what resonates with me at that moment, then I’ll start singing (again, usually just what comes out) until I hit on something that feels good or poignant. I often don’t know what I’m writing about until quite far into the process. Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it takes a while to find the theme.
When I’m in a writing phase, it might take me some time to get into it and that’s usually when I might experience a blockage. I don’t ever suffer really from not being able to write, I think it’s more that my inner critic starts getting involved a bit too early in the process saying, “that’s not very good”. If I’m not enjoying the process, or I’m not getting myself into a kind of flow state with what I’m working on, then I’ll usually just stop and go back to it later or another day. Generally though, once I’ve opened the floodgates with one song, there are a lot more that flow out easily so I know sometimes I need to just write even if it’s not very good or I know won’t finish it, just to get the ball rolling or get me into the right frame of mind.
As a woman in the industry and having faced many obstacles, what tips would you give to those that are trying to make it and doubting themselves along the journey?
I think perseverance and self-belief are incredibly important – you can’t always maintain that consistently but if you can keep coming back to that place deep down in your core, knowing who you are and what you want and you can hold on to that throughout your journey, I think you can overcome any obstacle that the music industry presents.
For me, my journey has been about understanding that you need to know where you’re going and just head there. “if you build it, they will come.” There will always be people who tell you what you want to do is not possible or unlikely or challenging so I think half the battle is recognizing when people are trying to project their own ideas and limitations on you. To succeed, I think firstly it’s really important to know what success means to you, then have faith that it’s possible but also balance that more spiritual notion with a practical plan.
With all that said, I am working my way towards my own definition of success which shifts and changes slightly with each foot forward – you get a view from a different vantage point at each stage. I don’t think as a creative you can ever really ‘make it’ as the goal post will always be moving quicker than you can reach it so I have to continually remind myself that it’s all about the journey, not the destination.
Your music has taken many influences from soul, the sixties, and gospel, this sound suits you very well. Which genre would you love to try eventually to include in your music?
I think my heart will always be in Soul music but I do like exploring other genres. I think what I find really creative is working with producers on remixes and seeing how songs can be re-interpreted into different genres. I have a Drum & Bass remix of ‘Girl’ created by a female producer called Athena which is coming out on 1st April. When I heard this remix it gave me goosebumps so I’m really excited to share it.
Heaven Knows will drop in June 2022, and we are already pumped for it. Any spoilers you could give us about upcoming singles? A tour? What’s next for Mica Millar?
Heaven Knows (the album) will be out on June 10th and I’m currently having a double vinyl pressed. The physical and digital release will be available for pre-sale from 29th April when I’ll be releasing the title track.
Live performance venues have always represented progress for me. I remember watching, JP Cooper at the Deaf Institute years ago (he used to come to an open mic night that I ran when I was younger and this was one of his first proper shows I think). Standing in the audience I remember thinking, “one day I’m going to perform here”… I did a sold-out headline show there a few years later. The title track for the album is all about grounding yourself and maintaining balance along the tightrope of self-doubt and self-belief. The album sleeve photograph was taken in Albert Hall – I was lying on the floor looking at this beautiful ornate ceiling and I thought “I’m going to shoot the music video for ‘Heaven Knows’ here” and so we did. When I was shooting the music video, I lay down in exactly the same spot and thought, “I’m going to perform a headline show here.” Live shows will be announced soon… 😉
Thank you Mica Millar for talking to us and giving us the chance to have a glimpse into your mind! We cannot wait for those live shows and the album that’s for sure! What do you think about ‘Girl?’ How excited are you for Heaven Knows? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!
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