’I was a music lover before I was a musician,’ explains Jamie Cullum, describing how he has always had a keen ear for seeking out new artists and bands. The best-selling jazz pop musician, who shot to fame with his 2003 album Twentysomething, this year lent his talent-spotting abilities to putting together the line-up of the 2014 Cheltenham Jazz Festival.
Jamie reprised his role as a guest director at the popular event, and it’s one he obviously enjoys as both a performer and festivalgoer.
‘I’m a bit of a culture vulture and I like sharing music. I get to sit and chat with the wonderful directors of the festival and come up with crazy ideas and wish lists. Cheltenham just marks itself out as a festival that’s really interested in not only getting jazz to a wider audience, but also reaching out to the future of jazz in its more daring futuristic tendencies. It has a really youthful feel.
It was therefore an ideal opportunity for Jamie to showcase many of the tracks from his latest album Momentum. Released last year, it combines his love of jazz with electronica and hip hop influences, most notably on his collaboration with the rapper Roots Manuva for an innovative version of the 1930 Cole Porter classic ‘Love for Sale’. He also reveals that much of the songwriting on the album has been drawn from his family life in Buckinghamshire, where he lives with his wife, the model and author Sophie Dahl, and their two daughters.
“Cheltenham reaches out to the future of jazz in its more daring futuristic tendencies. It has a really youthful feel.”
‘I think when you have kids you’re able to tap into that, the dual-pronged fork of parenthood and the intimacy of sharing your life with someone, which reveals more about yourself than you possibly wanted to know. I think it’s a really interesting subject to put in songs. I created a lot of this album in my house, which was a real pleasure, and it’s bizarre because you kind of get these more personal moments on a record that possibly wouldn’t exist if you were going into a studio.’
When he’s not performing around the globe, Jamie’s family keeps him close to the South West. ‘My parents now live in Bath, so I’ve done the journey between Chippenham, Bath and Bristol thousands of times. I also went to school in Chippenham and grew up next to there. I guess it’s just part of my soul – that would be the best way to describe it!’