Jamie Cullum is back! Sure, it’s only been a year since his last album Momentum had us jazz handing all over the shop but we’re still unbelievably excited all the same. And, you should be too because we’re just going to throw it out there and say the crooner’s latest work is his best yet. On new album Interlude Britain’s favourite scatter goes live with a full band all recorded in one studio with a little help from Mercury prize nominee Laura Mvula, who is sublime on their collaboration Good Morning Heartache, and the legendary Gregory Porter who stars on lead single Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.
EntertainmentWise caught up with Jamie to talk all things Interlude, making babies with wife Sophie Dahl and how does he really feel about Lady GaGa shedding pop for jazz? Check out the interview below.
You're back with a new album Interlude
Yes. It’s exciting and something that happened very organically. I booked a recording session with some musicians I met whilst doing my radio show and booked in a session with them out of pure curiosity and an expectation of musical discovery. 3 days later we had recorded 20 tracks.
The lead single features Gregory Porter. What was like to work with such legendary jazz star? What did you learn from him?
It's funny to talk about lead singles! Because it’s the last thing you think about when you make an album like this! But I’m pleased it has been received and enjoyed so well. Gregory 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!
What made you choose a Nina Simone cover for the lead single?
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. This Nina Simone song is something I have been mucking around with for a long time. I have various demos of it that didn’t come off. When I realised I wanted Gregory to be a part of the album, it sprang into my mind as a duet - two guys fighting over one girl.
Jamie Cullum's new album Interlude is out this week (Island)
You’ve also worked with Laura Mvula on the album, why did you decide to team up with her for the record and what was she like to work with?
Again Laura 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. There’s very much a live emphasis on the album, perhaps a riskier move than with you’re previous work,
I think people will be quite surprised by this record (in a great way) why did you decide to make this album now?
I don’t really make decisions! I guess I do them before I have a chance to over think it. In fact, this album was recorded before my last album Momentum came out! I just felt a need to record some jazz, in a very live way with some musicians I was unfamiliar with but respected hugely from afar, push myself with my voice and piano playing and really delve into the world of some great songs. With these types of records, I find if you are not recording in a live way the results can sound quite stale and over-polished. I wanted this record to have some filth on it.
Through your radio show you say you’ve met some amazing people, how much of your show brought this album on and created this vision?
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.
This sounds like this is the album that you’ve always wanted to make, have you ever been compromised in what music you’ve made before?
It isn’t really. I have been lucky to make exactly what I want to make each time - I think you can hear that by the diversity of all my albums. The success of my last record Momentum (definitely more of a pop leaning record) meant that making ‘Interlude’ was the last thing many people expected. That wasn’t my intention, I have always just made what feels right at the time. It’s best not to listen to chatter and just follow your nose.
Along with your friend Ben Lamdin who helped curate the album you’ve turned to jazz that most probably haven’t heard before, how do you turn to such a huge back catalogue of music and try and whittle your favourites down to one album?
Ben Lamdin was the producer of the album and was instrumental in putting this record together with his band and arrangers Nostalgia 77 - a band who have made so many fine records themselves - check them out! 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!
Did you feel a responsibly with this album to maybe educate people more about jazz?
I have never felt like that. I just make stuff that feels good. On the radio show I feel that it is important to just communicate my passion for the music I’m playing. If that connects then fantastic!
The album shows your clearly not afraid to take risks, are you less afraid of chart positions and the rest of it now you’ve cemented your place in the industry or do you still feel the same sort of pressure?
I have always kept a distance from that stuff, although it is hard to ignore. My records have always worked well over time, as I tour and as I visit different countries. I don’t really have that same cycle of writing, album, promo, tour. I seem to do all at the same time, I guess because I am always working on something new. I don’t know if you ever feel like you’ve cemented anything in the industry which is always changing, but I do know I have a wonderful and loyal fan base in many places around the world.
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga have teamed up for their new jazz album Cheek To Cheek. Have you heard it what do you make of Lady Gaga turning to jazz?
She sounds like she has a genuine passion for the material. It’s an interesting move so good luck to her!
Would you want to follow suit and maybe get a pop queen on board for a similar concept?
I do like the idea of creating an album of bringing a variety of guests on board, who are less familiar with this music and creating an interesting album, that would be really fun. Or, to be honest, I would just settle with doing a duet with the great Tony Bennett!
Jame's been working with a whole host of the UK's finest artists (WENN)
You’ve been working with a whole array of new artists on their albums, as an artists who’s been in the industry for a while now do you think it’s important to help pioneer new artists?
I am always stoked to work with a new generation of talents or people or who are considered outside my sphere. In the last few years I have done vocals and piano for Pharrell, Stereo MCs, Rizzle Kicks, Sander Kleinenberg and most recently Labrinth (an extraordinary talent!). It’s challenging and exciting as a musician. Pioneering sounds far too formal! I just like collaborating!
You’ve worked with Labrinth and Rizzle Kicks on their upcoming records, what can you tell us about those appearances?
The Rizzles are such wicked guys and very talented. They have influences that stretch far and wide and a willingness to explore them - they’re just getting started on what they are capable of - they’re going down so many interesting avenues. They are smart and funny and a pleasure to work with. Labrinth is one of these people who can do so many things well you are not sure he is from planet earth. He got me in to play a particularly tricky piano part on his new album. He sent me the demos which sounded amazing as they were. I said to him I am not sure I could play it better than the demo and asked who played it originally? It was him! Piano, guitar, drums, production, songwriting, sartorial elegance - he’s got it all.
Are there any other collaborations in the pipe line?
I’ve done another track with the Dutch DJ and producer Sander Kleinenberg which will come out soon which is ace and I am also writing for a secret new project that I can’t tell you anything about.
You’ve never been scared of moving into other genres, would you consider making a full urban/RnB/hip-hop inspired album?
There are elements of all those things on my records already so I feel like I am fulfilled in just bringing in the elements as they are and exploring them that way. However I do like the idea of making a jazz album that is born out of the bedrock of great beat makers. Maybe get a beat from loads of great producers and start from there.
You’ve been credited as bring about this resurgence of interest in jazz. You maintained huge success but other jazz artists have struggled to follow, why do you think your music seems to have so much appeal?
My music has always had a huge connection with pop which is helpful. I’ve never really stopped touring which means you’re not away long enough for people to forget! Also different opportunities reignite your career every few years - my association with Pharrell, working on the Clint Eastwood film Gran Torino, starting the radio show - they all pump life back into what you’re doing. Apart from that I’ve just been bloody lucky!!
Jamie admits it's hard juggling a career with fatherhood (WENN)
Last year you and Sophie welcomed your second daughter, has being a father affected you musically?
It’s made me take more risks and made me more focused to get on with stuff. Having kids makes you realise how quick life is. How have you found juggling fatherhood and a music career? It's hard - I’m still trying to get a handle on it - does anyone ever get it right?
You’ve got two girls now, are you planning on anymore children? Are you secretly pining for another boy in the family?
I’d like a dog, gender unimportant. If we do have more kids - you will be the first to know.
You and Sophie Dahl are both very much in the public eye, how do you guys handle having a marriage in the media. Thankfully you both seem to keep your private life very private. Why do think some couples find that harder than others?
I don’t think we are so much in the public eye really! We tend to crack on with our lives, our family and our friends. Obviously sometimes our lives can be public but mostly we avoid it. It is easy to do if you want to do it that way. For us, it works.
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