KATIE MELUA BRINGS HER HOUSE UP TO DATE
By Liam Allen
Entertainment reporter, BBC News
The House, is Melua's fourth album, is the first not produced by Mike Batt
Katie Melua, 25, says that with new album The House – her first without manager and mentor Mike Batt – she wanted to “experiment with myself as a human being”.
Batt, 61 – who wrote Art Garfunkel smash Bright Eyes and is the man behind 1970s cartoon pop stars The Wombles – composed her two best-known hits The Closest Thing To Crazy and Nine Million Bicycles as well as producing her first three albums.
William Orbit, best known for his work with artists including Madonna, Blur and All Saints, produced the album while Batt has an executive producer credit.
Here, Melua talks about biscuits providing inspiration, selling albums to the older generations and writing with sometime Robbie Williams collaborator Guy Chambers.
Why William Orbit?
Mike sent William four of the tracks. He just heard the tracks and he liked them and that was kind of it.
I liked the sound of it because here's a guy who's more from the electronic/dance world, but the song out of those four tracks that he loved most was I'd Love To Kill You. It was the most acoustic, organic-sounding song out of those four.
Was there a sense that Mike Batt, with all his experience, had guided you through your early career and now it was time to stand on your own two feet?
It was two people being equally totally involved with the record and I always used to think that it was unfair that it was just my name on the front cover.
Mike Batt is the man behind The Wombles records
It really should have been Kate Melua and Mike Batt or we should have come up with a band name.
I think he really loves the new album. He's been there from the beginning – he was there with helping me work with the songwriters, with the songs.
There were sometimes when I had to say to him: 'Listen, I really believe in these songs and I need to take them to the final stage and we can decide whether they're right or not'.
Our collaboration is such that we trust each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt.
There's a perception that you sell albums to generations older than your own. Is that true?
I think it has been probably, especially in England.
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You just can't worry about what people are gonna think because, if you worry about it, it would just make me have a nervous breakdown.
We never really marketed it to a young generation.
But also, because there wasn't big beats on there, there wasn't the current way of making music, it was more traditional, it was more organic.
So, yeah, things just panned out that way, I think.
Are you trying to attract a new, younger audience?
That would be absolutely lovely but, as far as I'm concerned, it'll be a side effect because I've already gotten what I want which is to make an album that I'm really proud of and one that's taken me to new places in my mind.
I don't really make an album thinking about audience. That would just give you the biggest block ever.
If you try and think about anyone apart from you liking it then you're just screwed.
Are you worried that you might alienate some of your older fans with your new sound?
You just can't worry about what people are going to think because, if you worry about it, it would just make me have a nervous breakdown.
I'm just happy with it and I feel like I've done my job and now I'm excited about introducing it to people.
If it challenged me, I expect my fans to be challenged by it too – I like them to be shocked and intrigued and surprised.
How did you find working with Guy Chambers?
Melua will tour Europe in the autumn
One of the most incredible things that I loved about working with him was he's so easy about the process of writing. He doesn't deliberate over it too much.
Sometimes when I write on my own I can get really bogged down with it.
But he just writes. It's so simple. The process is simple and I found myself writing easily then.
Do you tend to overthink things?
I have done in the past a lot. He's one of the people that I've worked with who's taught me that there's no need to do that.
Basically, it's about completely trusting yourself that you are at one with your talent.
Even if you say, 'I eat biscuits' – if that's what's come in to your head at that moment, that is a point of inspiration.
Katie Melua's new single The Flood is out now. Album The House is out on on Monday 24 May.