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Katie Melua

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Plucked from music-school obscurity by songwriter/producer Mike Batt, Katie Melua quickly became the highest-selling female musician in the U.K., a feat that owed much of its success to her wildly popular 2003 debut. Melua was born in Soviet Georgia in 1984 and later moved to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her family pulled up stakes several years later and relocated to London, where Melua entered the B.R.I.T. School for the Performing Arts & Technology. The record industry-funded school had a habit of graduating talented artists like Floetry, and Melua became its next success when a 2003 showcase caught the attention of Batt, who'd been looking for a vocalist capable in both jazz and blues styles. Call Off the Search, her debut album, was issued in the U.K. in November 2003 by Batt's own label, Dramatico Records. A comfortable, tasteful blend of jazz vocals, pop style, and adult contemporary sway, the album featured two cuts penned by Melua (including a tribute to one of her biggest influences, Eva Cassidy), as well as covers of material from John Mayall, Randy Newman, and the James Shelton classic "Lilac Wine." The single "Closest Thing to Crazy" hit number one in December, and by January of the following year, Call Off the Search had gone platinum (300,000 units in the U.K.). It continued selling copies for years, eventually going platinum six times. Gigs in Europe followed, and in May 2004 Melua made her way to the U.S. for a round of club dates in support of the album's domestic release. She achieved even greater success with her 2005 follow-up, Piece by Piece, a heady blend of worldbeat and jazz-pop that topped both the international and British charts before setting its sights on the U.S. market in 2006. The similarly jazz-inflected Pictures followed a year later, and the concert recording Live at the O² Arena appeared in 2009. In 2010, Melua delivered the studio effort The House, which widened her sound with production from techno mastermind William Orbit. Two years later, she returned with the orchestral pop album Secret Symphony, featuring arrangements by longtime producer Batt. Melua finished out her six-album deal for Batt with 2013's similarly orchestral-leaning Ketevan. Named after her given birth name, the album featured the singles "I Will Be There" and "The Love I'm Frightened Of." Well received, it peaked at number six on the U.K. charts. In 2016, Melua returned with In Winter, her first holiday-themed effort and first album after parting ways with longtime collaborator Batt. Recorded in her native country of Georgia with the all-female Gori Women's Choir, In Winter featured original material from Melua alongside a cover of Joni Mitchell's "River" and several traditional classical holiday songs. ~ Johnny Loftus

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