Mika's Second Verse (Same As The First?)

1.27.2008

By Shana Naomi Krochmal

Who has inspired your music and the way that you perform?
I always go on about Harry Nilsson. He's just this victim of his own profession, very underrated. He's so talented, undeniably so, both as a writer and as a singer -- but just not quite fashionable enough to be famous as a household name. And ironically enough, he was the favorite songwriter of the Beatles for most of their career, both Lennon and McCartney, and very good friends with them as well. And I love Prince, because he's a musical genius and he's the opposite end of the spectrum. Whereas Harry Nilsson was introspective and fragile, Prince is a superstar and kind of the short man who kind of dominates the arena.

You've sold nearly 5 million records worldwide, and yet such a small percentage of that is in the U.S. Are you frustrated about not being a household name here?
No. I mean, it's a mixture. I think the U.S. takes time. If someone asks me, 'Have you reached the climax of your success in the U.S.?' I would immediately say, '100 percent no.' Is my career growing in the U.S. steadily? Yes. Is it growing as fast as it is in other countries? Maybe not. But when I put my tickets on sale, my tours sell out -- and I'm on my third U.S. tour. The fact that I'm doing so well in Canada is a good reflection that the American market isn't really that alien to me. My gigs in America are pretty intense. It's not as if I'm going and getting disappointed. What confuses me is that my gigs are pretty mental, yet I just can't get the radio support.

Why do you think that is?
It's very simple. I didn't get radio support in the States with 'Grace Kelly,' even though it was number one in most territories around the world, probably in the top two or three songs in the world by radio play in every single country. I heard from a [U.S.] radio station a couple of months ago, and the programmer's excuse was, 'It's because he says he wants to be like a woman. He has the line where he says he wants to be like Grace Kelly, and we just don't feel comfortable with this song.' And then when it got to 'Love Today,' and we tried to get radio to play it they said, 'Impossible -- it's a man singing in the vocal range of the woman.' It's kind of depressing, really. It's just confusing. But I see the humor of it. Far more people are listening to me online than are listening on radio and, quite frankly, that's the contact I'm quite comfortable with at the moment, because it means I can sell tickets to my live shows.

If 'Lollipop' were a Fergie song, I think it would have been a huge summer hit on American radio.
Well, yeah, there's this thing where you should know your place. But you can bitch about it, or you can just create other ways to make your career grow. And I'm certainly not intending to bitch about it -- I hardly ever do, actually.

Are you working on your next album?
I've been working on it for a while actually. I was recording demos for my second album as I was recording the first album. I really like the opportunity that I have in front of me. I just want more. When I was making my first album, I wouldn't talk to anyone about it, and I think I'm going to have to keep the same attitude for this one. Even though I'm fucking tempted to go on and on!

Please, let me tempt you! You could go on a little more.
[Laughs] No. No more. But I'm certainly not going to kowtow to the pressure of trying to get radio support in certain territories. I'm not interested in manipulating what I do for anything. I'm going to do what I do. I write songs for myself, and I'm going to continue doing that. If it gives me that funny feeling in the back of my spine, the kind of feeling that makes me want to go to the loo, then I know that it's good.

Let's talk about the reaction to your Out cover story.
So how did it go?

On our side? There were a lot of people who were just thrilled to see it and hear what you had to say. And we also got a lot of flak, people who said, 'How could a magazine called Out put someone on the cover who seems ashamed to admit he's gay?'
That's nonsense.

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