The Natural Jazz-Man ~ Jamie Cullum

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I am back stage at the 36th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival at the iconic and historic Hollywood Bowl. I’m waiting to interview British Jazz Pop Singer & Pianist  Jamie Cullum. He’s late so I read over my Wikki notes:

Just after Cullum made his first television appearance, on Parkinson in April 2003, he signed a £1m contract[7] for three albums with Universal, who beat Sony in a bidding war. Cullum’s second studio album, Twentysomething, released in October 2003, went platinum and became the No. 1 selling studio album by a jazz artist in the United Kingdom. Cullum ended 2003 as the UK’s biggest selling jazz artist of all time

We jump forward 11 years and Jamie Cullum has collaborated with a who’s who of music greatness from The White Stripes to Kanye West. Cullum has performed work by Massive Attack, Pharell, Rihanna, Pussycat Dolls, Radiohead, Gnarls Barkley, Elton John,Justin Timberlake, John Legend, Joy Division, Lady Gaga and many others.

Cullum has played at many large music festivals, including Glastonbury Festival (in 2004 and 2009), New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (in 2005), Coachella 2005, 2006 South by Southwest, North Sea Jazz Festival, the Hollywood Bowl (performing with the Count Basie Orchestra), the 2006 Playboy Jazz Festival and the 2007Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival. On 30 April 2006 Cullum played his biggest ever crowd on Queensday in the Netherlands

Wow! impressive resume. Jamie finally arrives with a warm smile and firm handshake. 

[Saturday, June 14, 2014 Hollywood Bowl, Playboy Jazz Festival]

Scotty Moore:    

First question, first festival you went to? What was your first music festival?

Jamie Cullum:     

My first music festival was Glastonbury.

Scotty Moore:    

Glaston? (laughs)

Jamie Cullum:          

Um, yeah, well I grew up near Glastonbury, um, I went the first time when I was 12, uh, 12-13, and we cycled there, and it was back in the day when Glastonbury wasn’t like this fenced off-

Scotty Moore:   

Yeah.

Jamie Cullum:    

Thing, it was a huge, massive, uh, camp of hippies, and then you just had to have a wristband to get into the middle part of the-

Scotty Moore:       

What year is this?

Jamie Cullum:   

’93?

Scotty Moore:      

Do you remember the headliners? Do you remember the headliners?

Jamie Cullum:     

Uh, Black Grape.

Scotty Moore:     

Nice

Jamie Cullum:  

Um, I saw Jeff Buckley.

Scotty Moore:       

Nice.

Jamie Cullum:       

I saw, I saw Radiohead.

Scotty Moore:    

Radiohead?

Jamie Cullum:     

Um …

Scotty Moore:  

Wow.

Jamie Cullum:   

You know, Ben, oh, Alex Sveti, I saw Dr. John at that festival.

Scotty Moore:   

(laughs)

Scotty Moore:

Were you with a group of mates, or girlfriend?

Jamie Cullum:  

No no, I was with like, mates and various girlfriends really.

Scotty Moore:     

Nice.

Jamie Cullum:     

Um, but it was, it was, you know, we jumped, we jumped the fence really. It was not [crosstalk 01:41] security thing.

Scotty Moore:  

Yeah yeah yeah.

Jamie Cullum:   

Because we knew the fields around there, so-

Scotty Moore:   

You didn’t camp out? You didn’t do the camping?

Jamie Cullum:    

We didn’t need to.

Scotty Moore:

Really

Jamie Cullum:     

So, but then the, the years after that I went to this festival called “Phoenix Festival,” um, which is like a kind of, a, a Glastonbury, then I must have gone to Glastonbury about 10 or 12 times.

Scotty Moore: 

Is it still going on? The Phoenix?

Jamie Cullum:     

Uh, no.

Scotty Moore:     

Okay.

Jamie Cullum:   

Phoenix doesn’t exist anymore, but um-

Scotty Moore:     

It’s like reading, there’s obviously-

Jamie Cullum:     

Phoenix was the one I probably went to, I went to for 5 days.

Scotty Moore:      

Okay.

Jamie Cullum:      

At camp David, you know. All my formative- All my important formative experiences happened during that weekend.

Scotty Moore:   

Nice. Um, so I saw your YouTube on Jacarta, Indonesia Festival, so tell me about experience.

