Most of the time life is pretty fast-paced for singer/songwriter Katie Melua, but whenever she’s in need of some calm, there is one place she’s always drawn to. On crisp winter days the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, London, is the destination she heads for and it's the spot that inspired her recent Album No 8 launched last October.
See: Winter walks - the UK's top 10 places to explore the great outdoors
‘I have lived in west London for the past 15 years and regularly jog to the park,’ she says. ‘At the lido café I usually stop for a coffee – or hot chocolate in winter. It is a moment of quiet contemplation amid the rough and tumble of city life.'
'Across the water most years you can see the park’s Winter Wonderland fairground – a distant note of color, sadly canceled this year. Beyond that, the rooftops of London townhouses stretch out. All that rich tapestry of life is playing out, yet here at the water’s edge it is peaceful.’
Not that the Serpentine is devoid of activity. ‘It’s great to people watch, surrounded by the cheerful flower boxes of the café – lovely in spring, with cyclamen and snowdrops peeking out.'
'Another of my favorite sights is the swans. The collective noun for the birds is a “ballet”, though when they take to the air they put me more in mind of a jumbo jet! I once spent hours watching them, mesmerized by their preening. There seemed to be a meditative quality to all of their work.’
That serenity was actually the starting point for Album No 8. ‘I am lucky to have what I consider the best job in the world,’ she tells us. ‘My career kicked off in 2003 when I was 19, and I had a pretty fast ascent to fame. Watching the swans inspired a return to songwriting in 2019, culminating in Album No 8.’
Varied influences helped build the collection – Katie took a writing course with the Faber Academy to hone her lyrics, and drew on jazz, on folk song, on Bob Dylan. But the overall tone owes much to the tranquil notes of Hyde Park, with some songs directly referencing the healing effects of nature, such as Remind Me to Forget.
‘Life in my industry is frenetic,’ she continues. ‘You feel the pressure of wanting to produce something worthy of all the promotion. But the satisfaction can be enormous, too.'
See: Monty Don - my favorite UK country walk – and why it reminds me of America
'One day I’ll hear a song I wrote drifting over the airways, and it’s joyous. Music is so potent; it can travel with you, even if just in your head, providing a soundtrack as you enjoy the places you love.’
With over 30 years of working in journalism on women's home and lifestyle media brands, Rhoda is an Editorial Director, Homes Content, at Future. Over time, Rhoda has worked on the entire homes and gardens portfolio including Homes & Gardens, Country Homes & Interiors, Livingetc, Ideal Home, Style at Home, Woman & Home, 25 Beautiful Homes, Amateur Gardening and Easy Gardens. She was also editor of Country Homes & Interiors for 14 years, leading it across print and creating the blog Country Days. She has also worked at Woman’s Weekly, Family Circle and Practical Parenting.
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