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Meet Mika - 'I'm an immigrant and proud of that'

Mika erupted onto the world’s musical stage in 2007 with multi-million-selling debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion. Nick Rowswell caught up with Mika at this year’s Printemps de Bourges festival.

MIKA’s family moved to Paris from war-torn Beirut in 1984. His parents are American, but his mother’s family is Lebanese. He is a fluent French speaker, having been schooled in France until he was nine and then at the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle in London when the family moved to England.

Still, he never remained far from France, as his family used to take regular holidays at his aunt’s home in Villeneuve-Loubet on the Côte d’Azur.

So, who is Mika?
That’s a question I ask myself everyday, and there is no single answer. I come from nowhere and everywhere.
There has never been one single place that I’ve grown up that I can really call home.
I guess in many ways I’m an immigrant, and I’m proud of that. Born in Beirut, I feel just as much at home in England as I do in France or Italy. English, French, Lebanese? I’m not sure of my true identity, so that’s why I make music, to get some sense of identity.

What about your musical style? You seem to have been given many different musical labels, including pop, rock, jazz and even glam rock
I suppose my musical style reflects my different experiences. I am first and foremost a songwriter telling stories through my music, and each story needs a different theme tune.

You recently did a couple of shows entitled The Art of Song on BBC Radio 2. Tell us about that
I did the first show on New Year’s Day and then another in late March of this year. It was basically a programme about songwriters; I got to play tracks from my favourite songwriters and look at the stories behind the songs. You know, when you look at songwriters, we’re all the same, coming from everywhere and nowhere, we are not in life, but on the outside looking in, telling stories from our peripheral perspective.

From choirboy to judge on the French and Italian equivalents of The Voice. What’s the best way to make it in music, join a choir or go on a TV talent show?

Both are important. I was head choirboy at my school in London. I can still sing the mass in Latin – and on my first casting for a TV talent show, I didn’t even make it past the first audition.
There isn’t one single road to success. There is only individual ambition, the will to succeed and the willingness to take risks.

You’re playing a lot of festivals in France over the summer, what can you tell us about the show?
There will be stripped down minimalist staging with all the emphasis on the music.

Finally a few words of advice for wannabe Mikas...
I would say, never be ashamed of what you do or who you are and be proud of your music.

Catch Mika at the following events this month
July 8, Albi Festival Pause Guitare; July 13, Les Francofollies, La Rochelle; July 16, Festival de Nîmes; July 19, Festival de Carcassonne; July 20, Festival du Château, Solliès-Pont

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