By Dylan Bryant (Music Editor)
On June 10, UK soul artist Mica Millar released her highly anticipated debut album, ‘Heaven Knows’.
Armed with an extraordinary vocal power, Mica Millar has produced an album that is drenched in soul, jazz, blues and gospel influences.
I had the chance to ask Mica some questions about the album and started by asking about the title track. She says;
“For me, ‘Heaven Knows’ really sums up the themes across the album as well as my experience when creating it. The song is about moving between mindsets of belief and fear or self-doubt and trying to ground yourself in the knowing that everything is going to be OK – Heaven Knows or the Universe knows. The song explores themes of human nature, spirituality, oppression, love, empowerment and I think these all have duality or plurality in the way we experience them, and I love the duality of ‘Heaven Knows’ as a sentiment – it’s either an affirmation and a feeling of empowerment or an abandonment of control.”
Speaking on the song writing process of the track, she adds;
“This song was written on piano using a process called ‘Stream of consciousness’ writing. I recorded a demo of it with a guide vocal and developed the lyrics further. Then recorded it along with a number of the other tracks at Middle Farm studios. The original recording was a fifteen-minute piece of instrumentation which I cherry picked my favourite bits from to create the songs arrangement. The lead vocal and backing vocals were recorded last.”
This album serves up a beautiful collection of songs from an artist whose voice provides thought-provoking and uplifting soul-infused music. ‘Preacher Man’ is a personal highlight with it’s compelling chorus charged by Mica’s flawless smoky vocals.
Mica has worked with some incredible names including Geoff Pesche (Adele, Ed Sheeran) and multi-platinum producer/engineer Brian Malouf, known for engineering Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ album and working with Motown legend Stevie Wonder. Speaking on these relationships she says;
“Working at Abbey Road on mastering the album with Geoff was a real career moment for me and knowing that all the work that had gone into it would culminate in a finished album at the end of the day was quite a magical feeling!
When I first arrived, Geoff said to me something along the lines of ‘you won’t get anything out of me about the content, all I’m doing here is assessing the sonics’. The first song he fell in love with and by the end of the day he was struggling to choose his favourite track and making suggestions for the running order. It was really quite special to be in a gold standard mastering studio and have someone really fall in love with the album in the way he did. It was after that that he chose my album as his favourite mastering project of 2021 in Abbey Road’s annual round up and he’s since used a couple of tracks from the record as ‘mastering room references’ for other artists’ sessions which is a huge honour.
I worked with Brian Malouf on the mixes for this album via Zoom. He mixed the tracks in his studio in LA (USA) and then streamed the live mixes to my studio in Manchester (UK). We could make changes in real time, so it was like being in the studio together. Once we’d finished, I listened to them in my studio and many other places like friends’ houses, in my car etc.”
Mica has a talent for writing songs that are drenched in vintage soundscapes, yet modern and refreshing in their own respect. ‘My Lover’ is a personal favourite track and delivers a beautiful instrumental that is matched by Mica’s soothing vocals. Speaking on music that she listens to when in need of a detox she says;
“On my chill playlists I’ve got artists like Etta James, D’Angelo but also some newer artists like Lapsley, London Grammar. Pip Millet has a beautiful song called Ava which is super chilled and Soulful.”
Mica is an artist who runs her own label, writes, produces and arranges her own music. I asked; “Do you enjoy having creative control over your music?”
“I do and it’s not just music. I like to be responsible for all aspects of my art; music, visuals, styling etc I love being creative across all these areas and I have a very specific sound, style and aesthetic that comes from a very authentic place, it’s just what I like and how I see things basically.”
Mica has a stimulating musical delivery that explores themes of human nature, hope, spirituality, love, oppression, inequality and empowerment. Speaking on emotional expression in her music she says;
“I think that music gives you the ability to express something much more vast, deep and profound than words alone can do.”
Mica is set to play at the Jazz Café in London and the Albert Hall in Manchester in September. Speaking on these shows she says;
“It’s really exciting – these are both Album Launch shows so it will be the first time ever that ‘Heaven Knows’ has been performed live with a full band. Both venues have been on my bucket list for some years now so I can’t wait.”
Mica is a refreshing and talented artist who has delivered a beautiful debut album. I finished by asking; “What would you like people to take away from ‘Heaven Knows’?
“I hope they take away whatever it is they need in that moment.”
‘Heaven Knows’ released June 10.