Interview by Olivier Kalousdian from Sound of Violence
An Englishman in a crooner role – a role usually vested with the talented American artists? It was a gamble, but Jamie Cullum did!And well done. With in his live, a great joke of improvisation, the taste of times journals sauce – you have to see his version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller at the Glastonbury Festival in 2009 – Jamie Cullum is required, over time, as a descendant born from the union impossible, but now legal, Elton John and Harry Connick Junior! Self-taught artist, said crossover (drawing from jazz roots, but also with contemporary rock and hip-hop) is a ball of energy despite his five feet and slender silhouette.
With Momentum, he signed a sixth album of original compositions – where previous occasions included all of his favorite artists – and we received modestly and simply in International Records, an independent record store in the 11th arrondissement of Paris.
Momentum is your sixth album already. Where was it recorded? Who produced it?
I recorded it in several different places, some at home and the other in a London studio called MRSA, in Notting Hill. I prepared the basis of titles myself and then I worked a lot with producer Dan The Automator.
You own your own studio at home?
Studio is a big word, it is mainly a few microphones, instruments and many cables lying on the floor (laughs). This is a piece of music than a studio itself.
A title in Momentum is called When I Get Famous. After more than four million albums sold, you always expect the celebrity?
(Laughs) You know, I have a strange relationship with the celebrity. This is something I never wanted and I struggle to understand.And we can not say that I’m famous, nobody chasing me down the street like Robbie Williams or Johnny Hallyday (laughs) When I Get Famous talking about a student who dreams of becoming famous one day and I! can assure you that there is nothing autobiographical in there!
You have often had good music criticism in the past, is what happens to you read?
Not. I do not avoid, but I’m not going to look. Read good or bad reviews about your work, it’s not a good thing.
In the past, Harry Connick Junior and Stevie Wonder were able to mix with talent, jazz, pop and blues rock. How would you describe your music?
Honestly, I do not describe. It’s your job to do (laughs). This is a very pop music, that’s for sure. And more than blues or rock, I like to include a touch of hip-hop and funk, all on very basic jazz. Something between Elton John, Oscar Peterson and Harry Connick Junior.
Especially for this album, the pop sound is very present, it was a desire on your part?
Strangely, it was not the starting points for Momentum. What made it more pop, they are more contemporary than previous influences.
The title Edge Of Something inevitably brings a soundtrack for a new James Bond, for example …
This is true. This title contains a database of musical dramaturgy which could very well be part of a spy movie! When I wrote the title, I also immediately felt that I was writing something very cinematic, somewhere between James Bond and Jason Bourne.
Four years have passed since your last album, which is quite long. You’ve lived many adventures since, did you need a break to revive you in writing a new album?
It’s true that I really started to write Momentum a year ago and a half, just about. But I’ve been busy in recent years: I got married, I had children and I still continued to give a lot of concerts right to left. It is important to maintain a social life and intimate, even though I’ve always thought about or played music during this period. Sometimes you have to think to remain a human being like any other and a little from this world, if your music suffers and becomes less interesting to you.
Congratulations, as we speak, for your two daughters! What these events have changed in your life as a musician?
Lot. Having children has taught me to look at things with more calm and serenity. You feel things with more depth, without a doubt. With more joy and sadness sometimes also. When you’re parents, you have to find you and decide which instance, what education you will leave to your children. Before that, you can live in the most total improvisation, you do not risk injury to someone other than you, after that, you need to be a responsible man. All this has allowed me to write more mature songs, in a sense.
This will surely make your tour a bit more complicated to organize now?
This is certain. Whether or promo tour, I’ll have to deal with my family now. But when my girls will age, they follow me wherever I go.
Who are the artists that you shall first discover your children when they are in age to listen to music?
I already listen to their music! Ray Charles was the first, I think. This is someone who is often in our kitchen (laughs). Jimmy Hendrix also … good start for children of two years, is not it?
In your influences in your musical education, you were surrounded by groups with disparate styles?
As I said, it is quite extensive. There was Nirvana, Jimmy Hendrix, Rage Against The Machine, Mettalica … many heavy rock actually!But also a lot of hip-hop with A Tribe Called Quest, The Beatnuts, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog … Finally, my jazz roots, I have taken samples of the Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest and DJ Shadow. And in parallel with all this, I once saw Harry Connick Junior on TV and I immediately flashed on his coolness and attitude crooner. He proposed a music that was affordable, but also sophisticated and very interesting. Artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis and his piano playing or Elton John and his compositions have really opened the way.Then I had my prog-rock period with the discovery of Frank Zappa. I think I’m a music nerd! A geek music.
Do you come from a family where music was important?
My brother is a professional musician (note: Ben Cullum’s brother, Jamie, is also a musician, composer and producer, he wrote the first single from Jamie: These Are The Days). My parents also play, but fans only.
Why this choice of title, Momentum?
This is related to the way I wrote the songs on the album. When I started this new album, the inspiration came easily and securities chained in my keyboard and my piano. I found that the time was really special for me.
Continue reading this interview from Sound of Violence here.