(Photography: Josh Shinner)
As a peacock fans its glorious tail in the sunshine of the hottest day for seven years, a nearby herd of English Longhorn cattle lie flopped on the sun-scorched grass. And here comes Katie Melua, the multi-platinum selling singer whose dulcet tones have haunted the music charts for the last decade.
Holland Park is where she comes for a break from the big city and the endless whirl of the music business merry-go-round.
A short stroll from the west London home she shares with her husband, retired Superbike champion James Toseland, the 55-acre park is an oasis of tranquility amid the hustle and bustle of the capital.
No one turns to gawp at the stunning girl with jet-black hair. Somehow, in our celeb-crazed culture, Melua has insinuated herself into the pop music world without sacrificing her privacy.
Her music may be mellow but Katie has a reputation as an adrenaline junky. She has flown planes, regularly jumps out of them and, at the other end of the spectrum, has performed at the bottom of the ocean (earning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records). James also likes to take Katie around the race track on the back of his bike – “though we only got up to about 180mph” she sniffs, disappointed not to have topped the two-ton mark.
Holland Park provides the antidote for all this excitement. “I like to come here with my mum,” she says. “and when my nephews and nieces are over I take them to the playgrounds. I also love to just walk around on my own and look at the peacocks – especially when they fan their tails and start going crazy!”
She has dined at the Belvedere Restaurant, partied in The Orangery, strolls regularly in the Dutch Garden and has developed a fondness for the cows that were introduced to keep the overgrown meadows in check.
For ultimate peace and quiet, Katie’s favourite place is the Kyoto Garden, a little piece of Japan that has the unique atmosphere of a sacred place, complete with a waterfall and a little stone bridge where you can gaze into a pond filled with koi carp. “The garden looks so beautiful and it’s such a serene place to just sit and contemplate your life.” says Katie.
Currently celebrating ten years in the music business, Katie has sold more than 11 million albums, enjoyed a worldwide hit single with Nine Million Bicycles, performed live to more than a million fans around the world and notched up 56 platinum awards.
So how does she look back over her decade in music? “There have been many great moments I’m really proud of,” she smiles. “The biggest one is still being asked to go onstage year after year. To be still touring after a decade means everything to me. Experiencing the magic of the stage is the best part of what I do.”
Katie’s album Ketevan is available now. For details of tour dates visit, www.katiemelua.com
This article was originally published in Best Western’s Do Not Disturb Magazine.