FEW artists dedicate their songwriting time…
to recognising heroes in society. Mica Millar’s The Defender points the spotlight towards the stalwarts out there. She talks to me about the song and the project she has underway; what it was like working with Goldie on the recording; whether there is new material coming later this year – why her current song has a very personal and revelatory quality.
Millar recommends a new artist and reveals what she does away from music; what she hopes to achieve in the remainder of this year; how important Soul music is to her – she tells me when music came into her life.
Hi, Mica. How are you? How has your week been?
It's been a very busy week with lots of ups and downs, to be honest – but, overall, it's been productive!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name’s Mica Millar. I'm a songwriter and vocalist from Manchester.
The Defender is your new track. What is the background of the track?
I wrote the song around ten years ago. It's been performed and produced in quite a few different versions, but I started developing it in the last two years for my forthcoming album. It's one of the songs I've always wanted to release. I worked on the recording, production and arrangement and then sent it to Goldie and James Davidson (together, known as Subjective), who loved it and said they would work on some additional production and mixing for me.
I believe Goldie was part of the recording! Was it pretty cool working alongside him?
Goldie is an amazing artist and it was a real privilege to have him work on the track with his engineer James. He really helped take the track to another level.
The Defender has another aim: to raise awareness for societal heroes. What was the reason for spotlighting this area? Have you had an experience where you have helped a stranger – or being aided by one?
This song was, to some degree, about me doubting humanity and questioning why people weren't more empathetic. Ten years after writing it, I now know that when people seem to show a lack of empathy, the reasons are very complex - it's not as simple and good and bad. I wanted the campaign to explore those complexities and tell stories of empathy.
When people help or save someone they don't even know; to me, this is one of the best examples of empathy - despite any ideas about self-preservation, not wanting to ‘get involved’. Some people in the world will act selflessly to help others.
I'm going to be releasing my own story about being saved by strangers in a video online soon - so you'll have to wait for that one, I'm afraid.
The music video for The Defender seems like a very personal and important collaboration. Tell me more about it…
I decided I wanted the music video to incorporate people who had experienced saving or being saved by a stranger - to talk about empathy and discuss how social, cultural; political and psychological factors impact human behaviour. I think it's both a fascinating and very important topic. I collaborated with director Simon Brooks on the music video - and with an amazing team who are working on the documentary with me.
Is there going to be more material coming before the end of the year?
I'm recording my album in May and I hope to release it soon! There will be more another single later this year, though, which I'm really excited about.
Do you feel you have entered a new creative phase as an artist? Are there any similarities between who you are now and who you were at the start of your career?
I think, as an artist, you're always developing. At the core of my music is me, because I've always written honest songs. My view of the world has of course developed - but I'm the same person.
When did music enter your life? Which artists did you grow up around?
My dad is a musician - so there's always been music in my life. When I was about seven, my auntie gave me her old record player. I remember my mum and dad discussing which three records I should have. They choose Stevie Wonder, The Beatles and The Beach Boys.
I can't remember which albums they were but they were absolutely the foundation of my introduction to music.
How important is Soul music, past and present, and the heroes/heroines of the genre?
To me, Soul and Gospel music is at the root of all music, so it's fundamental above any other genre. Since I started listening to Stevie Wonder at seven-years-old, I think I became attuned to that kind of spiritual, soulful music and, even as a child with Hits ‘95 or whatever, the songs that were influenced by Gospel and Soul were my favourites. When I hear old Motown records, it just doesn't get any better than that for me.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
I'm doing three single launches for The Defender: 4th April at Band on the Wall in Manchester; 8th April at Leaf on Bold Street in Liverpool and 10th April at The Wardrobe in Leeds. I'll be performing with my ten-piece band, which I'm really excited about. For the first time, I've added violin, cello and guitar to the line-up - so it's going to be a much bigger show this time!
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
I'm going to record my first album in May; so that's my main aim for 2018, which will be a huge accomplishment for me. I'm going into the studio with Lewis Hopkin, who I was introduced to by Goldie. His passion for my music and energy is absolutely amazing; so, I feel really positive about how the outcome will be.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
There are so many - it's always a bit of a rollercoaster. But, from the past year; I think finishing (the year) performing with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra (to represent BBC Introducing) was a big highlight.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
I think authenticity is really important. Be who you are: don't compare yourself to other people. Just focus on what you're doing, support other people and, most importantly, enjoy the journey!
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
I played a show at iluvlive in London last week and I saw a very young artist called Tora - who is an incredible vocalist and songwriter. She hasn't released any music yet, but you should watch this space. Some people are just outstanding…and she is one of them.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I don't get that much time to chill during a release period because I do everything independently; including releasing my music and putting on my own shows. I've actually just started having hypnotherapy for relaxation and it's amazing.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Aretha Franklin - You Send Me
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