You’ve probably never heard of Mikala Leigh-Francis. But if you were sitting in a cafe in Paris then there’s every chance you might have.
Over Wyre girl Mikala has linked up with a Manchester producer and made a track, which is currently being played pretty much all day on French radio.
“Junior – my producer – wrote the song and I’m the vocal and the face of it I suppose,” she tells.
“He is big into the R&B and drum and bass scene and he has been plugging it and sending it to different people, different radio stations, and for some reason it seems to have been picked up a bit in France, which is fine by me!”
All of this is quite different to the day job – Mikala is a nurse who works with the elderly in St Annes.
“It’s a bit tricky juggling a singing career with shift-work but I’m just about managing,” she adds.
The 26-year-old, who is as down-to-earth as they come, was inspired to get into music but her older brother, Jonathan, who played in a local band The Sones and is a songwriter.
“I saw what he was doing and thought ‘I want to do that’,” said Mikala.
“I’m not sure how Jonathan and I have got into music though because neither my mum or dad can hold a note.
“My mum is a nurse and my dad has a block paving business. My gran being a Butlin’s redcoat is about as close as anyone in our family has got to doing anything musical.”
Mikala hooked up with a booking agent and began working on a set. She began singing at the pubs and clubs of Blackpool, performing her first live gig at the Talk of the Coast competition at the Viking. “I won my heat too and made the final – I was delighted,” she said.
She was a teenager at the time and worked hard to develop an act, which led to a load of gigs and being booked for a year-long tour with Freddie Starr.
“It was an experience to put it mildly,” she laughed. “But he is such a professional that you can’t knock him. I learned a lot about being on stage because I hadn’t played in venues that big before.”
Last year Mikala appeared on The Voice – “25,000 people auditioned, so I was pleased to make it to the show, but unfortunately no one turned around” – and was just at a bit of a crossroads in her career when she was contacted out of the blue.
“I’d had a year of quietly doing gigs and wondering what to do, what the next step would be. I’d been on The Voice, done quite a bit of stuff, and I didn’t want to give up singing or trying to be successful because I loved doing it so much,” she said.
“Then I got this message. This producer from Manchester had spotted me on a Facebook page for professional singers – I didn’t even know I was on it, someone must have added me.
“He asked if I wanted to work with him. I went to Manchester to record this first song and what with a bit of a breakthrough on French radio it seems to be doing pretty well.”
The tune, Tell Me Now, which is available on iTunes and Amazon, is the first of what Mikala hopes will be many.
“Because it seems to be going really, we’re going to do an EP of four or five songs and then hopefully I will start performing them live,” added Mikala. “He has some really good links to the club scene and we are trying to get some gigs in really cool places where we think it will be appreciated.”
In the meantime Mikala will continue the nursing and the gigging. “I’m out and about three nights a week singing – I’m performing at a casino in Birmingham this weekend for example,” she added.
“I think I’m the same as any entertainer in Blackpool or wherever – we are all working really hard and just hoping we might have a bit of success along the way.
“What’s happening to me is a new route and I’m really excited about singing original music – who knows, hopefully it might lead somewhere.”