Katie Melua – Interview

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Katie Melua

In between her overseas travel Katie recorded her new album, ‘Piece By Piece’, which was released in Europe on September 26th 2005. The album comprises more self-penned songs including the title track as well as a cover of the 1987 Cure hit ‘Just Like Heaven’ that Katie had recorded for a DreamWorks film starring Reese Witherspoon.

The first single, ‘Nine Million Bicycles’, preceded the album release and gave Katie her highest UK single chart entry at number 5. One week later and ‘Piece By Piece’ entered the UK album charts at #1 and Europe swiftly followed with the album reaching #1in Holland, Norway, Denmark & Iceland. #2 in Germany & Ireland. #3 in South Africa & Switzerland. #4 in Poland & Belgium. #5 in Austria and #6 in Sweden giving an overall position on the Billboard European Top 100 Chart of #2.

Nearly six months after the European Release of ‘Piece By Piece’ the album is still in the Top 5 selling albums in Europe!

We interview Katie Melua!

HIP: I owned your first CD Call Of The Search and never bothered to look up your biography—I must be lazy but I never realized you weren’t America. I thought you were America.

KATIE: Ahhhh, did you? (We both laugh)

KATIE MELUA

So when I read the biography for the second Piece By Piece it was a surprise.

I’m definitely not American. I’m not even English. (We both laugh) I think sometimes it’s good not to know about the artist because you judge the music without having any preconceptions of where the artist is from or how old they are or what they look like.

Part of the reason, I will admit this shamefully, was that Norah Jones was obviously huge here and I thought another record label found a girl who could sing so they could capitalize on Norah’s success. I prejudged before hearing it to be honest.

Ah-Ha. But that is fine. I think we released that record in the UK quite a long while ago and I’m glad you had the album because not a lot of people had it [in America]. It didn’t do as well [in America] as it did in the UK.

I actually liked a few of the songs from the first album, like “Crawling Up A Hill” and “Call Of The Search,” a lot.

Well thank you.

My guess is that everyone compared you to Norah Jones on the first album but with the second album, Piece By Piece, my opinion is you stepped out of that shadow.

I agree with you on that. I think Piece By Piece has more variety with styles and productions. With the first album all we had was a four piece band but the second we brought in this amazing woodwind player and we brought in this amazing percussionist and a sitar player. Stylistically, it probably has a lot more variety in production and type of songs.

KATIE MELUA

The biggest thing for me was that you want an album with something more than a couple good songs. The only songs I didn’t love weren’t because they were bad—it was because the first few songs were so good that it was a come down.

May I ask what the songs were that you liked?

I really liked “Nine Million Bicycles,” “Piece By Piece,” Halfway Up The Hindu Kush,” and “Just Like Heaven.”

Oh cool. We are still trying to figure out what the single should be. Obviously “Nine Million Bicycles” was the single in the UK but “Just Like Heaven” never came up in meetings for a UK single but when we have been promoting it over here the radios have been picking up “Just Like Heaven.”

I liked that song a lot.

That is cool. So we are like “what should we do next.” The next will probably be “Nine Million Bicycles.”

You wrote “Piece By Piece” right?

Yeah, on the first album there was a whole undercurrent of thought because Mike [Batt] wrote a lot of the songs that people would say he wrote all the songs so I was just a pretty face. It didn’t anger me but it frustrated me. I wanted to prove to people on the second album that I could write songs and that I was passionate about my music. Mike felt that as well—he didn’t want to be classed as some svengali type thing so both of us knew we wanted to write equally on the album. If not—he suggested I write all the songs on the second album but I didn’t want to sacrifice the quality of the songs. I’m not saying my songs aren’t great but I don’t know if I could come up with twelve brilliant songs. Mike has been writing for seven years so I knew he could come up with great stuff. Some people might say I’m being too hard on myself, but if a song doesn’t come out well just on the guitar, without production, then I throw it away. For me, a song has to sound great with just the melody and lyrics.

Speaking of being aggravated—has it aggravated you to be compared to Norah Jones all the time?

Well when we first started making the first album she wasn’t known so I knew we weren’t trying to be Norah Jones or anything like that. Anyways, I kind of liked her music. I thought she was brilliant. So when you are compared to an artist you admire its not so bad.

KATIE MELUA

Is it hard to know something is good?

It is hard to judge once you created it. What do I mean by that? I kind of know when I’m making the song and the instant I’m done making it. I can’t describe the feeling—you get very excited. And then literally five minutes later you lose all perception of it because you don’t know if its good or a pile or rubbish. It’s at that stage where I’ll play it to family and friends. If I can play it on guitar, without drums or produced, then I know if it’s good or not. Once we have recorded and finished it we will play it for people and I’m quite open to people’s opinions. I don’t think, I could be saying that because I’m me, but I’m not bad with hearing “no” and I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people who aren’t afraid to say it’s a pile of crap. That is really important to me. I don’t want to be surrounded by yes people.

+ Charlie Craine