My Space: Jamie Cullum, musician
The singer-songwriter opens the doors to his studio in Shepherd’s Bush, west London
Sunday 17 January 2010
Jamie Cullum’s west London studio. Photograph: James Royall
People always ask me: “What did you spend your money on? Where are the cars and the houses?” To be honest, this is what I always dreamed about having: a space to make noise in. As messy and as crazy as this studio is, having the ability to come to my own place and make noise on a variety of instruments is what I always really wanted.
This studio is rented. I live about two miles away and normally cycle here. I guess I could build a studio at home if I had enough room, but I don’t. And I like the idea of coming to work.
It’s a great place for getting ideas. I sit around for ages waiting for inspiration. Then when I get an idea I want to go with it and get something as quickly as possible. It’s like catching a fly in a bottle. I’ll play with drums for a bit, then the piano for a bit, play the guitar. I’ll sit on the cushion and write lyrics. I’ll reward myself with a trip to the pub if I finish a verse.
Mostly I’m here on my own, unless I hook up a jam, and then up to 10 people can be squashed in here. Kyle Eastwood, who’s a jazz musician and the son of Clint Eastwood, worked with me on the Gran Torino soundtrack right in this room.
Being here on my own can feel isolating, but that can be a good thing. It helps focus the mind. If I’m on a mission to finish something I can be here until morning breaks. But all that thinking can drive you mad. I have to have 10-minute power naps on the floor sometimes.
A studio allows you to indulge your untidiness and your penchant for toys and curiosities that really wouldn’t work in a grown-up house. I wouldn’t call this studio the ultimate musician’s playground, however. I’ve seen the ultimate. It’s Mark Knopfler’s. It’s better organised, got better gear, more space, windows. And it’s less smelly.?
“Don’t Stop The Music” is out on 25 January
In the picture
MIXING DESK I play several instruments (not all of them that well) and I route all them all through this mixing desk. It’s like a big switchboard, connected to an Apple Mac. It enables me to get a tune onto iTunes easily, so I can listen to it later in the car on my iPod.
CASIO KEYBOARD This is an old toy keyboard that a friend of mine in San Francisco customised for me. It sounds like Terminator right before the robots took over: you get a normal pleasant-sounding “ding-ding-ding” sound, then it suddenly goes ballistic. It’s even got a panic button on it that can switch it off when it gets too much.
TYPEWRITER I love using this to write lyrics. It feels very final when you type, which helps you concentrate. It’s an Olivetti Valentine that I got off eBay for £120. It’s a bit of a design classic. I saw that Paul Auster had one. I’m a big fan.
DISC Some musicians like to decorate their walls with discs saying: “1 million records sold in America”. I prefer to put up discs marking sales in lesser-known countries. This one marks the fact I’ve sold 5,000 records in Finland. They like to party, I discovered. They like to have a few drinks.
CARD This is the weirdest bit of fan mail I’ve ever received. It came through to the office one day. It says: “To Jamie – love your music.” It’s from a porn actress called Rebecca. I don’t often get fan mail like this. A woman once offered me her daughter’s virginity, which actually disgusted me. But it’s important to have things in the studio that make people curious.
WRESTLING MASK This is a traditional Mexican wrestling mask, which I picked up in Mexico City when I did a gig there. I know that the singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt has loads of hats. He puts one on if he’s in need of inspiration. I’ve tried doing that with this, but I found it was quite hard to breathe. Occasionally I answer the door with it on though…
GUITAR I bought this Fender Mustang when I first started to make some money. It marked the beginning of my love affair with vintage instruments, which I prefer, as you get a real sense of life from them. Whenever I’ve recorded guitar on my albums, it’s been this one. For me, it’s symbolic of having some success.
SHOE BOX I’m no longer a shoeaholic, but I used to be. I used to spend all my time on tour either buying records or shoes. I was going to throw loads of my shoes away, then I realised that some of them were important to me: I wore one pair on an album cover; the cowboy boots are the ones I wore on MTV, when I slipped up and bashed my head; the really brightly coloured ones were given to me by Pharrell.
YAMAHA PIANO This is a gift from Yamaha. It’s a C7 piano, worth around £20,000. Yamahas sound great, but the best thing about them is that they also stand up to the punishment I give them. Other well-known brands sound great also, but they don’t last as long.