Interview: Jamie Cullum

The jazz-pop singer and pianist talks about fatherhood, his new release, and more

Craig Monts

Written by Craig Monts Published on 15.07.2013 10:01:35 (updated on 15.07.2013) Reading time: 4 minutes

We recently caught up with the award winning singer songwriter Jamie Cullum ahead of his Colours of Ostrava performance. Jamie’s recently released album Momentum sees a musical change for the 33-year-old. What were the changes and how does the new Jamie compare to the old one?

CM: Jamie, tell us about your new release Momentum. What’s the origin of the title?

JC: My life’s changed in a lot of ways since the last few records, you know, I’m a father now, I have multiple responsibilities, far beyond just looking after myself, and so this album was made in pockets of time, rather than the luxury of all the time in the world. The other thing, the album is really about that crossover period where you’re really still a young man, but also you’ve got one foot in this incredibly grown-up, adult world where you’re the leader of your pack, and the album really is about that kind of balance of your childish fantasies with these grand and quite epic responsibilities. I think it’s momentum that carries you through that, really, so that’s how I came up with the title.

CM: With all that stuff going on, writing must’ve been catch as catch can?

JC: I just kind of hurled myself into it, and the whole thing happened without a great deal of thought, which sounds careless, but I’ve come to realise that thought is the enemy of creativity in a lot of ways. So instead of going into my music room, my work room, my studio, whatever you want to call it, and worrying whether I had this type of song, or whether my fans would like this type of song, or whether this type of song fitted into my world, I just went in there and had fun in the small amount of time I had available, and made the music, and kind of worried about it afterwards. 

CM: It must have been fun being forced to rely on your instincts.

JC: It’s easy to rely on your instincts when you are more or less unknown, and people aren’t expecting anything [from] you [other] than to play a gig in front of 20 people or whatever. There comes this level of expectation, and as much as I’ve always tried to push that aside, it always comes into play, so I think big life changes help to put things in perspective, and you realise that you do need to hurl yourself into it without thinking.

CM: That must be pretty difficult these days with the amount of contact an artist can have with their fans via countless social networking sites.

JC: If you find out what everybody thinks about you, then you’ll act accordingly, rather than following your artistic instincts, so that’s what I did, I call it artistic instincts, I call it going into the studio and having a bloody good time [laughs].

CM: Do all these big changes in your life mean you’re writing about different things?

JC: I am writing about different things, definitely. I think I’m learning to be more honest in my songwriting The things I’m experiencing, they’re the very profound things I’ve experienced over the last two years, which have been very surprising to me, which is, that feeling that in a lot of ways your youth genuinely is over. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, in a way, it’s kind of a beautiful thing putting that stage of your life behind you, and moving forwards. So I think the album’s about remembering that childlike excitement and marrying it up with that level of responsibility. 

CM: You must be looking forward to getting out there and performing the new material live?

JC: I am, yeah, y’know it’s always nerve-wracking presenting a new thing, especially when it’s another kind of leap forward, in my mind. But, you know, I believe in it so it should be really fun, I hope people enjoy it as well. One of the good things about this record is that firstly, I made it with the band I’m going to tour with, and secondly, I didn’t cut any of these tunes, until I felt they could be played by me and the piano. If necessary, I could play the whole album back to front just me and the piano. Obviously it would sound different, but they all have a basis in that Randy Newman world, piano vocalist.

CM: But you’ll be playing some of your old favourites too right? 

JC: I couldn’t get away from the old favourites if I tried, because they just come out of me without even being asked to, so yeah, they’ll be there. I don’t think I’ve ever played a song the same way twice, and I don’t say that because I’m some ‘Oh, he can’t play the same thing twice,’ I just normally forget what I’m doing, so it normally comes out differently. So yes, they’ll be adapted on a nightly basis while I try to remember how to play them [laughs]. 

Jamie Cullum will be appear on the Česká spořitelna stage on July 21 at 21:45 at this year’s Colours of Ostrava Festival. For more information or to buy tickets visit 

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