Katie Melua has become one of the U.K.'s most popular young musicians, with six studio albums already to her name. She began her life in the ex-Soviet Union country of Georgia, on the coast of the Black Sea.
"When the Soviet Union broke down, Georgia suffered a huge deal," she says. "Pretty much the whole of the 90's was known as 'the black decade ... because we had a lot of electricity blackouts."
This meant that schools would close during the winter because there wasn't enough power to warm the rooms. When the lights did come on for short periods during the day, Melua says would watch films and listen to music from America and the West.
"I used to watch Aliens, and I just found Sigourney Weaver's character so empowering," she says. "I know she was fighting aliens, but she was this incredible hero. It seems bizarre to get influenced by a Hollywood film character, but it was real."
In 1993, when Melua was 9, her father found work in the UK as a doctor and the family moved there. She's made her life and career as a British artist – but for her latest album, she returned to Georgia to record there for the first time. And she's enlisted some help from home: the Gori Women's Choir, a 23-piece Georgian ensemble that's been going since the 1970s.
The result is Melua's new holiday album, In Winter. Hear the music, and the rest of her conversation with weekends on All Things Considered, at the audio link.