December 11th saw Mikala Fredriksson release “Ends in Your Tears,” the debut single from an EP that will be released in 2024. The single is this big rocky/country number with loads of attitude, story and guitar! We liked it, and took the opportunity to speak to Mikala for the enjoyment of our readers over the Christmas period. So, armed with appropriate Christmas jumpers, and with a Christmas tree in the background, we settled down to chat to this up-and-coming country artist.
We started with the single. Although we saw that Mikala was on YouTube singing some classic country numbers such as “Country Road” we believe that Mikala was the writer of this one, and we wanted some background to the track.
Mikala: I co-wrote it with Gary Quinn and Gary is an established country artist here in the UK. (He is! He has a reputation for delivering a contemporary country sound.) I had met him a few times before we started working on the single, just at various music events such as the British Country Music Festival. I’d seen him around! But I have been gigging for years doing covers and we were talking one evening when he suggested writing some original material. He said “nothing ventured, nothing gained” and said he was happy to write with me. I have always wanted to do this, however, I don’t think I would have come up with everything single-handed. Gary is a great guitar player, and to get me started he was a perfect person to show me how to put music together. This song was not the first one we wrote together, we have written three or four. There is an EP in the works and this was the first song chosen because I felt it was anthemic, kind of girl power.
We found it very much on the rockier side of country.
Mikala: Yes. The man who produced it was Tim Prottey-Jones, and he is very experienced, he has done so many great songs with the best of country artists. He produced it and Gary and I wrote it. He felt it was different as a lot of female country music does veer in a certain direction and I was a bit worried whether it was country enough. I wondered if people would accept it as good female country, but he was very supportive of it.
One of the things we notice about the UK country scene is that it is very vibrant and open to being blended. We have spoken to country artists like Laura Evans who definitely can move toward the rockier edge, or Olivia Lynn who delivers a much poppier sound. It is branching off into very different listening experiences.
Mikala: I agree we have scope for experimenting. I read a lot of the US online chats and there is a huge amount of ‘this is not proper country.’ I see it surrounding some artists like Morgan Wallen, who is doing really well, and people will say ‘it’s not country.’ But I would ask who is defining what country music is? Who has the right to say it must be this way. For me, country is part of our life, we may not be cowboys, but it is the storytelling aspect of the song that matters most.
We agree with that, the story seems a defining aspect of successful country music. Dolly Parton, for example, delivers the story narrative so well.
Mikala: Gary has helped me with the structure of songwriting and how to get the melody right, and the technical side. But the songs going out are all based on my life and my stories. “Ends in Your Tears” is based on the Beth Dutton era of ‘Yellowstone’ (badass Beth!). Women are not playing around now, and when I’m performing and I watch some guy go on to a girl at the bar, girls will give as good as they get now! They will give men a run from their money.
It is a big track, the single, with an almost arena sound. This is a track that clearly needs a live audience and we wondered if it had made it into the set list yet?
Mikala: The reason this has come out first is because I was immediately excited by it. It’s the song that goes first as this is my statement of where I am going. I wanted the first single from the EP to be a big song. Some of the other tracks on the EP are a bit more personal to me, a bit closer to the ballad sound. But this song, I wanted it to be big, fun and loud. I haven’t performed it live yet in my general smaller gigs, but my aim in 2024 is to do my music in performance with my band. There will be some covers in the set list, but I want to head in to my own songs. This will be my opening number, I want it to be unmissable! I went to the Houston rodeo in March and they always play the Cody Johnson song “Welcome to the Show.” It is a huge track! It is about being at the rodeo, it has this big heavy sound and as soon as we wrote this song I knew it had to be that kind of thing and I like it so much. Someone sent me a video of them line dancing to my new single, a group of girls, and it is so fabulous with some cool moves in there! People in the UK will still call country music, country and western, and they think it is old school, it really isn’t now!
Image wise country music, if we are stereotypical, has a certain obvious image. How much of the country visual image does Mikala incorporate, does she feel the image side matters?
