Mika Tastes U.S. Success

Often success across the pond doesn't necessarily translate into American popularity, but one young, up-and-coming European artist has wooed U.S. audiences.

In an industry littered with 20-something artists who don't write their own music, the artist known as Mika is an anomaly.

Not only is he a singer and songwriter, but Mika also is a producer, releasing his debut album in February 2007, called "Life in Cartoon Motion."

And on top of that, he can hit the high notes with a falsetto voice most singers can only dream of.

At more than 6 feet in height, his dark wavy hair and slim build has earned him a legion of female fans.

The success of his album, with singles like "Grace Kelly" and "Relax, Take It Easy," is the fruit of a complicated childhood.

According to his Web site, Mika was born in Beirut, Lebanon, during the mid-1980s, but due to the civil war, his family moved to Paris. Soon after, his family settled in London.

The singer credits the combination of moving and the difficult time he had in school during his first few years in London with bringing him to music.

"I wish I could say I was a self-imposed loner, but it was imposed on me," he writes on his Web site.

And it was at this time that music became an important part of his life.

"It got me back on my feet," he said. "It was a magical world that you could live in, a parallel universe for people that is illusory and enchanting and amazing."

By the age of 9, Mika said he realized "songwriting was his destiny."

Under the guidance of a "terrifyingly tough" Russian singing teacher, Mika started working as a professional at a very young age. He did a little of everything, from recording with the Royal Opera to singing a jingle for chewing gum commercial, getting severely underpaid in the process.

Mika recalls calling up British Airways to get a ticket, only to be placed on hold, and hearing one of his commercials. "That was a painful eight minutes," he said on his Web site. "My mother and I had no idea what I was supposed to get paid, and no one was in a hurry to educate us. Looking back on it, I think 45 quid for the Orbit chewing gum jingle could have been a little too cheap."

Mika, who taught himself to play the piano, includes Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and flamenco music among his early influences.

Now he said he has grown to appreciate Prince, superstar Elton John and pop royal Michael Jackson.

"These people make amazing pop records that couldn't be performed by anybody else and that's what I always wanted to do," Mika said. "I'm always going back to great artist songwriters, people who make great records to their own vision."

Recently, Mika was nominated for a Teen Choice Award for best breakout male artist competing against artists like Akon and Robin Thicke.