Young Artist Interview: Mica Bernard on storytelling through songs

Singer Mica Bernard holds the Musicians’ Company Academy of Contemporary Music Award 2018. Inspired by the visceral power of Bob Marley’s storytelling, Mica creates Tropical Indie Folk to warm the heart and make it dance. Lyrics have always played a large role in her writing; as most singer songwriters would often say, songs are just a polished version of their diaries and this is true for her too. Described as having a Nora Jones and Laura Marling sweetness complemented with a Bombay Bicycle Club vibrance, Mica tells us more about her love of Indie Folk music and the role of storytelling in her songs.

Songwriting for me is a release, a way to digest what is going on around me and to make sense of my emotions. I have always been an empathetic person which comes with beautiful perks but major flaws. The ability to tap into others emotions and read situations has often led me to feel overwhelmed and to recoil into myself, so writing music becomes a vent and a way of liberating thoughts and feelings that get squashed by the pace of everyday life. My songs therefore end up being very honest and tell stories about myself and the people around me. I have always found that important as my connection with music has mainly been via feeling close to the artist or having a mutual understanding with them. My music is just a way to connect with people and see if I can help them to smile, laugh, cry or just genuinely feel something. That is why I much prefer performing live than recording in the studio because although the studio gives you free reign to add all sorts of sounds and harmonies, it doesn’t compare to the feeling of singing to an audience, especially when they are actually listening!

Coming from a mixed race and cultured background my musical inspirations are very varied, especially as I have a close relationship with my grandparents which brings in the generational aspect of music taste. My top five inspirations – Bruce Springsteen, Mumford & Sons, Bob Marley, Bombay Bicycle Club and Tracy Chapman – have all inspired me in different ways. Bruce was always on in the background of my childhood and the rock n roll vibes mixed with the raw honesty of his songs captured something within me from a very young age. Tracy Chapman inspired me also because of her lyrical content but because listening to her CD whilst driving in the car with my mum made me realise the magic that can be created by one woman, one voice and one guitar. If I could have an old school reggae compilation created by my dad as one artist, then that’d be at the top of my list, but to save me talking for hours I’ve put Bob Marley as a representative. He had a special way of being able to connect with people on a large scale and I have always admired that. Then, I guess, in the same way most teenagers gain their own taste in music and fixate on their favourite bands, for me Mumford & Sons was/is that band. From the moment I heard ‘Winter Winds’ I downloaded every piece of their music and listened to it on repeat until they released more and did they same with that too! It was just something about that folky sound with warm double bass, ringing banjos and hearty acoustic guitars that I instantly fell in love with and have loved ever since. Then finally Bombay Bicycle Club, a much more recent discovery that I’ve been listening to for about two years but they have had a major impact on the songs I play in the band project as I love their exciting melodies and harmonies combined with a summery indie vibe. I just find it puts a smile on my face and I became inspired by that unique sound.

I’ve always written my own music and in the past three years I’ve started to work in a band (Adrian Foulkes – Bass, Reiss Hemming – Drums, Jacob Green – Guitar) where I bring the songs to them and sometimes I’ll sing to them how I want their parts to sound (or tap a rhythm for drums) but most of the time they just add their own individual magic to the songs. Somehow this almost always ends up being identical to what I hear in my head but could not quite get out so I love that we all have great musical chemistry. This year we were working on a band project called ‘Songs of the Seasons’ where we released a new single for every season. We have done three already, our most recent being the summer single ‘By The Sea’ which is one of my favourite songs that I’ve ever written and the band version of it is beautiful! Adrian (bass player) and myself finished writing the song in the woods by a river and I feel the environment heavily inspired the sound of the song. His bass line is fascinatingly melodic and flows like water which is a top element of the song for me. ‘By the Sea’ is a story about feeling alone but it mainly highlights the difference that having someone who loves you and is willing to understand you makes. It also comments on my huge affinity with the sea and follows a romantic love story alongside a self-affirmation all encompassed by the love and serenity of the ocean. It was also a fun single to make as we filmed our first ever music video, and that was a very enjoyable experience!

My artist name in Mica Jane and you can find ‘By the Sea’ and the other singles on Spotify under Mica Jane. You can also follow me @micajanemusic on Facebook and Instagram – your support would be very much appreciated! Our next gig is at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford on the 11th January, where we are playing at the One Winter’s Night concert organised by Gavin Thomas in aid of The Brain Tumour Charity. Tickets are selling fast so if you’d like to come please get your tickets soon!