OVER the weekend, the serious Sunday papers were still carrying adverts for Katie Melua’s 45-date winter tour, taking in York Barbican on November 7.
We are no nearer to knowing when concert halls may re-open, but the Georgian-born Melua has announced the October 16 release of Album No. 8 – yes, her does-what-it-says-on-the-tin eighth studio album.
The accompanying tour was put in place last November in days of innocence before Covid re-wrote the rules of human engagement, but that does not stop the delivery of Melua’s “most cohesive and assured recording to date after a prolonged period of musical rediscovery” at 35.
Her most personal lyrics to date “attempt to reconcile the knotty complexities of real-life love to its fairytale counterpart, as Melua draws from the vernacular of folk songs to evoke a sense of magic-hour wonder mirrored by string arrangements whose depth and movement evoke Charles Stepney’s work with Rotary Connection and Ramsey Lewis”.
On her first studio set since 2016’s In Winter, the full track listing will be: A Love Like That; English Manner; Leaving The Mountain; Joy; Voices In The Night; Maybe I Dreamt It; Heading Home; Your Longing Is Gone; Airtime and Remind Me To Forget.
Already doing the rounds is first single A Love Like That, a cinematic exploration of love, with lyrics by Melua, production by Leo Abrahams and a cast of musicians that embraces drummer Emre Ramazanoglu, flautist Jack Pinter and the Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra.
The video is the first in a series of collaborations between Melua and director Charlie Lightening, who has worked previously with Paul McCartney, Liam Gallagher and Kasabian. Joining Melua on screen is Star Wars, Dunkirk and MotherFatherSon actor Billy Howle.
“I’m really proud of the video,” says Katie. “I loved working with Charlie Lightening. We had lots of talks about how to make it a meaningful work and deal with the new limits on filming. We went with just me and Billy Howle on screen; we tried to show with subtle gestures and nuances the truth of love in its early stages. Hopefully, everyone can enjoy watching it.”
Charlie says: “It was so nice to collaborate with Katie on this project. We talked through the idea at length and honed what we wanted to achieve. It’s always so good when the artist has a strong idea of where the visual needs to go.
“It meant we could create a character and figure out this narrative journey that you go on throughout the film. The music is so cinematic, so to create this film has been so rewarding. Everything just came together perfectly in the end.”
Katie says of the writing process for A Love Like That: “This song is asking the essential timeless question about mad love: ‘How do you make a love like that last?’ But before it became about love between a couple, it started its life centred on my relationship with work and the stamina required to keep being an artist in the music industry.
“It was only after my co-composer Sam Dixon and I wrapped our session that I retreated to a cottage in the Cotswolds for three weeks to wrestle with the song’s lyrics. A Love Like That continues a narrative that is across the new album. And in the context of love, it’s about having the courage to speak openly and freely.”
Producer Leo Abrahams picks recording the orchestra in Tbilisi with Katie as his highlight. “The arrangement is written to convey the protagonist’s changing state of mind throughout the song: from turbulent to calm, sentimental to defiant,” he says. “Technically, this was probably the simplest arrangement on the record but we had to do almost 20 takes of the tremolando introduction to get the right amount of aggression but with an elegant resolution. The players seemed to enjoy it.”
Melua last played York Barbican in December 2018, when she was joined by the Gori Women’s Choir. Tickets for November 7 are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk.