Katie Melua has recognised the late Sir Terry Wogan as being the driving force behind the “crazy amount of success” she had in the early 2000s as she launched her music career.
The Georgian-British singer-songwriter’s debut album Call Off The Search was championed by Sir Terry on BBC Radio 2, and she has acknowledged that she was “so lucky” to have backing from the radio host.
She was one of the performers at Sir Terry’s memorial service at Westminster Abbey in September, following his death in January.
Katie told the Press Association: “Radio 2 and the organisers, his family, they asked me to (take part) because they knew that he had a significant influence on the start of my career, on that crazy amount of success I had when I first came out.
“I think about it now, and I was so lucky that it took off so quickly. Now that I’ve been in the industry for 13 years, I realise how rare and astonishing it was, what happened.”
Katie, 32, shot to fame with her debut record in 2003 after support from Sir Terry and his show’s producer Paul Walters, with her track Closest Thing To Crazy getting plenty of airplay.
She said: “I think he wasn’t as known for his musical discoveries as he was for his brilliant personality and that great banter, but I think now that he’s gone people are seeing that other side of him too.”
Katie this week added to her existing accolades, which include a handful of international awards and two Brit nominations, as she received the Order of Honour in her home country of Georgia.
During the final night of her 28-date European tour on Tuesday, Katie performed with the Gori Women’s Choir – a Georgian polyphonic choir with whom she collaborated on her new album, In Winter – at the Georgian National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Tbilisi.
The head of the administration of the president of Georgia, Giorgi Abashishvili, on behalf of President Giorgi Margvelashvili, awarded her the prestigious accolade for her “fruitful activities and personal contribution in promoting Georgian culture abroad”.
Following her “mindblowing” win, Katie admitted she did not understand the full extent of the award until she received it.
She said: “I’ve been Googling it, and I’m very surprised and delighted.
“The Georgian ministry and the government give out medals and honours to celebrate people that have achieved significant things.
“The one I’ve got celebrates the bringing forward and celebration of Georgian culture. And I think this is specifically because of the latest project with the Gori Women’s Choir, an astonishing choir from home, that I’ve been collaborating with on my new record, and we’ve just done a tour of Europe.”
Katie – who moved from Georgia to the UK as a child – explained how her home nation’s development in recent years following the difficult period in the 1990s, during and following the Georgian Civil War, inspired her latest musical effort.
She also praised the Gori Women’s Choir’s positive attitude and willingness to work in any medium.
She said: “I haven’t done a tour this big since my last record release, but for the choir, going on the road in Europe was phenomenal, it’s the reason all of these things felt special is because Georgia has just come out of that dark decade in the 1990s, from the Soviet Union breakdown. The country really suffered.
“Now, things are really starting to turn around. Things are being built, arts and culture are developing in a fascinating way, the youth are really coming on and there’s a new young population that are going to gigs – there are loads of gigs now in Georgia.”
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It's been just a week since we got back from touring Europe. Here we are at the Birmingham show, thank you Gori Women's choir!! and... @himmapaan for the most stunning forest artwork which was blown up to help create the illusion of snow. When will it snow in London?! ❄️anyone know?
Katie said in the 1990s in Georgia there was “real hopelessness” as civilians had to cope without water or electricity.
“But they really dreamed and there was a certain kind of positivity to Georgians. That’s the wonderful thing about the human spirit – even when it’s so horrible, you still find ways of being hopeful and you find ways of having fun.
“Because all of that history has been so recent, it’s now wonderful to be part of Georgia’s new rebirth.”