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"Melua" redirects here. For the surname, see Melua (surname).
Ketevan "Katie" Melua (/ˈmɛluː.ə/; Georgian: ქეთევან "ქეთი" მელუა IPA: kʰɛtʰɛvɑn mɛluɑ, born 16 September 1984) is a Georgian-British singer, songwriter and musician. She moved to Northern Ireland at the age of eight and then to England at fourteen. Melua is signed to the small Dramatico record label, under the management of composer Mike Batt, and made her musical debut in 2003. In 2006, she was the United Kingdom's best-selling female artist and Europe's highest selling European female artist.
In November 2003, at the age of nineteen, 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. Melua released her third studio album Pictures in October 2007.
According to the Sunday Times Rich List 2008, Melua had a fortune of £18 million, making her the seventh richest British musician under thirty. It was reported in 2009 that she may have lost millions as a result of the global economic downturn. As of May 2011, Melua could have a £12m fortune and she came second in the under 30 rich list.
Ketevan Melua, known as Ketino to her family, was born to Amiran and Tamara Melua in Kutaisi, Georgia, which was then part of the Soviet Union. She spent her first years with her grandparents in 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 Royal Victoria Hospital. The family remained in Belfast, living close to Falls Road, until Melua was thirteen. During her time in Northern Ireland, Melua attended St. Catherine's Primary School on the Falls Road and later moved to Dominican College, Fortwilliam. The Melua family then moved to Sutton, London, and some time later moved again to Redhill, Surrey. In 2008, Melua moved out of her parents' home in Maida Vale to an apartment in Notting Hill, where she transformed the spare bedroom into a recording studio. Melua is fluent in English and Russian; despite still speaking Georgian fluently she has admitted that she cannot write songs in the language. Melua is also partly of Canadian and Russian ancestry.
During the South Ossetia War in 2008, Melua's brother and mother were staying with relatives in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Melua was due to travel to Georgia herself less than a month later.
She is a baptised Georgian Orthodox Christian. Whilst living in Belfast, Melua attended the Roman Catholic schools St Catherine's Primary School and Dominican College, Fortwilliam, while her younger brother attended Protestant schools. After completing her GCSEs at the all-girls' grammar school Nonsuch High School in Cheam, Sutton, Melua attended the BRIT School for the Performing Arts in the London Borough of Croydon, undertaking a BTEC with an A-level in music.
Melua has not attended 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 have the chance to go to university.
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. 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".
Melua is occasionally referred to as an 'adrenaline junkie' because she enjoys roller coasters and funfairs and often paraglides and hang glides. She has skydived four times and taken several flying lessons, and in 2004 she was lowered from a 200-metre building in New Zealand at 60 mph. When asked about Melua being an 'adrenaline junkie', Mike Batt said, "she enjoys extremes, but in life her emotions are always in check". In November 2009, Melua came near to drowning after she breathed in and choked on a lungful of water when diving in a lake near Heathrow Airport.
In September 2010, Melua was ordered by her doctors to stop working for a few months after suffering a nervous breakdown, resulting in her hospitalisation for six weeks. As a result, all touring and promotional activities were postponed until the following year.
In January 2012, Melua confirmed her engagement to World Superbike racer James Toseland. The couple married on 1 September 2012 in the Nash Conservatory at the Royal Botanical Gardens in London.
Due to 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 fifteen, 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 programme 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.
BRIT School and Mike Batt:
After completing her GCSEs, Melua attended the BRIT School for the Performing Arts in the London Borough of Croydon, undertaking a BTEC with an A-level in music. When studying at the school, Melua began to write songs and met her future manager and producer, Mike Batt.
While performing at BRIT School showcase, Melua caught the eye of songwriter and producer Mike Batt. Batt 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 18-year-old Melua to his small Dramatico recording and management company and took her into the studio, producing her first three albums during the ensuing years.
For her fourth album, The House (2010), Melua worked with producer William Orbit. She said about the experience: "The whole thing has been really exciting. It was the same feeling I had the first time I went skydiving. I was really quite nervous, but I knew all I had to do was let myself go and it was going to feel amazing. I wasn't trying to get away from anything. It was more about going towards something. I wanted the music to be inspired by the future, something unknown that's never been heard before, but at the same time hold on to the values of the music of the past, to try and tap into something that's so ancient and old that it's kind of forgotten. I thought that, if we went far enough in both directions, we could end up in the same place".
Call Off the Search (2003):
Melua's debut album, Call Off the Search, was released on 3 November 2003 and 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", originally a UK hit for singer Elkie Brooks). The other six songs on the album were by Mike Batt.
