Ketevan "Katie" Melua (Georgian: born 16
September 1984) is a Georgian 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 bestselling 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, which was the last of her albums
to be made in collaboration with Mike Batt.
According to the Sunday Times Rich List 2008, Melua has a fortune of
£18 million, making her the seventh richest British musician under
thirty. It was reported in 2009 that she had lost almost half of her
fortune as a result of the global economic downturn.
Life and career
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
prestigious 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 speaks Georgian, Russian and
English and is 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.
First television appearance
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.
Education and religion
Although she is a baptized 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. When studying at the
school, Melua began to write songs and met her future manager and
producer, Mike Batt.
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
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. However, as Melua became more successful, the
relationship came into difficulties and they split up in March 2005.
In late 2006 is was reported that Melua was in a close relationship
with photographer Lara Bloom. In an interview in May 2010, she
spoke about speculation surrounding the relationship with Bloom, saying
"I can tell you that I'm single, which is not lovely, but it is what it
is. I really don't think whether you are gay or not is The Whole
identity of a person. It's just one side; it doesnít have to be the
thing that defines you. We live in the 21st century: questions of
sexuality are not outdated, but I don't think the lines are very clear
and they are not always clear to me."
Melua is occasionally referred to as an 'adrenaline junkie' because
she enjoys roller coasters and fun fairs 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
In September 2010, Melua was ordered by her doctors to stop working
for a few months after suffering from 'exhaustion'. All touring and
promotional activities were postponed as a result.
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
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 18 year-old Melua to his small Dramatico
recording and management company and sent her into the studio.
For her album The House (2010) she worked with producer William Orbit.
She said about the experience: ďThe 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 wasnít 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 thatís 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 thatís so ancient and old that its
kind of forgotten. I thought that, if we went far enough in both
directions, we could end up in the same place.Ē