Ketevan "Katie" Melua (Georgian: ქეთევან
"ქეთი" მელუა, surname pronounced
[ˈmeluˌɑː]; born 16 September 1984) is a British-Georgian singer,
songwriter and musician. She was born in the Georgian SSR, but moved to Northern
Ireland at the age of eight and then relocated to England at the age of 14.
Melua is signed to the small Dramatico record label, under the management of
songwriter Mike Batt,
and made her musical debut in 2003. In 2006, she was the United Kingdom's
biggest-selling female artist and
Europe's highest selling European female artist.
In November 2003, at the age of 19, Melua released her first album, Call
off the Search, which reached the top of the United Kingdom album charts and
sold 1.8 million copies in its first five months of release.
Her second album, Piece by Piece, was released in September 2005 and to
date has gone platinum four times.
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Ketevan Melua was born in Kutaisi, Georgia, which then was part of the Soviet
Union, in 1984. She spent her first years with her grandparents in the capital
Tbilisi before moving, with her parents and brother, to the town of Batumi,
Ajaria where her father worked as a heart specialist.
During this time Melua sometimes had to carry buckets of water up five flights
of stairs to her family's flat.,
and according to her, "Now, when I'm staying in luxurious hotels, I think back
to those days..."
In 1993, in the aftermath of the Georgian Civil War, the family moved to
Belfast, Northern Ireland, where her father took up a position at the
prestigious Royal Victoria Hospital. Whilst living in Belfast, Melua attended
Roman Catholic schools, St. Catherine's Primary School and Dominican College,
Fortwilliam, while her younger brother attended Protestant schools.
The family moved again to Redhill, Surrey, in 1998, although Melua recently
moved out of the family home in favour of an apartment in the Paddington area of
London, where she has transformed the spare bedroom into a recording studio.
Melua can speak three languages: Georgian, Russian and English.
Melua is partly of Canadian and Russian.
First television appearance
Because of her upbringing in politically unstable Georgia and troubled
Belfast, Melua initially planned to
become either a historian or a politician.
This changed in 2000, at the age of 15, when Melua took part in a talent
competition on British television channel ITV called "Stars Up Their Noses" (a
spoof of Stars in Their Eyes) as part of the children's program Mad
for It!. Melua won the contest
by singing Badfinger's "Without You". The prize was £350 worth of MFI vouchers,
with which she bought a chair for her father.
Had she lost the contest, she would have been gunged.
After completing her GCSEs at Nonsuch High School in Surrey, Melua attended
the BRIT School for the Performing Arts in the London Borough of Croydon,
undertaking a BTEC with an A-level in music. She began to write songs when at
the school. Melua first met her
future manager, producer Mike Batt, when studying at the school.
Melua didn't attend University, though she has often stated her desire to do
so, saying that English literature, history and physics would be her courses of
choice should she get the chance to go to University.
Melua met Luke Pritchard, lead singer of The Kooks, when they were both
studying at the BRIT School where they began dating. Melua and Pritchard rarely
speak of the relationship, but what is known is that the couple dated for three
years and discussed marriage. However, as Melua became more successful, the
relationship came into difficulties and they split up in March 2005.
Melua is known to have smoked cannabis for recreation and for musical
inspiration. However, in 2004,
Melua announced that she had stopped taking the substance for the latter reason
because it "dented her creativity".
Melua is sometimes referred to as an 'adrenaline junkie' because she enjoys
roller coasters and fun fairs and often paraglides and hang glides.
She has skydived twice and taken several flying lessons, and in 2004 she was
lowered from a 200 metre building in New Zealand at 60mph. When asked about
Melua being an 'adrenaline junkie', Mike Batt said, "she enjoys extremes, but in
life her emotions are always in check."
On 10 August 2005, Melua became a British citizen with her parents and
brother. The citizenship ceremony took place in Weybridge, Surrey.
On gaining British nationality, Melua was eligible for a British passport, which
makes it easier for her to travel around the world.
Becoming a British citizen meant that Melua had held three citizenships before
she was 21; first Soviet, then Georgian and finally British. After the ceremony,
Melua stated her pride at her newest nationality. "As a family, we have been
very fortunate to find a happy lifestyle in this country and we feel we belong.
We still consider ourselves to be Georgian, because that is where our roots are,
and I return to Georgia every year to see my uncles and grandparents, but I am
proud to now be a British citizen."
