Jamie Cullum talks ‘The Pursuit,’ tour plans

After four albums, jazz-influenced English singer/songwriter/pianist Jamie Cullum [ tickets ] feels like he finally got it right with his forthcoming release, “The Pursuit.” The collection pays tribute to his musical influences by offering original songs as well as covers ranging from Rihanna to Cole Porter.

“I think it kind of sums up what I’m trying to do, any preconceived notions that there might be about the music I’m making,” Cullum told LiveDaily via telephone from his London home. “I was really striving to maintain that common thread throughout, even though it is kind of eclectic. The main goal for me was to really do justice to the breadth of my influences for the first time. I’ve always hinted at my love of rock and funk and hip-hop music and electronic music in other albums. I’ve always been into that. I don’t think I’ve ever really grasped that fully and made it so obvious on the other records. I just wanted to be more adventurous and confident.”
“The Pursuit,” due in stores March 2, is Cullum’s third for Verve Records (fifth overall) and his first in four years. It follows last year’s Golden Globe nomination for Cullum and Clint Eastwood of “Gran Torino” as Best Original Song. Cullum’s prior album releases, “Twentysomething” and “Catching Tales,” sold more than 4 million copies combined worldwide. Cullum explained he purposely made an eclectic album this time around.

“I think the writing was on the wall,” Cullum said. “It’s my fifth album. I’m just turning 30. What else am I going to do but make something I really wanted to make? That’s what I did, really. I think, because I took a little time off before I made it, I had a chance of gaining some perspective. You realize that you don’t have to worry about pleasing everyone. You just worry about making a bold and strong statement.

“I think it’s been a merging of my two personalities, musically, that kind of emerged when I was 13 or 14, when I first really started getting involved in music,” he continued. “Really, early on, I was a grunge and rock-‘n’-roll kid. I wanted to be Kurt Cobain or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was really into Metallica and Sepultura and then I got into hip-hop and stuff. That was my early teens.

“It wasn’t until my later teens that I moved into jazz. That was mainly due to sampled music through A Tribe Called Quest, the Beatnuts and Slum Village. Then I started playing jazz. There’d be some weeks where I’d be playing guitar in a rock band with ripped jeans and pretending I smoked cigarettes. Then the following weekend, I’d wear a suit, brush my hair and play in jazz bands. I think the changes that really happened gradually is those two personalities have merged and created the true persona musically I was meant to be.”

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An unlikely heavy-metal fan, Cullum said there’s a common link between jazz and heavy metal.

“I think there is a stronger link there than people might think,” he said. “Within that music [heavy metal] is really great musicianship. You’ll find immensely talented musicians in that music. I always gravitated toward music where the instruments were played really well at a young age. Fast forward to the guitar solos. Jazz was a whole world of people playing really fast on their instruments. From a basic point of view, that was something that linked the two.”

Beginning March 4, Cullum will tour the US behind “The Pursuit.” He said he “can’t wait” to head over to the States, and added that he’ll visit cities not on this itinerary during the next leg of the jaunt.

“I’ve had such a great time over in the States playing the live shows,” he said. “We’re definitely looking forward to it. It’s good when you’ve got a new album, and getting out there and playing it for people is pretty exciting.”

So what should fans expect?

“That’s always a tough question,” he said. “I never have a set list or a particularly planned show. I tend to walk up on stage and play what I feel. So, obviously, we’re going to feature heavily the new material. It’s going to be energetic and all that kind of stuff. It should be as unpredictable as ever.”

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