Katie Melua / ქეთი მელუა: Life and career

Early life

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 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 just two weeks 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 baptised 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 University.

Personal life

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.

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 Airport.

Nationality

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.”

Mike Batt

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.

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