Katie Melua at a CD signing
It was when performing at a Brit School showcase that Melua caught the eye of
Mike Batt, an English songwriter and producer who was originally looking for an
acid-rock band, bass player and a
singer capable of singing "jazz and blues in an interesting way".
After hearing Melua sing "Faraway Voice" (a song she wrote about the death of
her idol Eva Cassidy) Batt signed the 19 year-old Melua to his small Dramatico
recording and management company and sent her into the studio.
Call off the Search
Call off the Search featured two songs written by Melua: "Belfast
(Penguins and Cats)", a song about Melua's experience of her time in the
troubled capital of Northern Ireland, and "Faraway Voice", a song about the
death of Eva Cassidy. Melua also covered songs by Delores J. Silver ("Learnin'
the Blues"), John Mayall ("Crawling up a Hill"), Randy Newman ("I Think it's
Going to Rain Today") and James Shelton ("Lilac Wine"). A final six songs on the
album were by Mike Batt.
It was initially difficult for Melua and Batt to get airplay for the album's
lead single, "The Closest Thing to Crazy". This changed when BBC Radio 2
producer Paul Walters heard the single and played it on the popular Terry Wogan
breakfast show. Wogan played "The
Closest Thing to Crazy" frequently in November and December 2003 in an attempt
to make it that year's Christmas number-one. The single only reached number 10,
but Wogan's support raised Melua's profile and when Call off the Search
was released it became an immediate hit, reaching number one on the UK albums
chart in January 2004. Call off the Search reached the top five in
Ireland, top twenty in Norway, top thirty in a composite European chart and top
fifty in Australia. In the UK, the album sold 1.2 million copies, making it four
times platinum, and spent six weeks at the top of the charts. It sold three
million copies worldwide. Subsequent singles did not reach the success of the
first — the second single and album title track, "Call off the Search", reached
number 19, and the third single, "Crawling up a Hill", got to number 41.
Piece by Piece
Melua's second album, Piece by Piece, was released on 26 September
2005. Its lead single was "Nine Million Bicycles", which was released a week
before the album on 19 September. The first UK airplay for the single was on the
Terry Wogan show on August 1. The album contains four more songs written by
Melua herself, four more by Batt, one Batt/Melua collaboration and three more
songs described as new versions of "great songs". The band line-up was the same
as on the first album. The album debuted at the number-one spot on the UK Albums
Chart on the week of 3 October 2005.
On 30 September 2005, Melua came under criticism in The Guardian from
writer and scientist Simon Singh for the lyrics of the track "Nine Million
Bicycles". Melua's disputed lyrics were:
||We are 12 billion
light-years from the edge. That's a guess — no-one can ever say it's
true, but I know that I will always be with you.
They were interpreted by Singh as an assault on the accuracy of the work of
cosmologists which sparked a
series of letters from other Guardian readers, agreeing or disagreeing.
On 15 October, Melua and Singh appeared on the BBC's Today programme, and
Melua unveiled a re-recording of the song which included Singh's tongue-in-cheek
amendments to the lyrics:
||We are 13.7 billion
light-years from the edge of the observable universe, That's a good
estimate with well-defined error bars, Scientists say it's true, but
acknowledge that it may be refined, And with the available information,
I predict that I will always be with you.
Both sides amicably agreed that the new lyrics were less likely to achieve
commercial success, amidst a discussion about scientific accuracy versus
artistic licence. Melua said that she "should have known better" because she
used to be a member of the astronomy club at school.
A double A-side of the Melua-penned "I Cried for You" and a cover of The
Cure's "Just like Heaven" (1988), which is the theme song to the film Just
like Heaven, was released in
the UK on 5 December and peaked at number 35. "I Cried for You" was inspired by
a meeting with the writer of Holy Blood, Holy Grail.
A third single, "Spider's Web" was released on 17 April 2006 and peaked at
number 52 in the UK. Melua embarked on a concert tour in support of Piece by
Piece, the UK leg of which started in Aberdeen, Scotland on January 20,
Towards the end of 2006, Melua released the single, "It's Only Pain", which
was written by Mike Batt. This was
followed by the release of "Shy Boy", also written by Batt.
Melua's third album, Pictures, was released on 1 October 2007.
