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Jamie Cullum on his new album, Reading University and a love for Berkshire

PUBLISHED: 12:06 01 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:37 01 October 2019

Jamie Cullum

Jamie Cullum

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Award-winning star Jamie Cullum is back. Holly Louise Eells caught up with the jazz musician about his brand-new album, celebrating milestones, his love for the county and its influences

Critically acclaimed musician, biggest-selling British jazz artist, songwriter... the list goes on. Gracing our ears with infectiously pleasing sounds and honest lyrics from the much-anticipated eighth album, Taller is unlike anything we have heard from Jamie Cullum before, and he is the first to admit the public's reaction was different to what he is used to.

"I am very proud of this album. It seems my music has really connected with people and this is what I wanted. It is a fantastic feeling," says Jamie.

"Making this album has definitely been a journey for me. Several years ago, I recorded a few tracks, but I ended up throwing a lot of my work away because it didn't feel honest enough; it was lacking something. The songs were not reflecting the person I felt I was becoming - not that I wanted to write songs about driving my kids to school, but I was making this music at a time when there were a lot of changes happening in my life. I wanted to express more of my emotional truthfulness and genuine vulnerability."

The star explains the album, which he wrote and recorded at his nearby Buckinghamshire home, gave him an opportunity to stop and reflect back on his life. "I think working from home had more of an impact on my recordings as it meant I could be in my own space with things that were quite intimate, and not be surrounded by lots of other people," he says. "Working on this album also made me look back and realise what I have been wanting to do as a man, husband and parent over the last few years."

A proud father of two young daughters and doting husband to model and writer Sophie Dahl, he admits it has opened his eyes to share more about what is going on in his mind, whether good or bad. He explains: "It is a lesson you want to teach your children: share things and talk. I find myself telling this to my kids but you don't often follow your own advice."

Opening up about his emotions, it seems like the right time to release The Age of Anxiety, a track from his latest album. He says: "This album was an opportunity for me to reveal something I haven't before and realise it is healthy to share. I have noticed it has been a topic, more so recently, to discuss men's mental health. A lot of my contemporaries, peers and male friends are at the tail end of their 30s and are now learning to talk more about things that are bothering them, which is good as this is really important."

On the subject of late 30s, Jamie has found a new rhythm to his life and, as he approaches the big 4-0 as we go to press, he is more driven than ever to embrace living and to achieve his inspiring goals for the future. "I turn 40 this month [August]. Everything seems to be moving fast, so I thought I'd better do something that is more valuable and honest. I am at about 10% of what I want to achieve and where I want to be," he says. "I'd love to be able to read music, which is something I am working on. Also, I would love to be an event musician; that is my main goal.

"I think writing the song for the film Gran Torino, the Clint Eastwood movie, was definitely a highlight and quite a significant moment for me because after I wrote that track I felt like a real songwriter. I'm starting to dive into the world of music theory in an effort to significantly deepen what I can do at the piano. I tasted that hunger with the song and it was the first time I felt like I had started to really understand the craft a little more."

Revealing he can't read music and that he failed his grade two music exam as a child is something quite hard to believe from the ever-so-talented jazz singer-songwriter. Learning to play music by ear and improvising was easier for Jamie than reading notes on the page.

"Reading University was a major part of my life," says Jamie, speaking about his connection to Berkshire. "I performed all around the county and also in Oxfordshire. All of the gigs I played helped me to get through university and they taught me some kind of stage craft. It was an amazing thing to do because not only did it help me to pay my way through university, but I learnt so much from it too."

Jamie deeply expresses his personal goals to be a great husband to Sophie and a loving father to his two daughters.

"It is just about being the best person you can be for your family and also to have a peaceful life," he says. "We live in a very beautiful place; I really love it here. It has so many opportunities to be outside with the wife and kids amongst the most beautiful green spaces. It has a lot to offer as a countryside - great for all weathers and not being stuck indoors because it is raining and snowing. I especially love being in the woods; it is something I have a connection with and it's definitely good for the mind."

For more details on Jamie Cullum's new album, Taller, or his UK tour, visit jamiecullum.com

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