- Interview -
beyond codes, beyond conventions
A dandy with a light touch also given to profound reflection, Mika brings us flamboyant and singular pop music. Behind the extrovert lies a discreet and sensitive man endowed with incredible talent and unspoiled sincerity.
Is originality superficial?
No, and those who think so have a caricature-like vision of it or imagine that it requires artificial attributes. Creative originality is a proper balance between sincerity, searching and curiosity. It is cultivated on a daily basis, and above all must fight snobbery, its worst enemy, which imposes a set format on collective thought and leads to taking the easy options. It must also break free of the sometimes negative views of others. I know what I’m talking about here. I was kicked out of school by a teacher who almost destroyed me psychologically, to the point where I stopped speaking for ten months. My mother helped me transform this difficult time into the chance of a lifetime thanks to intensive song and music lessons. I worked like crazy and a year later I was able to sing at the Royal Opera House in London… and today I make a living out of my passion and my originality. What a privilege!
This classical training is part of your originality…
It’s my backbone. I need to safeguard this past – and have fun with it of course – in order to know where I’m headed. Today, I am in fact increasingly working with orchestras. I’ve given a concert with 200 musicians at the Florence Opera House, and another with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. I was also recently offered a chance to direct an opera. It’s funny how my childhood is catching up with me.
When Grace Kelly was released in 2007, we were bowled over by the originality of this song, so very different from what we are accustomed to hearing on the airwaves. It contains pop, Mozart, boldness, a relaxed attitude, a mind-blowing vocal performance. How did you dream it up?
Once again, I had been refused by a record company agent who wanted me to write the kind of things generally heard on the radio. I was furious and the idea came to me for this kind of open letter that proclaimed “What am I supposed to be ? I can be all colors, so why do I have to choose?” I sent him the song. He never answered, and yet this was what launched my career. It contains all my sense of revolt at the idea of being subject to market laws, of having my creativity shackled and bound, of not being given a chance. It expresses my determination to fight on and smash everything. Originality is also the courage not to copy others, even though it’s often painful.
Why did you get involved in the French version of The Voice?
I’m also in charge of a completely wild variety show in Italy. On television I can communicate with the audience like on no other media, while being completely myself. And “The Voice” has all the excitement implied by the idea of discovering something one has never yet heard. We are not looking for perfection, but instead pure, unadulterated sense of purpose and singularity… so here again, it’s a matter of originality.
Who creates your amazing stage costumes?
For the past four years, I have been outfitted by Pierpaolo Piccioli who took over Valentino. Apart from being aesthetically delightful, the collections we create together tell fabulous stories and when the two of us are discussing them, I can assure you they are the most important thing in the world!
Your nomadic lifestyle is another expression of originality.
I live in the United States and I had never imagined living so much in hotels. So when I go to sleep, I need to think about my points of reference, which are above all my nearest and dearest, my concerts, as well as the album I’m currently writing.
Mika has won distinctions in many different countries: Grammys, Ivor Novellos, World Music Awards. He is also a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France. Grace Kelly sold over 3 million copies worldwide and was the second British single ever to top the chart on downloads alone.
Interview by Michèle Wouters
Photo: Peter Lindberg- 2015