It will be the last of her albums in collaboration with Mike Batt as a creative
team.  It also features Melua's
friend Molly McQueen, the former frontwoman of The Faders. McQueen appears on
The iTunes version of the album also includes the bonus track "Under the
In November 2004 Melua was asked to take part in Band Aid 20 in which she
joined a chorus of British and Irish pop singers to create a rendition of "Do
They Know It's Christmas?" to raise money for famine relief in Africa. This was
in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the original Band Aid.
On 19 March 2005, Melua sang "Too Much Love Will Kill You" with Brian May at
the 46664 concert in George, South Africa for Nelson Mandela's HIV charity.
Melua had been a fan of Queen since her childhood in Georgia when her uncles
played the band's music, so performing with May was a realisation of a childhood
Melua is a goodwill ambassador to the charity Save the Children, and in 2005
she went to Sri Lanka to see the work the charity was doing for children in the
area after the civil war and Indian Ocean tsunami.
In 2006 Melua donated all the proceeds from her single "Spider's Web" to the
Melua is a supporter of the Oxfam charity shops, using them frequently to buy
her clothing. However, she has
stated that this is related as much to her dislike of spending and glamour as it
is to her support for the charity,
admitting that, when out in public, she looks "like a tramp" and that her
hairdresser playfully calls her look "the Romanian window cleaner".
On 7 July 2007 Melua performed at the German leg of Live Earth in Hamburg.
In December 2007, Melua released a cover of the Louis Armstrong song "What
A Wonderful World" in which she sang with a recording of the late Eva
Cassidy. All profits from the single, which entered the UK singles chart at #1
on 16 December 2007, went to the Red Cross.
World record holder
On 2 October 2006, Melua entered the Guinness Book of Records for
playing the deepest underwater concert 303 metres below sea level on Statoil's
Troll A platform in the North Sea. Melua and her band underwent extensive
medical tests and survival training in Norway before flying by helicopter to the
rig. Melua later described
achieving the record as "the most surreal gig I have ever done". She held the
record until April 2007, when an orchestra from Kalisz, Poland performed a
concert further underground, in a Polish salt mine at Wieliczka.
Melua's concert is commemorated in the DVD release Concert Under the Sea,
released in June 2007.
In April 2006, for The Sun newspaper, Melua chose fourteen pieces of
her favourite music that she enjoyed and had the biggest musical influence on
her. The pieces she chose were Paul Simon's "Hearts and Bones", Jeff Buckley's
"Hallelujah", Joni Mitchell's "Marcie", Bob Dylan's "Masters of War", James
Taylor's "How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You)", Chuck Berry's "No Particular
Place to Go", Portishead's "Glory Box", Björk's "The Pleasure Is All Mine",
Camille's "Au Port", Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name", Bobbie
Gentry's "Fancy", Finlay Quaye's "Even After All", Suzanne Vega's "Caramel" and
Babyshambles' "Fuck Forever".
Melua has said on numerous occasions how Queen were a huge influence on her
as a child/teenager, with one of her memories being buying Queen's Greatest
Hits II and singing along to "Radio Ga Ga" in her home country Georgia.
Melua appeared on the BBC's The Culture Show in November 2006
advocating Paul McCartney as her choice in the search for Britain's greatest
In 2007, Melua announced that she would be appearing in a segment of the
movie Grindhouse. The segment entitled "Don't", a faux trailer, was
directed by Edgar Wright.
In Melua's role, she and a group of friends open a door to find a crazy hatchet
wielding man who kills one of her friends.
||"Looking for Clues"
||"Call off the Search", "Tiger in the Night"
||"When You Taught Me How to Dance"
||Just like Heaven
||"Just like Heaven"
||Murder Victim's Friend (segment "Don't")
Honours and awards
||Best International Female Artist
||Pop International Solo
||Best British Female Solo Artist
|Best Pop Act
||Best International Female Artist
||Best International Newcomer
- Melua was the best-selling UK female artist of 2004 and 2005.
- In 2006 Melua had a tulip named after her.
- According to VH1, Call off the Search is the 87th best-selling
British album in history.
- At the 2005 Brit awards, Radio 1's Scott Mills tried to cause fights
backstage during the build up coverage on his show by telling other artists
including KT Tunstall, The Kaiser Chiefs and Hard-Fi that Katie Melua had
been slagging them off.
Fabulous, sensitive and talented