Jamie Lidell: Changing Things Up
British singer Jamie Lidell – who collaborated with Mocky on our Mixed Tape 03 compilation – has found his current home of choice together with his wife, photographer Lindsey Rome and is now based in a bona fide music capital: Nashville, Tennessee. A place distinctly unlike his previous places of residence, Berlin and New York. Nashville is different. And so is his life. For the first time ever, Jamie has a studio in his house; a welcome change that has left its mark on his new record – and life in general. Graduating from creation to production, he now also works with other artists on their albums.
In this productive spirit, his own new album, Jamie Lidell, does not feature a single slow moment, no opportunity to catch one’s breath, no moment of rest. Always on the move, his new living and working conditions afford him more room for experiments and an outlet for all of his creative energy, as is evident in the 11 tracks on the new album. At the same time, this spirit took Jamie all the way back to his early days – and his musical roots. Rich and full of soul, the new album is more dynamic than previous releases such as Jim (2008) or Compass (2010). And standout track why_ya_why, the album’s second single, culminates in an instrumental explosion with dominant beats and distorted vox, turning his latest endeavour into a modern-day jam session of all that technology has to offer.
During a recent stopover in Berlin, the congenial musician took time out for an exclusive interview. At his side: Jamie’s wife, personal photographer and manager Lindsey Rome. A winning combination and proof that private and professional lives can indeed go together.
How did Nashville and, most of all, having your own studio influence the new album?
Often enough, it’s the simple things that are the most important. Being in a room that’s big enough to hold all of my equipment, a place where you can make a little noise and the neighbours don’t come running and screaming straight away. In New York, for example, I always got nasty looks in the elevator. And we made a real enemy of our nearest neighbour. We had a plan, though – the idea was to turn her into a fan. So I gave her some sounds and said “I hope you like the music. Really sorry for the disturbance, but I’m making some new music upstairs.“ And over time, she kind of became a fan. If you can’t make some noise occasionally, it’s a bit like a silent scream, like you are screaming into your own hand!
On your previous album, a range of musical “directors” were involved in the creative process. Who was involved on your new album?
I definitely didn’t do it completely on my own, although it’s close to being pure me. I did write it all, but I didn’t play it all, to put it that way. It simply made sense for me to get in some pros to speed up the process and add flavour. And a lot of that flavour came from a guy called Mr. Jimmy who played keyboards on the record and joined me on my last tour outing. And then Justin Stanley came in, the producer I had worked with on JIM. Actually, he has gone on to become some kind of super producer: since our collaboration, he has worked twice with Eric Clapton, then he did stuff with Sheryl Crow and, obviously, he is married to singer Nikka Costa, so he also did a bunch of records with her. At some point during the production, he would fly back and forth between our house in Nashville and Minneapolis to work with Prince. So I was like “cool, say hi!“ And we would always ask him to “go on, tell us another story.” One day, while he was away, I received a text message: he wrote “I just beat Prince at table tennis”!
Let’s move on to the album’s distinctive sound. It reminded me of P-funk, George Clinton, even Prince… and it sounded a lot less 1960s or Motown than your previous releases. How come?
That is probably just because I always need to change things up … and I have always loved that music, too. I mean, I grew up listening to Prince and he was the first thing I listened to. Back then, I got really addicted to his music and he was my hero, really. But after a while I stopped liking his records quite as much; around 1990 I was not so into that sound anymore, so I started looking for other sounds and decided to work out what Prince was made of, in a way. In his DNA, for example, you can find George Clinton and Sly Stone, Hendrix, Little Richards and all these different elements, so I listened to their music instead (laughs). But I didn’t hear stuff like Atomic Dog until much later. Anyway, Prince was my first love, musically speaking. So, for me to go back to that makes total sense. It feels absolutely natural to me.
Music is a healthy addiction – it is a good addiction to have. Music is a universal art form. I think everyone feels music. I have never met anyone who has no music in their life. I think it’s perhaps the only art that affects everyone. And music is everywhere, too. When you walk down the street: music. Phone rings: music. Birds singing, that’s also kind of like music … so even if there is no music per se, there’s definitely sound. Music is what you make of it.
Any recommendations for up-and-coming artists to watch out for and listen to?
I would like to mention two artists – it’s very self-centred of me, in a way, to bring these up – two people I produced in Nashville that are still rather unsung talents. The first one is Guillermo Brown aka Pegasus Warning. He is really talented and an awesome guy. And I also finished an entire album with a New Yorker called Ludwig Persik last year.
Jamie Lidell is scheduled for release on 15 February 2013 (Warp Records), followed by an extensive tour a month later.
More information on the artist: www.jamielidell.com