It was initially difficult for Melua and Batt to obtain 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 the summer of 2003. Wogan's support raised Melua's profile and when Call Off the Search was released in November 2003 supported by a TV campaign financed by Batt, it entered the top 40 UK albums chart. The single achieved the number 10 spot in the UK chart. After an appearance on the Royal Variety Show the album was further boosted and Batt continued a relentless marketing campaign which saw the album hit the number one spot in January 2004. Call Off the Search reached the top five in Ireland, top twenty in Norway and top thirty in a composite European chart. In the UK the album sold 1.9 million copies, making it six times platinum, and spent six weeks at the top of the UK charts. It sold 3.6 million copies worldwide. Subsequent singles from the album did not repeat 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. The album achieved 6X platinum status in UK, 3X platinum in Norway, 2X platinum in Germany, Holland, Denmark and Ireland, Platinum in South Africa, Australia and Switzerland and Gold in New Zealand and Hong Kong.
Piece by Piece (2005):
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 and was number 3 in the UK singles chart. The album contains four more songs written by Melua herself, four more by Batt (including "Nine Million Bicycles"), 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. This album broke Melua across Europe where it sold 1 million copies in Germany alone and achieved the number one position in Billboard's "European" albums chart. It was 4X platinum in UK and in Ireland, 3X platinum in Norway, Denmark, Holland and Germany, 2X platinum in Poland and Switzerland and at least platinum or gold in France, Iceland, South Africa, Austria, Belgium, New Zealand and Sweden. Worldwide sales to date are in excess of 3.5 million.
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 / 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 20 January 2006. 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 in the UK on 1 October 2007 and was announced to be, at least temporarily, the last of her albums in collaboration with Mike Batt as lead writer and producer. It also features Melua's friend Molly McQueen, the former frontwoman of The Faders, as co-writer of "Perfect Circle". Melua also collaborated with Andrea McEwan on the album, who wrote the lyrics for "What I Miss About You" and "Dirty Dice". The album also featured a cover of "In My Secret Life" by Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson. Melua said of the cover, "It completely got to me, about how we all have great ideals but in reality we end up conforming, following everyone else."
Melua released four singles from the album: "If You Were a Sailboat", "Mary Pickford", "If the Lights Go Out", and "Ghost Town". "Mary Pickford", written by Mike Batt, was about the silent film star of the same name. "Ghost Town" was Melua's first reggae-sounding song.
The iTunes version of the album includes a cover of the Prince song "Under the Cherry Moon" as a bonus track.
The House (2010):
Melua's fourth album, The House, was released on 24 May 2010. Songwriters include Lauren Christy, Guy Chambers and Rick Nowels, with William Orbit producing.
Secret Symphony (2012):
Melua's fifth studio album, Secret Symphony was released on 5 March 2012. The album was recorded in collaboration with orchestrator and conductor Mike Batt. Melua said in a statement: "This album was going to be my 'singer's album'. I had always wanted to do this one day; singing other people's songs brings something out of you and your voice that isn't perhaps where you would have gone vocally with your own material."
Melua's sixth studio album, Ketevan, was released on 16 September 2013. Ketevan entered the UK charts at number 6 - Katie joined a very small group of female artists, which includes Madonna and Kate Bush, who have scored 6 consecutive UK top 10 studio albums. Ketevan also entered the top 10 in France, Poland, Denmark, Germany, Holland and Switzerland in its first week of release.
Acting and modelling:
Melua appeared in a segment of the 2007 film Grindhouse, written by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. The segment in which Melua appeared, entitled "Don't", was a faux trailer, directed by Edgar Wright and produced in the style of a 1970s' Hammer House of Horror film trailer.
In 2009, Melua was named as the new face of the leading French cashmere designer, Eric Bompard.
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 the Norwegian 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". Melua's concert is commemorated in the DVD release Concert Under the Sea, released in June 2007.
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. Then in 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 dream. Later in 2005, through her role as a goodwill ambassador to the charity Save the Children, Melua went to Sri Lanka where she observed 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 charity.
On 7 July 2007, Melua performed at the German leg of Live Earth in Hamburg and in December of that year, 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 No. 1 on 16 December 2007, went to the Red Cross.
Melua has visited Oxfam charity shops for many years, using them frequently to buy her clothing. 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, and admits that she looks "like a tramp" and that her hairdresser playfully calls her look "the Romanian window cleaner".
Katie is also patron of Fair Trees, the organisation that is trying to stop exploitation of cone pickers in Ambrolauri, Georgia, by the European Christmas tree industry. The local people in this region of Georgia are paid a pittance to risk their lives climbing 30 m high fir trees to collect the cones from which the seeds are extracted and sent to Christmas tree nurseries in Europe. Until Fair Trees came along these cone pickers were given no safety equipment or training, no health insurance and very little pay; every year people are injured and even killed doing this work. Fair Trees grow and sell the only fair trade Christmas trees in the world (certified by the WFTO).
Katie is a patron of the Manx Cancer Help charity, which offers support to cancer sufferers and is based on the Isle of Man. She attended the 2013 fundraising ball for the charity.
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 version of Leonard Cohen'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", Finley 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 of music being her uncle playing records by Queen and Led Zeppelin. She performed with Queen at the 46664 concert in South Africa in March 2005.
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 living icon.