Ahead of the release of her highly anticipated debut album ‘Heaven Knows’ (out 10th June), Mica Millar leads us up the steps of the iconic Abbey Road Studios for a behind-the-scenes look at her mastering session with world-renowned engineer Geoff Peshe (Adele, Ed Sheeran, Tina Turner) and an exclusive interview about the making of her triumphant debut album.
Evidently, Mica is an artist who has taken an extremely hands-on approach to writing, recording, producing and mastering the album, as the sole songwriter and the producer of the fourteen song debut. And it is this attention to detail that has seen the album championed by collaborators and tastemakers across the industry including Peshe who has since cited ‘Heaven Knows’ as his ‘favourite project of 2021’, adding ‘I work on around 50 albums every year. Very few make it onto my iPod, this went straight on”.
Amongst Mica’s supporters are the likes of Trevor Nelson, Craig Charles (BBC Radio 2), Tom Robinson (BBC 6 Music) and Victoria Jane (BBC Radio 1) as well as a host of presenters across Jazz FM and tastemakers from the UK’s biggest Soul Music publications including; Blues & Soul Magazine and Echoes Magazine.
“Soul music has been something that has always affected me throughout my life from listening to Stevie Wonder on a vinyl record at 7 years old and going ‘Oh my god what is this?!?’” says Mica.
Discussing the production approach for the album, Mica explains how it was about finding a balance between new and old techniques “a mixing of analogue versus digital reality.” continuing “What can you take from each of these universes and how can you bring them together?”.
Aiming to preserve what she ‘loves about classic Soul music’ whilst keeping her feet in 2022, Mica explains how she recorded much of the album ‘live and in the room’, adapting to covid lockdowns to finish it remotely. Those remote sessions involved collaborating via Zoom with a host of session musicians and engineers who have worked with everyone from Whitney, Prince and Etta James to Michael Kiwanuka, Emile Sande, Tom Misch and Cleo Sol as well as Grammy Award Winning Mixing Engineer, Brian Malouf (Michael Jackson/Stevie Wonder).
Malouf describes their working relationship as “What started out as a small labour of love for me (I immediately fell in love with these songs and that voice) quickly became a nearly year-long journey to uncover all the brilliance contained in her self-produced arrangements. The complexities and musical intelligence present on this album were a joy for me throughout the process, and as I said to her when we finished: “I don’t know what I’m going to do without you and this project”. Well, I’m watching the world now make the same discovery I did”.
Mica discusses how important it was for her to capture “the feeling in the room that you get from those old Motown records…where people are really performing and its truthful art and there’s a lot of emotion and passion” she continues “some of that can get lost in the advancement of technology because we can redo things and redo things until their perfect and tweak them and tweak them and change them” with the album she “wanted to mix those two approaches…and have as much of it as possible done in the room and in the moment and also have the opportunity to mould and shape it” into something that truly represented her as an artist.
Talking about why she chose to master the album at Abbey Road, Mica explains “It’s such an iconic building that has had so much art and creativity pass through its doors…that energy felt very fitting to be the final stop on the journey for this piece of music before it gets shared with the rest of the world”.
Peshe, who boasts over 30 years of experience in the industry and famously cut the bestselling 12” inch record of all time has since begun using the tracks from ‘Heaven Knows’ as ‘mastering room references’ for up and coming and world-renowned artists in the Soul, Jazz and Blues genre in Abbey Road’s gold standard mastering suit. ‘Watch out for this one, I said the same about Adele when I did chasing pavements up here’ he adds.
Like every good story, this has peaks and troughs. With a serious accident that nearly paralysed Mica from the waist down and COVID slamming the brakes on the whole process, the creation of this album has been no mean feat.
“I had intended it to take about a year and it’s probably taken three years with a spinal injury and COVID in the middle. It’s been such a long journey to get to this point of having a finished piece of work. This is the first time I’ve been able to fully express what I hear in my head. That’s what I’ve attempted to do, and I hope that I’ve achieved it to some extent”.
PURCHASE TICKETS TO MICA’S ALBUM LAUNCH ON THE 25TH OF SEPTEMBER
Pre-Order ‘Heaven Knows’ on Limited Edition Vinyl here (cut at Abbey Road by Geoff).