Jamie Lidell opens up about his musical process
R&B soul singer and British Berliner Jamie Lidell talks about Seattle, Motown, his American tour partner Janelle Monáe and opening up on his new album "Jim."
Seattle Times staff reporter
Audio interviewBritish singer Jamie Lidell talks about playing Bumbershoot in 2006 and the story behind "Another Day."
On the Internet
Jamie Lidell: Listen to "Another Day" and watch the video at Lidell's Web site, www.jamielidell.com.
Jamie LidellWith Janelle Monáe, 8 tonight, Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., Seattle; $18 advance, $20 at the door, all ages (206-628-3151 or www.showboxonline.com).
Jamie Lidell is an exuberant soul singer with a solid band and a set list of bright, life-affirming R&B. For now.
The British Berliner's 2005 album "Multiply" was a surprise hit, arguably the best R&B effort that year, and his new one, "Jim," is tighter and more upbeat — perfect for fans of Motown and Prince. Neither is anything like Lidell's earlier music with dormant experimental electronic act Super_Collider, and, as he says on the phone from a restaurant in Austin, Texas, it might be time for another curveball.
On this tour, however, the 35-year-old singer, programmer, dance-party provider and all-around sexy guy is doing the old-school R&B thing. He'll be downtown at the Showbox tonight with new-school R&B starlet Janelle Monáe (she blew the roof off Nectar last August).
Listen online (at the Web Extra) and hear a hard-to-understand Lidell interviewed with his mouth full of British accent and fish taco.
Q: When you played Bumbershoot in 2006, you set the speakers on fire?
A: I literally finished, I looked off to my left, and the PA was smoking. It was a nice modern PA, too. That Bumbershot. Bumbershop. Bumbershoot. I never get it right. I always called it "bummy chute." ... Yeah, but Seattle's cool, man. Seattle, Portland, West Coast. I mean that's what I look forward to when I come out and tour the States.
Q: Do you say that to every newspaper writer?
Q: This tour, are all your performances regimented, or pretty different?
A: We've got our routine. I think that's kind of part of the joy of having a band, right?
Q: A routine?
A: Oh yeah, knowing when to stop a song for example. ... I've always been really bad at knowing when to stop. ... I'm a rave kid, you know? When something stops, something's wrong. Means the record's run out.
Q: Have you seen Janelle Monáe's live show?
A: God, yes. It's [expletive] amazing. We saw her play in Miami, and we just asked her, "Hey, open up for us." I laugh now, 'cause it's the only chance Janelle Monáe will open for Jamie Lidell. ... I mean, she's great. She's got that thing.
Q: The lyrics on [standout "Jim" track] "Another Day" are "Another day, another way for me to open up to you." What's so great about opening up to people?
A: I was with this girl and I didn't really know what the hell was left, kinda thing. I thought, there must be another way to keep things going. 'Cause I didn't want to pack it all in.
Q: Did you play the song for the girl right after you recorded it?
A: I actually did, yeah. ... She was into it. We were still "feeling it" at that point, and it was a good gesture.... But [expletive], man, it didn't work out so great in the end.
Q: Well, you got the song.
A: Yeah, exactly. The song lives on.
Q: There are a lot of new musicians playing old soul music now. Any insight into why?
A: I kinda had that obsession as a kid, and I'm kinda living out the obsession, I guess. ... We're getting to the point where we're getting a bit saturated with that style ... It's time to lay off it.
Q: Is your next album gonna be less Motown-y?
A: I would say that's a very strong possibility.
Q: Do you take voice lessons? Is that your best instrument?
A: Well, it's the only instrument I can really play, for one.
Q: Well, there's your programming ...
A: That's true, true. I like your angle. ... I got really into that whole computer [expletive]. I got into that pretty hard, but I've lost touch with that a lot of late. I'm kinda concentrating back on the voice again. To be honest, I'd kind of like to get back into programming. It's good for the brain, you know? Good for my mathematical brain.
I've got quite a rubbish [vocal] technique. But it's cool, I'm learning. Passion will take you almost all the way...
Q: Do you write your songs on a piano?
A: No, I write it all with my voice ...
Q: With no accompaniment from anything else? You just make up melody lines?
A: Yeah. I sing the bass, then sing it all.
Q: So the demo versions of your songs are basically a cappellas?
A: Essentially, yeah.
Q: Are they worth listening to, or are they just sketches?
A: Well, this album ... I was using a voice recorder, singing into the phone.
Q: Singing into it like a psychiatrist takes notes?
A: Yeah, exactly. "Note to self, this could be a worthy song."
Andrew Matson: 206-464-2153
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 12:19 PM
Concert review: Perky Katy Perry finds sweet spot between rock and R&B
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.