About Katie Melua
With her warm vocals and artful sensibilities, Katie Melua is a sophisticated presence on the U.K. pop scene, drawing upon folk, jazz, and indie rock influences. She topped the British album charts with her first two albums, 2003's Call Off the Search and 2005's Piece by Piece, the latter of which helped her become the best-selling female musician in the U.K. at the time. Drawing upon artists like Kate Bush, Eva Cassidy, and Joni Mitchell, Melua has carved out a distinctive place in the contemporary pop world. While there is a singer/songwriter core to all of her albums, she has dared to experiment, pairing with producer William Orbit on 2010's electronic-infused The House and collaborating with the Gori Women's Choir on 2016's In Winter.
Melua was born in 1984 in Kutaisi, Georgia, then part of the Soviet Union. Her father worked as a heart surgeon, and she spent several years living in Tbilisi and Batumi before moving with her family to Belfast, Northern Ireland, following the Georgian Civil War. Around the age of 12, she relocated again with her family to London. There, the musically inclined Melua entered the BRIT School for the Performing Arts & Technology and began honing her interest in jazz, folk music, and the blues. At a 2003 performance showcase, she caught the attention of producer/songwriter Mike Batt, who took her under his wing and helped launch her career.
Melua's debut album, the Batt-produced Call Off the Search, was issued in the U.K. in November 2003 by Batt's own label, Dramatico Records. A comfortable blend of jazz and adult-contemporary pop, the set featured two cuts penned by Melua (including a tribute to one of her biggest influences, Eva Cassidy). There were also covers of material from John Mayall and Randy Newman, along with a rendition of the James Shelton classic "Lilac Wine." The single "Closest Thing to Crazy" hit number one in December, and by January of the following year, Call Off the Search had gone platinum, selling 300,000 units in the U.K.
Following tour dates in Europe and the U.S., Melua returned in 2006 with her sophomore album, the Batt-produced Piece by Piece. Showcasing a heady blend of world rhythms and jazz-influenced pop, the record topped both the international and British charts before setting its sights on the U.S., where it landed at three on the Billboard Top Jazz Albums chart. The album spawned the U.K. Top Five hit single "Nine Million Bicycles" and eventually went four times platinum, selling more than three million copies and helping Melua finish the year as the U.K.'s best-selling female artist. It also garnered her two BRIT Award nominations for British Female Solo Artist and Pop Act. Pictures, another jazz-inflected Batt production, arrived a year later, landing at number two in England. It was followed by the concert recording Live at the O? Arena in 2009.
In 2010, Melua issued her fourth studio album, and first not produced by Batt, The House. The release, which debuted at number four in the U.K., found her expanding her sound with production from techno mastermind William Orbit. Two years later, she returned with the orchestral pop album Secret Symphony, featuring arrangements and conducting by Batt. Melua finished out her six-album deal for Batt with 2013's similarly orchestral-leaning Ketevan. Named after her given birth name, the album peaked at number six on the U.K. charts and featured the singles "I Will Be There" and "The Love I'm Frightened Of."
In 2016, Melua returned with In Winter, her first holiday-themed effort and first album after parting ways with longtime collaborator Batt. Recorded in her native country of Georgia with the Gori Women's Choir, In Winter featured original material from Melua alongside a cover of Joni Mitchell's "River" and several traditional classical holiday songs. The Leo Abrahams-produced Album No. 8 arrived in October 2020 and featured a more intimate and experimental indie pop-influenced sound. ~ Matt Collar