With her album Heaven Knows set for release in the summer, and Promotional single Preacher Man out tomorrow, Mica Millar’s soulful voice will soon be gracing your ears.

Music News wanted the scoop on all the exciting things to come. We peppered Mica with questions and she came up with the answers.

In this Q&A the Manchester singer talks everything from, The meaning behind her latest single, the debut album to come, and the writing process.

Millar also tells Music News how a serious back injury and Covid restrictions has helped shape her perspective both personally and professionally.

Would you mind explaining what inspired your latest track Preacher Man?

Preacher Man is about taking a ‘leap of faith’. I think that as human beings, under capitalism, we’ve somewhat lost that sense of spiritual purpose; the joy of doing what you love and going for your dreams.

I was thinking about the spiritual encounters I’ve had in my life (whether those have been through personal interactions, conversions, books, emotional experiences, synchronicities) which have led me towards searching for something more. I really wanted to personify/embody these experiences in the form of a ‘Preacher Man’.

The song feels like old school soul, who were your influences for the track?

I love old school Soul, RnB, Blues, Jazz and Gospel so these genres have certainly had an influence and impact on my approach to the production of Preacher Man.

As a musician how hard is it to tap into your favorite inspirations but still hold onto your voice and fresh perspective?

When I’m writing and recording, I try not to listen to other music - you know what they say about comparison.

I think if you write from the heart, then build the instrumentation and production to “serve the song”, undoubtedly the music you love and have listened to throughout your life will find its place amongst your ideas and come through.

For me, it’s all about that songs, and they will always be representative of me, my voice and my perspective because I wrote them.

In terms of production both for ‘Preacher Man’ and the whole album, I really wasn’t actively seeking any sort of “fresh perspective” or attempting to come up with “the next trend”, it was more about serving the songs and creating something with a “timeless” quality. This was an intention that was set in the very early stages.

Preacher Man seems to be about shrugging off the rat race and living life to the fullest. Have you managed to achieve this? And do you have any advice for the rest of us?

Great question! …and I’m working on it.

Right now, I’m certainly in a race all of my own making with all of the work that needs to be done around an album campaign, but I do love what I do. Embarking on this journey has been a huge leap of faith for me and creative freedom has been the result.

But we all have to do what we need to do to eat and pay our bills, so it’s challenging.
I wouldn't patronise people with advice about how to ‘take the leap’, but I do think during Covid, lots of people reflected on their lives looking at things like work/life balance.

I think a four day work week trail has also recently been introduced to test whether people are more productive (I think a pilot like this should be focussing more on how it impacts people’s mental health personally, but that’s another conversation). I suppose capitalism in its most basic form is about trading your time for money.

I think we need to consider what our time is worth and what sort of things we want to trade it for and how we can better do this on our own terms - you can’t always be fulfilled or enjoy all aspects of what you do, but at the core of it, does it bring you joy? Are you growing? Are you realising your potential? Is it leading you to something of emotional value?

If not, that’s something to reflect on I think. You (may) only get one life.

Your new album Heaven Knows is on the horizon, what kind of themes and music can we look forward to?

‘Heaven Knows’ is a Soul album which draws inspiration from classic and modern soul, blues, gospel and jazz. The songs explore themes of human nature, spirituality, love, oppression, inequality and empowerment, so I think ‘Preacher Man’ somewhat sets the tone for what is to come, though every song has its own identity.

As this is your first album, how have you found the creation process? How much of a different mindset is there between creating an album and creating singles?

I approach each song individually, much like I would a single, but of course I was thinking about the whole thing holistically and how each piece will fit together to form a body of work.

Putting the track list together at the end was a particularly challenging creative process. The order is actually nothing like what was in my head during the writing and recording stage.

Creating that journey for the listener is definitely an art form, and it was a really cathartic process to go through.

Preacher Man is a very catchy song and I’m sure it will grab peoples attention. How much thought did you give to deliberately writing the song to be the single? What made Preacher Man the one for you?

I never approach songwriting with an ‘end goal’ in mind. I write whatever comes out and sometimes they go in the bin and other times they stick with you and you’re humming them the next day and you think ‘that’s really good’.

