Electrifying soul claps from a Uk native son
Words & Interview by James Walsh and Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson.
Jamie Lidell returns on the February 19 with the self-titled release of his sixth studio album. The electronic-soul aficionado’s funk-fuelled songs have taken him from Britain to Belgium, where he signed for the impressive Warp Records before moving to the home of the songwriter, Nashville. His breakthrough record, Multiply, may have channelled the old school vibes of Otis Redding, but it was on 2008′s Jim that the outpouring of soul bared itself in abundance with, perhaps, his best received tracks to date: “A Little Bit Of Feel Good” and “Another Day.” The new self-titled LP somewhat echoes the nature of Jim and judging by the first two tracks taken from the upcoming release, “What A Shame” and “You Naked,” it intriguingly begs the question if the evolution of his musical talents showcased on the new record are now fully representative of him as an artist. There was, of course, only one way to find out…
Nice to speak with you today, Jamie. Okay, so let’s take it back a bit. Who were some of your earliest music idols?
Hello! So, I basically just copied what my mum and sister listened to, really – just whatever was playing in the house. I was lucky to grow up in the era of Thriller and Off The Wall, so I started on that road. It was the early ’80s I really got into music and wanted it in my life. MJ and then Prince were my early obsessions, especially once I understood how good Prince was. Human League, too. Electronic music was my shit!
How did your love for music develop into making it yourself?
When I was 16, I had a couple of grand saved up. I knew I was going to buy some music gear and was trying to figure out what to get. Thankfully, I got a sampler and it opened everything up for me. At the time, there was an intimidating gap between home studio music-makers and those making the hit records, but if it’s a case of only having one thing, it’s the sampler – all the way.
Was there a point in time that you felt you could turn it from a hobby to a career?
It was a crazy evolution. I just kept making music. I went to Bristol University and got a philosophy degree, and even though music was on the back burner then, it was always there. I was going out, being influenced by what I was hearing and I’d send the music I was making to a friend, who worked at Strong Room Studios. From that, I ended up meeting Mick Shiner, who went on to be involved in The Streets and from there I met other people and then I moved to Berlin and signed with Warp. I guess it was then I knew it was going to be more than just a hobby.
You were born in England, moved to Berlin for Warp, and are now living in Nashville. How is the city treating you?
Nashville’s a very humbling place, everyone’s exceptionally talented. When you’re young and arrogant, you might think some things are bollocks but, as you get older, you appreciate the craft. I like to be surrounded by it and always enjoyed being out of my element, like with Berlin. I gravitate towards where I’m a bit of an outsider. Most importantly, though, there are really great people here. A lot have moved away from the big city life, and I can relate to that. I love having my own studio. I’m empowered with time and space and having all my equipment together.
And what is it like to be part of such a big independent label?
You have LFO, Richard Devine and Nightmares On Wax – everyone at the label is just exceptionally talented. You’re surrounded by inspiration and, to an extent, your competition. It’s a good balance for me, as it drives you on. It’s a great home.
Your albums have differed somewhat in their sound, and they have each taken you to different places. Is there one particular part of your career that you’re most proud of?
Multiply transformed my career. It was around the same time that Amy Winehouse was emerging, and UK soul was a real, legitimate thing. I knew I wanted to make a big, radio-friendly record, with some nasty techno and straight-up pop, and that was Jim – my pure pop side coming out. It took me a while to embrace that side and it was hard to get it right, sonically, but it was an ambitious record for the budget and to take it there was a crazy process. I’m proud of everything I’ve done. I like to keep it fresh and challenging, but I’m fond of that Jim period.
When making an album, are you concerned with what other people will think or do you just try and make the music that makes you happy?
It’s a dangerous ploy to imagine what people will take away from it. It’s inevitable to think that but when you start, you just make music how you want. I’m curious as to what people think, but I simply hope they like it. Some albums in the past have been obtuse and may not have connected what I wanted to communicate, so to do so is a good feeling. There’s hate and love for everything and no matter what you do, you will upset some people. If you know that’s the case, it’s easier to be yourself. If not, it leads to slow innovation and people trying to satisfy, rather than doing exactly what’s on their mind and feels right.
You’re famed for doing whole shows with just yourself, a one man band. How did that start?
The whole solo thing first came about with moving to Berlin and being too broke to pay rent. Everything before Multiply was under the radar, and the only way I could do it was to perform solo. I couldn’t compete with the full-on electronic artists. I’m a singer, so utilized the loop pedals and the soul vocals evolved from that. I’m touring the new album solo. We start in London in March, then it’s Europe, then the US, and we finish up in Canada. Back in the day, I had no set list – I just used to get up and do my thing and it made it fucking crazy. I couldn’t do that now, as it’d be too selfish, but the audience really get it when you’re giving something to the art. When you give it fully to the audience, they give it fully back and can see you’re fighting to get it right. It’s a rush, the audience feel the risk and I’m looking forward to experiencing that again.
On February 19, you release your new album, Jamie Lidell. It’s your sixth studio album, but actually self-titled. Usually, it’s new artists who opt for a self-titled debut. Is there any grand statement or meaning behind it? Do you maybe feel like people haven’t seen the real you yet?
In a way, that’s true. I’ve always felt like a bit of an underdog. I’ve done ambitious releases in the past, but it’s hard to make people understand just what’s gone into something you’ve created. I knew I needed to come back with a big statement. The last album, Compass, was a chance for me to relax and just be rough and ready. Jamie Lidell is a combination of electronic and pop. It feels like a complete package and feels like me. All other titles seemed to be underwhelming and not sit as well as the self-titled name did.
Want more soul? Check out MTV Iggy’s favorites, here.