For his love

Aww, ain’t it sweet? Jamie Cullum writes his chart-topping songs for his fiancee!

BABY-FACED jazz/pop artiste Jamie Cullum is a die-hard romantic and it shows in the songs on his latest and fifth album, The Pursuit. Engaged to author and former plus-sized model Sophie Dahl, 32, the mop-haired singer/songwriter admits in a recent telephone interview that he cannot stop thinking about Dahl whenever he writes songs.

“I think every song that I have written since I’ve known her has been for her, in a way,” says the 30-year-old multi-instrumentalist. “It’s funny. You can’t help but write songs about things that are important in your life. You can try not to but it’s impossible.”

He is happy to report that she, in turn, is a huge fan of his music. “Well, she loves me, so she wouldn’t be able to be objective anyway.”

Known for mixing swinging jazz with pop hooks and the fervour of rock music, Cullum is one of Britain’s all-time best-selling jazz artistes. His previous three albums, including 2003’s breakthrough Twentysomething, have collectively sold four million copies worldwide.

His music gets even wilder on his latest album, he says excitedly.

The moppet and his gal: Sophie Dahl inspires’s most of Cullum’s chart-topping songs, he says

“I think it’s kind of noisier than anything else I’ve done before. I’m pushing the boundaries of what people might expect me to do a bit more on this record. And I’m generally more confident as a person and musician as I get older, so I think it’s just a little bit crazier than anything I’ve ever done before.”

Here are eight questions with Cullum:

You are known to be hyperactive on stage – you broke the piano’s keyboard lid at your show in Singapore in 2006. How many pianos have you broken over the years?

You know, normally, if I damage a piano, I always have it fixed, at my cost. I don’t tend to break them. I’m a bit rough with them, so they do come away with a few dents and bruises sometimes, but nothing irreparable, ever.

How did it feel like to be the biggest-selling English jazz artiste of all time when you were only 24 (after the release of Twentysomething in 2003)?

I don’t spend time thinking about stuff like that. You just got to keep your eyes and ears on making music and not go overboard with this whole worrying about how much you sold or how much you’re going to sell and stuff like that.

It’s important to stay focused on making good music. I mean, obviously I’m incredibly proud to have sold so many records because it means that I am connecting with people.

As a musician or performer, you want to be able to connect to people. You want them to listen to what you do and you want it to mean something to them.

You sang on reality TV show Dancing With the Stars recently. How would you rate your dancing skills?

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I’m the worst dancer in the universe! I’m terrible, terrible.

A lot of your songs are co-written with your older brother Ben. What was it like when you two were growing up?

As far back as I can remember, we were always hitting drumsticks on things, playing guitars and piano and stuff.

When my brother was about 13 or 14, he got a four-track tape recorder for Christmas and we spent our time re-recording versions of songs by Metallica, AC/DC and Extreme. We made a drum kit out of a plastic bin and a sofa. He played guitar and I played some bass. It was fun.

You wrote the lyrics and contributed music to the title track of award-winning movie Gran Torino (2008) with its director and star Clint Eastwood (the song was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 2008). What was it like to make music for him?

As amazing as you would imagine it to be. You know, the great thing about Clint is that he gave me a lot of freedom to do what I wanted on that song.

That’s why he gets such good results from people and from his films. He works with people he trusts and lets them do their job rather than being really overbearing and not letting them get on with it. He is extraordinary in that fashion.

You’ve also collaborated musically with everyone from jazz harmonica legend Toots Thielemans and swing icons Count Basie Orchestra to hip-hop producer Pharrell and Japanese punk-jazz outfit Soil & “Pimp” Sessions. Who else would you like to work with in the future?

I’d love to work with Kanye West. He has got so much to say with his production, his songwriting and as a rapper, so I’d love to work with him someday.

I’ve met him briefly at a party once. He’s actually more shy than you would think.

What keeps you busy when you are not working on your music?

I love to spend time with my friends, my girlfriend and family. I play football and tennis. I like to cycle. I read a lot, watch movies and stuff.

I like pretty simple pleasures – a cold glass of beer on a sunny afternoon, a nice cappuccino. I like to go out and hang out, or see gigs.

The last good movie I saw was the animated film, Coraline (based on Stephen King’s best-selling young adult book). I thought that was fantastic.

Complete this sentence: If I could live my life again, I would…

Probably make sure my grandfather wrote down the story of his life before he died. He died when I was 13 years old. I would have made him sit down and at least tell his whole life story into a tape recorder. – The Straits Times, Singapore / Asia News Network

n ‘The Pursuit’, distributed by Universal Music Malaysia, is available in stores now.

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