"I haven’t made a record quite like this before..." hmv.com talks to Jamie Cullum
Jamie Cullum has come a long way since his humble beginnings playing piano in branches of Pizza Express. Since his debut LP, 1999's Heard It All Before, he's released a futrther five studio LPs, gotten married (to Sophie Dahl), become a father - twice - and now even hosts his own show on BBC Radio 2, in which he's able to share his love of jazz with his listeners.
Next week (October 6th) he releases his seventh studio album, Interlude, so we caught up with him to talk about the new album, how his show has influenced the record, and playing some very unusual gigs...
With your last album you took a very D.I.Y. approach to making it – can we expect more of the same on Interlude, or have you gone back to recording in a proper studio?
"This was very much an album where I made use of a big, beautiful room and an opportunity to record acoustic interments live in one room, all at the same time. We recorded to analogue tape, live and most of the album was recorded in one or two takes."
You recorded it pretty quickly didn't you? Where was it done and who's producing it?
"It was done at an amazing studio called Fish Factory, which is behind a fish market - you really need to know where it is. We recorded it quickly, not out of necessity, but more out of a willingness to make the material sound fresh and exciting and a bit rough around the edges. With great musicians (the band were Nostalgia 77) and a great producer/engineer, Ben Lamdin - it is all possible."
You've got one or two guests on the new album, can you talk us through them, and how they came about?
"Gregory Porter got his first plays on my radio show. I feel very proud to have played a small part in him coming to a much wider audience. We have become friends in the process. He is truly deserving of it and it was a thrill to sing next to him on this record. We have sung together many times on live gigs, but this was the first time we got anything on record. He is such a big presence vocally it really pushed me to work harder!
"Laura Mvula was someone I have very much supported on my radio show, apart from which I am huge fan of her singular songwriting and her exquisite and unique voice. I hadn’t heard her sing any jazz before and I really wanted to hear her in this context. Also, like Gregory, we had a history of singing live together before this so the process in the studio was just a joy."
How do you go about choosing the songs for an album like this? Is there a favourite on the record?
"All the songs on this album were chosen because I wanted to reference an area of jazz that I had been exploring or loving in the last few years. Ben, like me, is a record nerd - we’ve both been collecting a long time. It was easy to think of tunes but hard to whittle them down; but I see this album as part of a series of albums like this, so anything that didn’t go in this one will go on the next!
One of my favourites is the song ‘Out of this World’. It felt so wonderful recording, with the whirlwind of musicianship happening all-around me. No headphones, all live - no safety net!"
You've been presenting a show on BBC R2, has that had an effect on the new record?
"My BBC Radio 2 show was major catalyst for making this album. I had been listening to so much jazz recently, the show has been going 4 years and it has become really popular. I am really inside this music at the moment and felt a need to express that on my own project."
Who has been your favourite guest on the show?
"Clint Eastwood who has a genuine appreciation for jazz was such a great guest. He loves talking about music and it just felt like such a warm relaxed conversation."
You've been quoted as saying that this is your 'first proper jazz album' – why is that? What defines that for you?
"It’s probably an incorrect way to describe it but I haven’t made a record quite like this before. The closest I got was my very first record ‘Heard it all Before’. All in one room, single takes, rarely using headphones, really concentrating on the jazz and standards repertoire and giving more space for solos. It felt like an approach I hadn’t visited for sometime."
You also mentioned recently that you'd like to get involved in any future Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga collaborations – who would be the artist you'd choose above any other to record an album with?
"Beyonce! Prince! Nicki Minaj! Tom Waits! Flying Lotus! Let’s make it happen!!!"
What are your touring plans for the new album?
"We’re still working it out. If this album is any kind of success I’ll definitely tour it properly."
You've played a pretty broad spectrum of gigs, from Ronnie Scott's to Glastonbury. Which shows do you prefer, the big festivals or the smaller, more intimate gigs?
"They offer such different pleasures and I love the opportunity of doing both. A small gig like Ronnies is such a test as a musician as you can hear everything so clearly - you have to be at your best. Glasto - well you’ve got to perform , but you have to try and make people feel like they’re at Ronnies! Making those big ones feel intimate is the challenge there."
Do you have a favourite place to perform?
"It’s pretty hard to beat The Hollywood Bowl in LA. I’ve played there 4 times, I love it!"
What's the weirdest show you've ever played?
"A funeral for a dog. I’m not kidding."
Do you have any idea yet what you'll work on next?
"I’m a working at the moment on a new, more originals based album that dips into other genres again and volume two of Interlude! Plenty to come."
Interlude will be available in hmv stores from Monday October 6th