Katie Melua, T-Bone Burnett Break Off Album Partnership

U.K. jazz-pop artist Katie Melua broke off a studio partnership with T-Bone Burnett for her new album, "The House."

She then persuaded William Orbit to come out of self-imposed retirement to produce the record.

Melua's fourth album is released by Dramatico May 24 in the U.K. and Europe. Melua's three other albums have total global sales of 10 million, according to her label.

The comeback single "The Flood" is released May 17 and gives a taste of Melua's new direction, which moves away from a mainstream AC sound towards bolder arrangements and electronic textures.

Orbit - who has produced Madonna and Robbie Williams - came out of retirement to work on the album after Mike Batt, chairman of Melua's label Dramatico and her song-writing collaborator on previous albums, sent him the demos. She wrote this album with new song-writing partners including Lauren Christy and former Robbie Williams collaborator Guy Chambers, while Batt took a back seat.

"I just thought, 'If I just write songs for this person, I'm going to be stifling them,'" Batt tells Billboard. "But we always knew that I was going to withdraw gradually from each album. That was the plan from the beginning."

In the end, Batt co-wrote one song on the album.

T-Bone Burnett came on board as a producer as, Batt says, Burnett and Melua are fans of each other.

"We talked to various producers, and there was at one time a decision by both parties that T-Bone would produce the album, and we spent some months looking at the material," says Batt.

"He's fantastic, T-Bone, really understanding and he loves Katie, and Katie loves him, and one day, I think they will probably make a record together. But by the time we had got through six to nine months into the process of gathering material, it was obvious that this wasn't going to be the album that they were going to make together."

Batt adds that it was "obvious that we weren't really all going in the same direction, musically."

"They had a couple of sessions," says Batt. "They had a great time, but by the time we had gone through the process, it was just that this wasn't going to be the right time for these people at this moment for this album. There is a direction that they both want to go when they do work together, but this wasn't it."

After regrouping, Batt and Melua hooked up with William Orbit, who quickly signed up to the project after hearing the songs.

"He was captivated by the songs and her voice and her personality," says Batt. "They hit it off."

Melua and Orbit worked quickly at Air Studios in London, and Batt believes the results can break new ground for her.

"It's a fascinating album because I don't think that we are going to lose the existing audience," he says. "I've got a feeling that this is the one that could break [her] in the U.S."

"The House" is set to be released in the U.S. in the summer.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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