The Sound Cafe
UK Soul Artist Mica Millar Releases Debut Album 'Heaven Knows'
UK soul artist Mica Millar releases her anticipated debut album ‘Heaven Knows’ – a stunning collection of modern soul songs showcasing a confident new artist who’s not only found her own voice but one that has put all of life's challenges and triumphs into her art.
Exploring themes of human nature, hope, spirituality, love, oppression, inequality and empowerment, ‘Heaven Knows’ draws inspiration from a plethora of vintage soundscapes, most notably soul, blues, gospel and jazz. Respectful nods are paid to girl groups of the 60's and 70's and Motown giving the album a timeless quality that is both reassuringly familiar yet distinctively Mica Millar.
Highlights include the first single ‘Preacher Man,’ with its addictive chorus imbued with Mica’s flawless smoky vocal and the follow up ‘Girl’ - thought-provoking, relatable and uplifting in equal measure ‘Girl’s lyrics are drawn from true stories about inspirational women close to Mica, originally released on International Women’s Day. There’s groove aplenty in the classic ‘More Than You Give Me’ whilst title track ‘Heaven Knows’ bursts with confidence, showcasing Mica’s immaculate, powerful vocal performance atop a bed of gospel infused musicianship. ‘Flashlights’ is Mica’s ‘movie depiction of romance.’ A smooth and sultry soundscape of what it would feel like if being in love and the simplicity of just making memories with someone was an acceptable indicator of success in life.
Tracks like ‘Trouble’ and ‘No Money, Nor Faith (Freedom)’ are packed with attitude – the former deals with fate, resilience and facing your fears, with searing organs and a rich palette of voices, whilst the latter, an album standout, is a powerful protest anthem about inequality, capitalism, oppression and human exploitation. There’s plenty of softer moments too, like the big bluesy ballad ‘Will I See You Again,’ and the late night jazz-infused ‘Down River’. Songs like ‘Stay’ and ‘Nothing’s For Keeps’ both showcase a stripped back and emotional performance from Mica – some final moments of tranquillity before the fuzzy-blues-rock of ‘Give View My Prayer’ closes proceedings hinting at a more experimental edge to Mica’s song writing.
Against all odds, ‘Heaven Knows’ was completed during a tumultuous time in Mica’s life. Not only having to adapt to the effects of COVID on the industry - shifting from studio sessions to remote recording under lock down restriction, a big enough feat in itself, in 2020 Mica’s world was turned upside down when she broke her back, narrowly escaping permanent paralysis from the waist down. In extreme pain and having to learn to walk again, all recording came to a halt and nine months on Mica found herself still recovering from her injuries, amongst which, her core muscles, formerly powering her ever present, soaring vocals, had deteriorated. But instead of giving up - like many would, Mica pushed through these challenges with determination, taking on rigorous rehabilitation and never losing sight of her vision for the album.
“I didn't want Covid or my accident to impact my vision for the record” says Mica triumphantly. “In fact, the time in recovery and lock down allowed me to think bigger and better in the end and ultimately become a much more experienced producer. Working one on one with musicians remotely really opened up the possibilities for collaborating with people I had always wanted to work with (particularly people in the US) and this was so important for being able to achieve both the performances and sonics I wanted for each song on the record.”
Mastered at the iconic Abbey Road Studios by Mastering Engineer, Geoff Pesche (Adele, Ed Sheeran), the fourteen track debut was mixed by multi-platinum Producer/Engineer Brian Malouf, known for engineering Michael Jackson’s Bad album and working with Motown legend Stevie Wonder amongst many other Grammy award-winning work.
Featured on Heaven Knows are players including guitarist Miles James (Michael Kiwanuka, Tom Misch, Cleo Soul), Jonathan Tuitt (Drums), Arran Powell (Bass) and Marc Morrison (Piano) [members of Emile Sande’s live band], esteemed bassist, Jerry Barnes (Whitney Houston, Nile Rodgers, Chic) Bobby Sparks (Snarky Puppy), Vince Chiarato (Black Pumas), Rickey Peterson (Prince, Fleetwood Mac), Brandon Rose (Marcus Miller) and David Z Rivkin (A producer/engineer/arranger on Prince’s album “Purple Rain”). Rivkin is credited as an arranger on the track, ‘Fool’s Fate’.
“You need a lot of self-belief and a strong work ethic to complete a project of this scale independently” says Mica. “I never lost motivation but I certainly had periods of doubt about my capabilities and at times the challenges of this album were completely overwhelming. Finishing the record and overcoming these doubts has been a massively liberating experience. I’m really proud of what has been achieved.”
Since the release of the first single ‘Preacher Man’ in January Mica has been winning over fans and critics alike – with radio support from BBC Radio 2’s Trevor Nelson, BBC 6 Music’s Tom Robinson and Craig Charles, plus Jazz FM playlist support, features across BBC London and BBC Manchester and glowing reviews from the likes of Echoes Magazine, Soul Tracks, Music News, LOCK Magazine and many more. Mica has been awarded BBC Introducing prestigious "Single of The Week”, filmed a live session for BBC Introducing with BBC Northwest TV, performed both with The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and as part of BBC Children in Need, and gained spot plays on Jo Whiley’s BBC Radio 2 show plus national playlist support across the BBC’s 40 regional stations.