Contactmusic.com speak with Jamie Cullum
What have you been doing since the last album?
Well it's that traditional thing that I've been away for four years. discovering aliens! I toured for two years so I did gigs and festivals everywhere. When I came back I was in need of recuperation time. You get a weird sense of who you are when you're on the road constantly and you need time to let your mind go a bit.
I need time to regain my creative juices. I probably sat on the sofa for six months, you know, watched Colombo, ate Chinese food, read, saw my friends, took the dog for a walk. But also at the same time I started building the studio. I slowly started buying bits for a studio, set it all up, learnt how it all worked. I did a bit of jamming with my brother, he's a DJ and we did some electronic stuff together. I played in someone else's band, just piano, no singing.
I did music stuff, but I didn't immediately get on with another Jamie Cullum album. After about eight to ten months of that, I started on the album.
The rumour is that the new album is more adventurous.. In what way?
In every way possible. I think I've been frightened of going noisier and crazier. For example if I wrote a pop song, I'd put piano all over it to make sure nobody thought it was a pop song. This time, like the tune 'I'm All Over it Now', I wrote it and thought, this is like a three minute piano pop song, so why don't I make it sound like that.
Things are longer, it's less polished, things don't have beginnings, middles or endings. It's a whole album rather than a collection of tracks.
Did you set out with an idea of how you wanted it to be, or did it just evolve?
No, I set out with an idea, but it always evolves anyway. I set out with an idea of how I wanted it to be with thirty songs and had to whittle them down to twelve. I actually recorded twenty, then had to settle on the twelve that made the album.
How do you choose?
It's really hard. There comes a point where you have to resort to your experience and put our ego aside to decide what makes the best album rather than what you think should go on there. It's what makes it work as a whole piece.
But now it's finished and it's called The Pursuit, I couldn't imagine it any other way.
How did you get into the whole jazz/pop combo in the first place?
I grew up listening to both. I listened to rock, pop, jazz, hip hop, electronic, sample music. There was a great album by DJ Shadow, called Introducing. When I got that I was about fifteen, and it brought together so much of what I liked.. Strings, jazz, soul, but with this electronic beat. In my head I have all of these music styles floating around, but I use my strongest points which are understanding and loving pop, but also having a love and an understanding of jazz.
Why is it called The Pursuit?
Well it's called The Pursuit for a lot of reasons. Many people say it's because it relates to a book called The Pursuit of Love, which is obviously something which has coloured my life over the past couple of years. For me I suppose. I turned 30 in August, and it reminded me of life the journey, not the destination. Being a musician reminds you of that constantly, there are no finish lines. You keep working and trying to get better. It just reminds you to join the ride really.
All I know is that I've made a new album, and I think it's better than anything I've done before, and that the next one will be even better.
Do you think maybe you've brought a new life to jazz in 2009 with this new album?
I don't think jazz needed a new life. Jazz isn't meant to be commercial, it's meant to be cutting edge and difficult, so when you mix it with a style which isn't meant to be cutting edge, one that is supposed to be comfortable like pop, it's quite hard to make it work. I make it work because it's a sound which appeals to me. Whether anyone else thinks so I don't know. It's not about making jazz more popular, I think it's about me working in the pop arena but using a jazzy influence.
You have accumulated such a wide audience. Demographically you've hit them all. What do you put that down to?
I like to think it's because it's real. What I do is not something that somebody else has cooked up, I'm pretty much myself. I'm not a creation, I am who I am. Hopefully it's because they think the music is good.
There is a lot of talk about your cover of 'Please Don't Stop the Music' at the moment.
It's not going to be a single, it's just something we did to put out online because we were shooting the exploding piano cover and we decided that while we were making the cover, we may as well do something else. So we decided to make a video, but the video wouldn't have worked for the song 'I'm All Over It'. So we did for Don't Stop the Music and put it out virally. But what is viral these days? You basically out it out on YouTube, and leave it for people to discover in their own time. It's F***ing cool. I'm delighted with it and it was so much fun to do as well.
How do you go through the selection process of tracks to cover? Do you just pick out something you like and see what you can do with it, or is there more behind it?
You don't really pick them, it's quite hard to describe. It's like asking someone how they write songs or what their inspiration is. Doing a cover is exactly the same way, you don't just go, I'm going to take that and do this, and there you go. The inspiration comes to you in exactly the same way as it does when you write a song. It can come to you in the bath or when you wake up, then it just finds it's way. It needs to feel as if you are writing a song. It's not so calculated, for me it's a bit more like writing a song, which is why my covers end up sounding so different to the original. It's like trying to make it your own. If it doesn't feel like I've written it once it's finished, then it's wrong. Every cover I have done has always ended up feeling as close to me as the songs I have written, and I bet you Sinatra would say the same.
If you could pick any of your tracks and play it at any venue, what would you pick?
That's an impossible question to answer.
Ok, you can play two tracks..
Red Rocks looks like a pretty amazing venue, I'd love to play there. I'd love to play the final track on the new album there.
The final track? Now that has more of a house vibe doesn't it? How did you come up with that?
Well it came from some work I did with my brother which we did for another band. I never intended to use any of that material on this album, but it's just such a good song. I actually tried to do it in loads of different ways, I tried to it a bit like Ray Charles, a bit jazzy, but eventually just left it the way that it was written.
Can you tell us something we wouldn't know about you.
There is plenty that you don't need to know about me, and that's why you don't know.
So what can we see from you in 2010?
Tour. Big tour. World tour.starting in Japan.
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