What is your number one priority when creating a song? Is it catchy lyrics, expressing a message, or just an engaging sound?

When I played this album to Kwame Kwetan, he said to me, “You wrote this album for yourself, didn’t you?”. It really made me smile. The priority for me is always, what does it make me feel when I listen to it? Where does it take me?

The process is always about expressing or processing something. Sometimes you know what that is and other times you don’t and it comes out in the song. I know a lot of people who write songs collaboratively have to come up with themes and consider how catchy something is. That’s not really how it works for me.

Each artist is unique in their process. Do you come in with certain themes you want to write about, or do you wait for inspiration to strike?

My process is different every time. Sometimes I use a method called “stream of consciousness” writing. This approach is basically when you hit record and just sing whatever comes out and it’s an approach that I’ve used a lot on the album.

There are songs like ‘Down River’, for example, that are written entirely as a stream of consciousness from start to finish.

For other songs l take the same approach and then I listen back and pick out words or sentences and then build upon the themes I find.

Artists like Taylor Swift have used Covid lockdowns to let the creativity flow. Have you found it similarly helpful or has it just frustrated things for you?

Covid definitely created a lot of challenges for me in terms of finishing this record.

I was part way through and due to do a recording session which was first cancelled due to having a spinal injury and then couldn’t be rescheduled as a result of Covid.

In many ways, the impacts of Covid and the shift to remote recording (which I did a lot of for this record), really allowed me to think outside of the box as a producer which led to working with people I’d always wanted to, in other parts of the world, particularly the US.

The album was then mixed by Brian Malouf (Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder) in LA - we did the mix sessions live over Zoom. Then it was mastered by Geoff Peshe at Abbey Road - this was in December 2021 so I was lucky to be able to be there in the session and work collaboratively with Geoff.

With this being your debut to what extent is it important to lay down a striking message or unique sound? In other words how important is it to you to create a distinct brand?

I think it’s artistically important to present your music with a visual that is aligned with both the music and who you are as a person.

I have always had a very strong preference and vision for how I want me artwork and music videos to look. I’ve worked with an amazing, creative team to bring all of this to life and I really can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on.

What part of the album process do you most enjoy? Is it the writing, recording or getting it out to the people?

When you’re overseeing all aspects of a release from writing, arranging and producing the record to creating all of the visual assets and then overseeing the marketing team, they are all enjoyable and challenging in equal measure.

For me, it was really important to compartmentalise (as much as possible) these very different creative processes. You have to be in a different head space for each aspect so music first, then assets, then promotion.

At the moment we are in the promo stage but I’m still developing creative assets in the background for upcoming releases as well as putting the live show together.

I think I’m probably one of a few artists who loves every aspect of a music release - it’s all exciting and challenging for different reasons.

But ultimately, making the music and performing it live (which i’ll be starting to do soon!) is where my heart is.

I understand from reading your bio that you’ve been through quite a serious back injury, would you mind explaining a little bit about that? If you’re not comfortable with that then please don’t feel any need to.

Thanks, yes I had a spinal injury in January 2020. I broke my back and had an emergency operation followed by two years (so far) of recovery and rehabilitation. It’s been challenging, but I was very lucky not to be paralysed.

I have been determined not to let my injury or Covid impact my vision for the album and I’m happy to be able to continue doing what I love.

How much has the experience and battle to get back on your feet, changed the way you look at life and your musical craft?

A lot changes when you have an accident or go through a trauma like that - you realise your fragility and that your life can change in an instant.

I have thought a lot about people who have had similar experiences to me and ended up in a wheelchair. I remember that possibility dawning on me at the time.

My outlook would probably be very different if that had been the outcome - I have a lot of respect for people who find light in the darkest of places. I’ve tried to maintain this attitude as much as possible.

As for music, this has and will always keep me going through challenging times. I appreciate it all the more now.

With life slowly returning to normal in the UK, do you have any plans to tour in the near future?

Yes, I will be announcing a UK tour very soon. I’m currently putting the live show together with my amazing band and tour dates are being scheduled as we speak.