(21 May 2004) Britain's Katie Melua's Call Off The Search (Dramatico (UK) / Universal (USA) DRAM CD0002, 2003) reached number one in the UK album charts early this year. The 19-year old singer songwriter signed a five album recording deal and management contract with the Dramatico label after being discovered by Mike Batt at the Brit School in London. The songs on the artist's debut album have a jazzy, bluesy feel and the critical acclaim for the project compared her style to Norah Jones. We found her voice and delivery when coupled with Batt's arrangements significantly more enjoyable.
In her own words, "I was born in Georgia in the former USSR in 1984, living in Moscow for a while when I was three or four. Not surprisingly, I don't remember a lot of Moscow back in the communist time, although one thing I do remember is that the place we were staying in did the most amazing pancakes I've ever tasted. Leaving Moscow and the pancakes I spent most of my childhood in Georgia in the seaside town of Batumi. There's really nothing better than swimming in the Black Sea."
She continues, "When I was nine, my dad got a job as a heart surgeon in Belfast, so we moved there. When I told this to one of my teachers later in England, he described the move as 'from the frying pan into the fire.' I never really viewed it as that because I had a great childhood both in Georgia and Northern Ireland. I found the people in Northern Ireland extremely warm and made great friends at St. Catherine's primary school and Dominican College, Fortwilliam."
"I went to Catholic schools in Northern Ireland while my younger brother went to a Protestant school. I didn't always want to be a singer or a songwriter. My ambition when I was thirteen was to be a politician or a historian. I honestly thought I'd be able to bring peace to the world -- if I ruled it! We lived in Belfast for five years after which we moved to South East London. There I went to Nonsuch High School for Girls. When I was fifteen, I entered a TV talent competition called "Stars Up Their Nose" singing Mariah Cary's "Without You." I won the competition--the prize was a bedroom makeover and an arm chair for my dad--and also gained valuable experience by performing live on ITV three times."
She remarks, "Moving so much didn't really bother me because you get so used to it. I'lve been to seven different schools, the final one being the Brit School for Performing Arts where I did a BTEC and Music A-level. I started writing songs two years ago and have a small studio set up at home. My influences are Queen, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Eva Cassidy, Irish folk music and Indian music. I strongly believe that great artists are those who are original and talented in their music and performance.
Melua looks as great as she sounds: slender and shapely, with dark curls and big brown eyes. She has a vast range, from a soaring silky lightness to a slow, sexy laziness. And both her style and strength will develop further as she matures in the business. The 12-track album contains two of her own songs with the remaining material being covers and five of Mike Batt's own tunes. The sound is best described as blues and jazz in the vein of Norah Jones, but it Katie's style is just so much more accessible.
Katie concludes, "Music should be performed live. It is offensive to the audience if you mime. I always get a warm feeling when I see someone holding either a guitar case or a violin case on the street. It's like I know I'd get on well with that person and I always smile or say 'hi.'" Read our
own interview with Katie for additional detail.
The first single from the album "The Closest Thing To Crazy" has a memorable sound with a melody akin to a West End or Broadway musical. It is however Mike Batt's own creation for this album. Other standouts include include the sensually performed ballad "My Aphrodesiac Is You," the dramatic performance of the title track "Call Off The Search," and Katie's stunning delivery of her own "Belfast."
The range of Katie's voice, especially in the upper registers, makes the sound of the album very appealing. It will draw listeners to her that are not typical jazz enthusiasts. And this has been demonstrated with the wide critical acclaim for the recording as well as huge commercial success the album has enjoyed in the UK. A bonus found on the enhanced CD is the stunning and informative video footage "Katie Melua - Starting Out, 2003."
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and purchase the album from amazon.com
Katie Melua is ready to take the USA by storm with Call Off The Search as just one casual listen to the album will clearly demonstrate..