With lines such as “Don’t make me live for my Friday nights/ drinking eight pints and getting into fights”, Twentysomething, the title track of Jamie Cullum’s breakthrough second album, celebrated the carefree exuberance of being young.
However, the Essex-born pianist never imagined that almost a decade after its 2003 release he would still be singing the same song. The album sold more than a million copies, cementing his place as the biggest selling UK jazz artist of all time. But having turned 30 last year, he is contemplating changing the song’s lyrics to reflect his slightly more advanced age.
“It’s quite odd singing something like that now because your concerns and preoccupations definitely change as you get older,” he says. Surely the song will sound even stranger in 10 years when he will be 40? “I … imagine I’ll still look about 17 years old,” laughs Cullum, who attributes the five-year gap between his last album 2005’s Catching Tales and his fourth opus The Pursuit – out tomorrow – to the prospect of potential creative burnout.
“A lot of that time was spent on the road touring in support of the last two albums,” he says. “I visited every continent two or three times. So when I got back I needed to let my mind become fertile again and get ready to produce some new urgent music.”
He believes his music has matured in the intervening years. “My intentions haven’t necessarily changed in an obvious fashion,” he says. “I’ve become more confident and able to follow through with my thoughts and feelings.” Having previously worked with hip-hop producers such as Handsome Boy Modeling School’s Dan The Automator and The Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams, Cullum is known for pushing stylistic boundaries.
The Pursuit’s most adventurous track is We Run Things, a collaboration with his elder brother Ben Cullum that is based around a house-inspired groove.
“That track is built around a beat that we made quite some time ago,” he says. “Initially we were going to give it to someone else but it was so funky that we decided that it had to be on my record.”
Ranging from the Massive Attack-sampling reworking of Stephen Sondheim’s Not While I’m Around to Cole Porter’s Just One of Those Things, recorded at Tony Bennett’s Los Angeles studio with the Count Basie Orchestra, The Pursuit combines traditional approaches with contemporary techniques.
“With this album, I tried to very much embrace the love I have for both new and old music,” he says. “I grew up in the 90s listening to pop and rock music of the time … It wasn’t until a little bit later that I started getting into jazz. In my mid-20s, I started to try to find a way to bring the two together. “I feel there’s a way to mix a kind of classic sound with a sound that’s a bit more 21st century – to really make a sound that could only be made in this day and age.”