Jamie Cullum:        

That’s-

Scotty Moore:    

How, how many, how many were there? (laughs)

Jamie Cullum:     

It was uh, in the 10’s of thousands.

Scotty Moore:   

10’s of thousands?

Jamie Cullum:       

Um, yeah, it was-

Scotty Moore:  

It was actually more than that! (laughs) You know? [Fact Check 50,000]

Jamie Cullum:     

It was, you know I think what’s great about it is you go to a place like Jakarta, you know, I don’t know much about it, and um-

Scotty Moore: 

Well I never knew there was Jazz fans in [crosstalk 02:30]

Jamie Cullum:    

You can’t judge it by record sales or anything anymore anyways.

Scotty Moore:     

Yep.

Jamie Cullum:      

Um, and you go out there, and suddenly there’s like, 20,000 people who know your every word to every song that you do.

Scotty Moore:   

Yes.

Jamie Cullum:     

And really enjoying solos, and enjoying musicianship and listening, but also dancing and shouting and, you know.

Scotty Moore:    

Yeah.

Jamie Cullum:       

Loving it, it’s great.

Scotty Moore:       

Alright, some other, just … Okay, when did you start playing? When and why did you start playing? (laughs)

Jamie Cullum:    

Um, I started playing the guitar to impress girls when I was about-

Scotty Moore:        

Come on, come on!

Jamie Cullum:      

10, 10 or 11.

Scotty Moore:     

Eddie Van Halen for my generation, you know, David Gilmore. (laughs)

Jamie Cullum:    

Yeah, no, it started out kind of heavy metal, kind of AC-DC and Van Halen, definitely.

Scotty Moore:       

Yes.

Jamie Cullum:    

Um, and then swiftly taken over by Nirvana and Sound Garden, and …

Scotty Moore:    

Yeah.

Jamie Cullum:      

Pearl Jam and stuff, so I was learning a lot of those songs and getting them down.

Scotty Moore:   

Is that some of your influences?

Jamie Cullum:    

Yeah.

Scotty Moore:    

Yeah, that’s amazing.

Jamie Cullum:      

Yeah, very much, and now I, I- Piano came a little later, I was getting into hip hop and sample music and, uh, I started trying to pick apart those songs, and …

Scotty Moore:       

So guitar and piano?

Jamie Cullum:          

Yeah.

Scotty Moore:   

Yeah, because you’re, you’re really good at piano, so I, saw- Is that, would- Is that your main?

Jamie Cullum:     

Uh, I think so. Definitely these days.

Scotty Moore:   

Yeah.

Jamie Cullum:         

Yeah, yeah.

Scotty Moore:    

Yeah.

Jamie Cullum:     

Mhm (affirmative)

Scotty Moore:        

Okay, um, okay, first couple of the tunes that you learned? (laughs)

Jamie Cullum:     

Um, Fire And Rain, Jade Sailor, and uh, Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Scotty Moore:    

Yes.

Jamie Cullum:    

Fire And Rain was for a girl at school, um-

Scotty Moore:    

Okay, is your family musical?

Jamie Cullum:   

Yeah, they’re all musical. My brother’s a musician for a living, so he’s a producer and a songwriter and a DJ, um, and-

Scotty Moore:       

Nice.

Jamie Cullum:     

My mom and my dad-

Jamie Cullum:         

I try and keep him away. Um, my parents are, were not vocational musicians, but they’re very musical, always musical in the house. When dad plays guitar, my mom sings and plays guitar.

Scotty Moore:      

Right. Now let me see, some others

Jamie Cullum:       

And my Uncle is a great musician. My, my mom’s uh, brother is a, he’s like a, he’s like um, you know, he’s really influenced by Joe Pass and Pat Steele and stuff-

Scotty Moore:     

So the whole like, growing up and, like, to me the community you were raised in, in London, in England?

Jamie Cullum:   

Well, it was- I grew up in the countryside really, um-

Scotty Moore:       

Like, how far from London?

Jamie Cullum:   

Like 120 miles, past- Near Chippenham, you, you definitely know-

Scotty Moore:   

Chippenham?

Jamie Cullum:      

Uh, Chippenham. Near Bristol, actually, where [inaudible 04:32] had a massive attack of [inaudible 04:35] size-

Scotty Moore:            Population?