Mikala: I personally like it. I’m often on stage in a black stetson that I adore. And as for the tassles, I used to be a cabaret performer, and your image on stage is huge. You cannot get up on a working mans club stage in the North of England and not have some form of sequined outfit. That is the performance element. I know that in the US, with country, it can be very casual with jeans and a shirt. But I like it when the girls do the Vegas residences, like Carrie Underwood, there are the sequins, tassels, boots, the whole works! Personally, when off stage I am so relaxed. But when on stage I think I entertain. And I think I dress for the girls as the girls love an outfit, they love the tassels, the boots. Of course I’ve heard that you shouldn’t wear a cowboy hat if your’e not a cowboy! And maybe I do get that, but I feel stage wear should be as imaginative and as much fun as you want it to be. I want people to think I look great and it’s as personal as the storytelling.
We always point out that it is the entertainment business. Look at the rockers on stage in their leathers and studs and the punks with their look, it is all about projecting the image and the look from the start.
Mikala: Absolutely. I think it was the first thing I learned when I got on stage, I learned that at all levels the crowd want you to look the part. I will always look the part. I have a lady who puts rhinestones on all of my clothes! So if I’m wearing a pair of jeans on stage they will be covered with rhinestones, even in jeans it has to sparkle. I have tassels and denim, and I won’t look like someone in the audience.
And what would the sixteen year old Mikala think about the music you are doing now? Was she in a band at school? Were you always heading in this direction musically?
Mikala: I never would have thought being a singer was really possible, it wasn’t in my life at the time. Music was in my life, my parents played music, but it wasn’t just country music. I was listening to country, but I also heard soul and motown. I think in the UK I started doing the clubs because I wanted to do something with my life, and I wanted to make a living as a singer. It has gone from there, and I got to the point where the only music I really wanted to perform was country music. Maybe that’s because it is on the rise in the UK, or maybe just because of the rise of it on Spotify and these huge platforms. Country music slowly became my life, I’m now either watching it live or listening to it! In my earlier years though I was lost in that sense, I really had no clue who I was. I’m now that bit older and I know who I am now and have things to say. I want to get my stories into music, and I may be late coming to this but I’m here now!
It’s never too late! When our friend Shirley King (BB King’s daughter) talked to us, she noted the great entertainer that her dad was, also she spoke about how you can’t fully sing the blues until you have lived. Maybe you can’t get that emotion and story into your music until you live a bit.
Mikala: For sure! There is room for all kinds of music, but at this time of my life I am so comfortable in the country scene. This song is no way as personal as some of my others, but it is the right one to put out first. It’s fun and lighthearted. But there was that sense of scary feelings the day before release, and until I did this I was a bit unaware about how personal it is, to say ‘this is me.’
And as we have Christmas on the immediate horizon, is Mikala a big Christmas music, party and jumper person?
Mikala: I absolutely love Christmas. I have matching Christmas pyjamas for Christmas Eve, I love playing games and having a good time. For years I have been busy working as a singer and Christmas is a busy time for singers. But this year I’m taking time off and I appreciate every day. My Christmas tree goes up in November, and I’m proud!
And the last question is that on a cold night with the wind blowing the internet goes down, there is also no television. But the old vinyl record player is working, so which album will get a play?
Mikala: It’s a tricky question because we dip into so many different artists now through the day. I would listen to the album “Human” by Cody Johnson. This was a massive reason for me in music. I love his honesty and his style in music, he is a blend of old and new country. That album is great at any time. Also Sam Cooke “Portrait of a Legend,” we would fight over that album at home, my brother and I. My dad lost it because we stole it! It got scratched to bits, and to this day I love Sam Cooke, always have and always will.
So there we have our last interview and feature for 2023. We look ahead to 2024 with much anticipation as there is so much great music to come. But for now, download this single – linked here- and support Mikala.
We also, all of us associated with the magazine, wish you a Happy Christmas and peaceful end of 2023. If you have been reading our features and reviews and enjoy what we do then please do buy us a drink for Christmas on the little donate button that is on every page. Also check out our merchandise (T-Shirt modelled above, Lorraine looking great in it!) and other great things on the magazine site!
By Mark C. Chambers