The beginning

It starts with meeting Katie Melua in a small antique lift…

In the week before Christmas of 2000 Eva’s amateur-like recorded video images of her solo version of ‘Over the Rainbow’ touch the right chord: Songbird becomes the UK’s best sold album in 2001. Newly discovered material is being released at yearly intervals: Time after Time, American Tune, Imagine. Luckily, Eva’s repertoire is not stripped bare. Somewhere – appearing in 2008 – contains two of Eva’s very best ballads: ‘A Bold Young Farmer’ and ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain’. Somewhere is distributed in the Netherlands by Dramatico, the label that provides Katie Melua with a home as well. After the release of The Katie Melua Collection I was given the chance to interview the Irish-British-Armenian singer in Grand Hotel Amrath inAmsterdam.

 I have plenty of time to drink a cup of coffee in the hotel bar. Two guys, aged twenty-something, are seated at a small table. Now and then they cast quick, questioning looks in my direction. Suddenly an SBS 6 camera crew pops up at the table of the two, and I assume that these guys are student reporters for the Dutch TV station. The boys receive the signal for their audience and leave the bar, the camera crew in their wake. Sooner than expected they return, carrying a gold record that the singer has apparently handed them. Their names are written on this trophy – Nick and Simon – and I decide to ask my daughter whether she knows these guys who seem to be more popular and better known than I initially thought. By now, Katie Melua has reached the ground floor and she takes me to a small antique lift. Should a power failure occur I will dangle with Katie Melua between heaven and earth for a couple of hours, is what I realise when the lift slowly moves upwards.

 

Nothing like this happens and Katie Melua precedes me to her hotel room where we sit down on a rather small sofa. The singer doesn’t need to think long about musical examples. “I grew up in a time of hip-hop and R&B. The show-element, the slick presentation and the uniformity of these musical styles began to pall on me. At that moment I discovered the amateur-like filmed performance of Eva Cassidy. The pictures were static and sometimes even colourless, but Eva and her band did exactly what they had to do – perform beautiful, often vulnerable songs. Eva didn’t care about the glitter and the glamour of a musician’s life, but she sang so convincingly that she gave all other singers the go-by. When I heard her sing I knew that this was what I wanted. That same day I wrote ‘Faraway Voice’ as a tribute. In that song I tell how much I regret that I have never heard her sing in reality.” It is telling that Eva sang ‘Wonderful World’ during her last performance, even after she realised that she was incurably ill. Katie Melua adapted the song posthumously into a duet that ended up on The Katie Melua Collection.

 

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  1. Craig Warhurst

    Nice article. Just for the record, Katie is Georgian, not Armenian! She was born in Kutaisi and came to UK when she was 8. She now has dual citizenship for UK/Georgia.