In the latest episode of Cuide ri Cathy [Monday 29 October 10.00 – 10.30pm], presenter Cathy MacDonald spends a day in London with one of the top female singers in the country – No. 1 selling artist Katie Melua. Cathy spends the day with singer as she prepares to perform at the prestigious Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, grabbing time for lunch in between rehearsals at Marco Pierre White’s restaurant, L’Escargot in Soho.
Melua speaks to Cathy on how she got started in the industry: “I was finishing off my GCSE’s and one of my friends was walking through the corridor and she was looking at sheet of something. I said ‘what are you looking at?’ and she said, ‘I’m going to go to this place called the Brits School, it’s a performing arts college’. I thought, ‘Oh it must be expensive’, and she said ‘no it’s completely free, and anyone can go there, you just have to audition’. So I did just that, and I got in!”
Melua’s passion for singing began when she was much younger. As a small child in her native Georgia she was enthralled by her mother’s love of Beethoven.
“My love of music started I think when I was five years old, five or six, back in Georgia. It was another night when the electricity had gone out, because back then Georgia was sort of going through a bit of a civil war and you know the social and sort of political climate wasn’t very stable. So the electricity went out and my mum sat down at the piano, candlelight, and started playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. It just completely transfixed me and from that point onwards all I ever tried to do with music is keep that feeling alive.”
Melua’s family were able to flee the troubles in Georgia and on arriving in the UK relocated in Belfast, a city into which she quickly settled, despite it having its own political tensions.
“Well, to me it was a great move because we were moving to the west, and in Georgia the west just seemed incredible. And as you often do with things in life, you put the west in one box. Belfast was in the UK so as far as I was concerned as a kid it was just the west and we were going to have incredible cars and an amazing house, and no electricity going out, and always hot water and things like that. The quality of life and the education and the social life kind of was a big improvement to Georgia, although I know that Belfast had its problems and troubles.”
The singer went on to make three very successful albums with producer Mike Batt. He recognised her distinct talent after just a few meetings. Recalling the early sessions for Cathy, Mike said:
“I knew Katie had potential, but how much is just something you can’t really know. There was one moment about three meetings in we’d done some work at the piano, I’d heard her sing at her school and that sort of thing, and we were doing a recording session and I asked her to do some adlibbing on a particular line of a song, just anything she wanted. And what she delivered was so unusual and so brilliant and it wasn’t stealing a Maria Carey lyric or taking something from Aretha Franklin. It was totally Katie and I just realised that here we had someone who wasn’t just potentially good, she was a total original.”
Following the three albums Melua and Batt split, the decision made amicably. William Orbit, who worked with artists like Madonna, produced Katie Melua’s fourth album, The House.
Ten years on from the initial success of ‘Closest Thing to Crazy’ Melua is drawing on her experiences and processing them through her new music.
“I think every time you make a record, there’s a piece of you in it, and it’s definitely where you are in your life at that point, everything you’ve learned. It’s just songs that I love to sing and they make me feel good and I hope they make the audience feel as good as they made me feel.”