Jamie Cullum is a celebrated musician the world over with loyal fans in every corner of the globe. Over the last 18 years his legendary live shows have seen him perform at festivals alongside artists as diverse as Herbie Hancock, Kendrick Lamar, St Vincent and Lang Lang. In addition to his enduringly successful recording career, with eight albums under his belt and number nine about to arrive, he has also established himself as a multi-award-winning music broadcaster. Jamie approaches all aspects of his career, as he has from the beginning, as both a fan and a student with seemingly boundless creativity and enthusiasm.
Half a lifetime ago he used his student loan to record his first LP, ‘Heard It All Before’. Since those days of playing four or five function gigs a week to pay his way through college, and turning his hand to any instrument that was needed in a variety of underground rock bands, the mix of talent, luck and sheer hard graft has been a constant feature of Jamie’s career.
The success of his major label breakthrough ‘Twentysomething’ and its follow up ‘Catching Tales’ saw him nominated for a Brit, Grammy and numerous other awards around the world, but the most important outcome of the five years he spent in the tireless promotion of these records is an enviable live career that is truly global. Cullum’s world tour took in over forty countries, nearly all of which he’s returned to many times. If you have seen him live, it’s hard to argue against the claim he is one of the best live entertainers working today. It is a reputation that, from Singapore to Sao Paolo and most places in-between has only continued to grow, culminating in a long-held ambition being fulfilled at that famous mud bath in Somerset: ‘A show on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival 18 years into my career was a highlight for me. It had been a long, unspoken goal to myself to bringing together as high a level of musicianship as I could muster, together with the stagecraft I’ve endeavoured to build up over the years. Like the artists I saw live formatively – Dr John, Prince, James Brown, Ben Folds, The Roots.’.
Jamie has even become the guest director of some of his favourite festivals, producing extraordinary shows such as orchestral specials at the Royal Albert Hall for two BBC Proms, the Hollywood Bowl with the LA Philharmonic and a night of Jazz and Drum n’ Bass at The Forum in London.
Creatively Jamie has always been held in very high esteem by his peers, legends old and young call him in to work with them or simply to talk music. His recorded output has forever been a mix of originals, jazz favourites and unique re-workings of contemporary tunes. ’The freedom to collaborate and grow as a creator has been the most exciting aspect of my career. Taking a few months to improvise house music at electronic music festivals around Europe. Writing songs for movies, interviewing my heroes and beyond. Collaborating on song writing with everyone from Pharrell to Craig David to Del the funky Homosapien; duetting with Burt Bacharach one day then Spinal Tap the next! It keeps everything so fresh and exciting’
One of Jamie’s most treasured ambitions was to work on music for movies, his interest in cinema runs deep having received a First-Class Honours Degree in Film and English Literature at Reading University. Most notable are the new commissions for film, his first being for Disney’s Meet The Robinsons, his last being the end credit tune for the recent heist movie King of Thieves, and the best known being his work with Clint Eastwood on the score for the award winning Gran Torino.
Inspired by some of his other great passions: writing, photography and design – Jamie has created two volumes of his coffee table periodical ‘The Eighty-Eight’ which promptly sold out to a mixture of fans and just the plain curious. Whilst he shows immense passion for the analogue world, he has truly embraced the digital domain as well: his regular YouTube series of topical covers ‘The Song Society’ is enjoyed by millions. ‘The Song Society’ Project feels like it will be a part of what I’m doing for many years to come. It brings together my love of other people’s songs, particularly from the pop world, with a sense of fun, spontaneity and a deep dive into some collective musicianship to try and deliver something great in just an hour.’
Jamie is also enjoyed by myriad radio listeners on his globally syndicated radio show. Based in jazz, but dipping into the world of hip-hop, electronic music and beyond, the show features music, interviews and live sessions. It initially airs on BBC Radio 2 and has garnered over a dozen awards since its debut in 2010. The latest and most prestigious is the gold ARIA he won as Best Music Presenter in late 2018. On picking up the most sort after trophy of the night, Jamie said ‘It started out years and years ago as a fun adventure that I had no idea would bring me here. It was listening to John Peel, Trevor Nelson, Gilles Peterson, Humphrey Littleton, Marc and Lard and Tim Westwood that fuelled my love for music and set me on the road for a career as a musician. I’ve always believed in the power of a knowledgeable and passionate curator’ adding "In my own music career I’ve always felt like an evangelist for music and musicians. It’s a gift to be able to communicate that passion on the brilliant Radio 2”. Jamie’s live prowess is matched by his skill as an interviewer. Paul McCartney, Gil-Scott Heron, Paul Simon, Cleo Laine, Clint Eastwood, Dave Brubeck, Martin Freeman, Kate Bush and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich have all been guests on his show, with fellow piano man Billy Joel joining Jamie for a Radio 2 special shortly after Cullum was invited by his hero to open for him at Madison Square Garden, eight times!
Hosting a weekly radio show and prepping for the release of a new album keeps him busy, but Jamie still manages to share his time across other projects including the Mercury Music Prize, for which he is a judge, and charities that help promote music to young people, in addition to working with In House Records, which uses music in the rehabilitation of offenders. Jamie was also delighted to be asked to record a song for the most recent BBC’s Children In Need television fundraising campaign.
Where to next? “My goals for the future? I still feel like a passionate fan of music and a student at that. I’m starting to dive into the world of music theory in an effort to significantly deepen what I can do at the piano. But it is as a songwriter I have my highest aspirations now. I tasted that hunger with the song Gran Torino. It was the first time I felt like I had started to really understand the craft a little more. Not just on instinct alone but using building blocks and skills I had been slowly accruing over the years. I’ve come to understand that success should really just sharpen your curiosity. I’ve seen that in my heroes I’ve both worked with and interviewed and I hope it is something that I too can carry with me for many years to come.”