When Melody Gardot sings "It's a miracle I'm alive, I do not think I can survive", she's singing from the heart. The lyrics come from the first song she wrote, in the aftermath of the traffic accident that almost killed her. Today, '"Some Lessons" is still the song that defines her.
While studying fashion in Philadelphia, aged 19, she was hit by a Jeep as she cycled to college. She received head and hip injuries, and was in and out of hospital for 18 months and left disabled.
Five years later, in a darkened hotel room filled with incense, Gardot is lying on her bed in a floaty blue-and-gold minidress, mustard-coloured cardigan and matching yellow patent-leather shoes with kinky buckles. She's wearing dark glasses, sipping vegetable juice and talking about the event that changed her life and how she launched a career that already boasts 80,000 sales of her debut album, Worrisome Heart.
If the accident has defined the life of the New Jersey-born singer, she is the first to admit that it was also the making of her career. At the time, music was just a hobby, with the odd weekend gig in piano bars. It was only on the advice of a doctor that she took up music as a therapeutic tool – and that only as a last resort.
Unable to walk, or even to sit up to play piano, Gardot took up the guitar, and recorded an EP of her self-penned songs. "I learnt playing on my back in a hospital bed. I couldn't walk for so long that it was the only way I could learn."
Worrisome Heart mixes jazz with elements of folk and country, following the recipe that brought mainstream success to Norah Jones and Eva Cassidy – and it's not hard to see Gardot attracting a similarly wide audience.
She certainly has no problem with her music being used to wallpaper people's daily chores. "Music is the soundtrack to our lives," she says. And she never forgets how fortunate she is still to be living hers. "The positive side? That's all there is," she smiles.
21 July (020-7388 8822); 'Worrisome Heart' is out now on Universal