Jamie Cullum:   

Oh, ooh God. I don’t- I’d say Bristol’s a big city, you know.

Scotty Moore:      

Yeah

Jamie Cullum:    

Not as big as London, but it’s a big city.

Scotty Moore:  

But a little community

Jamie Cullum:      

I was in a village with maybe like 2,000.

Scotty Moore:    

So everyone knew everyone.

Jamie Cullum: 

Yes, basically. There was no, you know, no Jazz community to speak of, but my parents had some good records and my uncle would come and, he was-

Scotty Moore:    

Your first Jazz record

Jamie Cullum:         

He gave me a Joe Pass record, Joe Pass Virtuoso,

Scotty Moore:    

That was the first he put on the little … Maybe a CD? (laughs)

Jamie Cullum:   

Oh, but you know, Dave Brubeck, and uh …

Scotty Moore:   

Dave Brubeck, yeah.

Jamie Cullum:     

And Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, um, but you know, my mother also dabbled with, like, Running Off and, um, you know, some cool stuff like that. Mom always loved cool music and, and uh, as, you know, do a lot of spiritual music and, uh, like church music and stuff.

Scotty Moore:        

do you still get nervous when you get on stage?

Jamie Cullum:  

This is, you know, the big boy jazz was quite a unique one.

Scotty Moore:   

Yeah.

Jamie Cullum:     

Uh, because, it’s, it’s such a party heat, you’ve got to, you’ve got to get it right, you know?

Scotty Moore:    

Yeah, first time you’d been playing?

Jamie Cullum:    

No, second time.

Scotty Moore:   

Oh yeah.

Jamie Cullum:   

This is 8 years ago.

Scotty Moore:      

8 years ago?

Jamie Cullum:    

Yeah, yeah.

Scotty Moore:

And how old are you?

Jamie Cullum:   

Uh, 34 now.

Jamie Cullum:    

I know, most people think I’m 12, I know.

Scotty Moore:    

So what festival that you want to get invited to?

Jamie Cullum:         

Do you know, Bonnaroo looks like a good time. Look- That looks really fun, um, and you know, I love, I love, I love those, those festivals that have a bit more of a jam-man vibe to it.

Scotty Moore: 

Yes.

Jamie Cullum:  

So uh, it’s Bonnaroo. Mostly I would pick jam band festivals.

Scotty Moore:  

Very cool, um-

Scotty Moore:    

some of your Jazz, you know, Idols. Uh, some that you’re listening to, right now? Like-

Jamie Cullum:  

So I would say, Herby, and then, you know, Monk, and Thelonious, Thelonious Monk, uh, and-

Scotty Moore:    

Any, any collaborations, like, off genre that you, like, I would love to jam with, uh-

Jamie Cullum: 

Oh me? I just did a, a great new project with DJ Sammy

Scotty Moore:       

Nice!

Scotty Moore:          

When are, when are we going to hear that?

Jamie Cullum:      

Uh, that’ll be coming out, uh, uh, in the summer, right slap-bang in the middle of the summer. Um, you know, things like that.

Scotty Moore:    

All very cool.

Jamie Cullum:    

I’m always working on something.

Scotty Moore:      

do you teach music?

Jamie Cullum:     

No. I can’t read music

Scotty Moore:      

you don’t read music?

Jamie Cullum:    

I play totally by ear, yes, yeah.

Scotty Moore:       

Do you have the same band? Like, how long have you guys been together?

Jamie Cullum:     

We’ve been together 4 1/2 years now.

Scotty Moore:    

That’s nice

Scotty Moore:

And is everyone from England?

Jamie Cullum:        

Yeah.

Scotty Moore:    

So what’s after Playboy Jazz Festival? I haven’t checked your tour schedule, and then you’re back in the lineup?

Jamie Cullum:      

Oh no, we haven’t! No no no, we go back to London after Playboy.  This is the end of our tour now, we’ve been on the road 3 weeks.

Scotty Moore:   

And next album, developed?

Jamie Cullum:        

Um, yeah, no it’s done, it’s coming out in October.

Scotty Moore:           

Very cool.

Jamie Cullum:   

It’s a natural, pure jazz record. Like, my most pure jazz record I’ve ever made. Then there’ll be another more kind of pop-jazz orientated one out in the spring next year.

Scotty Moore:       

Very cool.

 

 

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