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Interview: Katie Melua

7 min read

With the world still tight in lockdown and the entertainment industry in a dire state with releases uncertain for most and touring hopes being dashed, some light has come in the form of a brand new album from the stunning and critically acclaimed Katie Melua. The appropriately titled Album No. 8 sees its release this Friday (16th Sept) and is yet another outstanding collection of recordings from one of the finest voices in British music.

Ahead of the release Renowned For Sound was given the opportunity to talk to Katie about the latest collection and to find out what the Nine Million Bicycles hitmaker has been doing to keep herself entertained in this new world we have been thrown into. Here is what Katie had to tell us…

Brendon Veevers: How are you doing these days Katie and where does our interview find you today?

Katie Melua: I am in my management company’s office in Camden and I’m doing really well and gearing up for the album release.

BV: How have you been holding up in this new COVID world? I hope you have been safe and well.

KM: Yesterday morning I had my ballet lesson as my way of staying fit and healthy throughout this busy period. There’s a lot of logistical juggling going on, dealing with the scheduling of promo and the government restrictions due to the pandemic and that’s creating a lot of interesting challenges as we release a record during this year.

BV: Have you developed any new skills or adopted any new hobbies in lockdown-land?

KM: Yes, I’ve become better at driving in London as we had to rehearse, me and my band. I was the designated driver and I’ve become much more confident driving in the city, and I’ve been hitting the road amongst the Uber, taxis and double decker buses.

BV: You have obviously kept yourself exceptionally busy in 2020 working on the new album – the aptly titled Album No. 8. What can fans expect to hear with this new record?

KM: This is the first time where the lyrics on this album are entirely my own. That is a new position for me, and it matters a lot to me as I have a deep respect for communicating, literature and the English language. And so through research in different fields where words are the creative tools, I’ve been able to apply that learning to the making of a modern pop record.

BV: Are there any tracks on the recording that strike a particularly personal chord to you and why?

KM: In each song I ask afresh “what is the meaning of a song” and in each song the answer is different. So there isn’t one that’s more personal, there’s just different layers of my perception of how I see the world.

BV: You shot the new video for the recording’s latest single Your Longing Is Gone in your homeland Georgia and the backdrop is absolutely stunning. What was it like for you to bring your music back to Georgia for the track and the album and how much of a role did Georgia play in this release as a whole?

KM: That part of Georgia is where I’ve holidayed every single summer and ‘Your Longing Is Gone’ is about a romance that’s fading but wanting to remain positive, and so the way I feel when I’m in that part of Georgia is very liberated and it has a certain atmosphere that has always made me feel free and happy. The Georgian’s helped us so much with making the video happen, they even closed off the road to Turkey to let us film the road empty in the epic driving car shots.

BV: What aspect of putting this record together would you say you enjoyed the most?

KM: I genuinely like all the process but that’s not to say that it’s easy, it’s far from it and very challenging. In a way for me it does begin with the isolated work which is the work on the lyrics and really discovering the songs as I write. But then I also love taking the work that I’ve done and getting the involvement of my team, whether that’s the musician’s that work on it or the marketing team that help us frame the record and give it a context.

BV: With this being your eighth record and 17 years passing since the release of your Call off the Search debut, what are the most prominent changes in your artistry that you have noticed?

KM: Well I still believe in capturing great live performance and the interplay between musicians and the beautiful tapestry that’s created and I still believe in great classic songs, but I think that the biggest change is actually growing to accept how the landscape around music really changes. So while CD sales are far less than they used to be than when I started and even the digital landscape changes with every album, finding peace and continuing to create confidently is something that I’m really proud of to finally be able to do.

BV: One of our favourite tracks on the new recordings is ‘A Love Like That’ and have read that you described the song as one that’s life “centred on my relationship with work and the stamina required to keep being an artist in the music industry”. The music industry is famously tough for artists, especially with the changes that it’s been through over the last few decades. What’s been your secret to keeping the stamina up and the love for being in the music industry alive?

KM: I just still believe in songs, and I believe in the magic of what a song can do. I think it is the greatest work of art in western culture… the great pop song. There’s something in me that believes that we don’t have enough of them and I love the challenge of creating the best songs that I can.

BV: What would you say has been the most fundamental change in the industry since your debut and do you feel the music industry is headed in a positive direction in general?

KM: Yes I do believe that it’s heading in a positive direction in general, and that’s partly because we had such a big dip when the digital revolution happened so it feels like we’re on the up. To me, the biggest change is actually how accountability has become a lot more important. Because of all the networks and communities we now have, either fan communities or the communities we live in, because of social media it feels like it’s more important to manage your reputation. Which means that artists have to be engaged with their fans and management have to look after the health and mental health of the artists, it’s almost like the world has turned into a village.

BV: Do you place any pressure on yourself when it comes to releasing a new recording in terms of sales figures or are the days of watching the charts and number crunching in the past?

KM: It’s definitely nowhere near as pressured to sort of climb up the album charts and single charts as it once used to be. It’s just not as culturally relevant anymore, which means that we can take things and build them much more organically and slowly. I feel really lucky that I saw the level of success and chart success that I did, but it’s really important that it doesn’t put unnecessary pressure on myself or the wonderful teams I work with, when the environment doesn’t make it essential to.

BV: With the way of the world these days still being so uncertain, especially when it comes to tours, can you tell us anything about any 2021 live dates that fans could potentially keep a watch for?

KM: Not yet but watch this space.

BV: Outside of the release of the new record which I’m sure will continue keeping you busy throughout the rest of 2020, is there anything else in the pipeline for fans to listen or watch out for?

KM: Radio 2 are celebrating John Lennon’s 80th birthday and I recorded a cover of “Love” with the BBC Concert Orchestra which can be heard over the next couple of weeks. Before the pandemic I also had quite a conservative and old fashioned view point of social media and that has really shifted for me this year and I now love engaging with fans and finding out about them and their lives, through Instagram in particular.

Thanks so much Katie.

Katie Melua’s brand new recording Album No. 8 is out this Friday 16th September.