Interview: Jamie Cullum

Jamie Cullum returns this week with his sixth offering, Momentum, which he proclaimed in an interview with Cherwell, is a “songwriter’s album”. Since 2010’s The Pursuit, Cullum has married ex-model and novelist Sophie Dahl, been involved in Sky One’s Must Be The Music as a judge and continued his role as a host of his Radio 2 late night jazz show. A busy man, he himself admits that a “biographical element” may have “creeped into Momentum” due to his altered perspective on things in the last four years.

With only two covers on his new album, including an adaption of Cole Porter’s ‘Love for Sale’ complete with Roots Manuva and the iconic 90s bassline, this marks a significant departure, especially from his 2003 breakthrough Twentysomething which had nine out of fourteen of its tracks as cover versions. For Cullum, this “doesn’t mark a conscious move away” from his earlier work, but more a “focus on songwriting”. 2003 was “still a world of CDs” and now that the internet has taken over, “everything in some way, is a sort of niche”. The ability to record and distribute your own music, practically from your bedroom, seems to have had a profound effect on Cullum, who is now more involved in his own creative pro- cess than ever before.

With his own self-named ‘Terrified Studios’ at home, Cullum can practically wander out of his own bedroom and record a take, something he actually did on new track ‘Sad, Sad World’ to get “that husky tone”. This sense of spontaneity is reflected in his live performances, known for their improvisational nature and although Cullum’s “a bit more tired” now, he still has “that surge of adrenaline” he can’t quite describe. The constant presence of his own home studio which he admits “sounds a lot grander than it is”, has “really allowed [Cullum] to diversify” with a much more personal offering.

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Cullum has always been known for his expansive musical knowledge, showcased on his BBC Radio 2 show. According to many sources, he turned down a place for History at Oxford. However, Cullum admits this has been vastly exaggerated over the years and that he was merely “on that path, but felt like it was some- one else’s” deciding to “do something a bit different” by going to study down the road at Reading.

Nevertheless, Cullum’s experiences at university made him the musician he is today: he was part of a £1m bidding war between major record labels even before he’d left Reading. He “played a lot of gigs for most of [his] finals” which apparently “did something to [his] brain” that apparently helped but which he “definitely wouldn’t recommend”.

On the question of collaboration, he answers “definitely Beyonce!”. In general though, he’s just “gonna trust [his] guts”.