A Q&A with actor and musician Hugh Laurie
A Q&A with Hugh Laurie, who has finished the Fox series "House" and is now on tour with his Copper Bottom Band. He'll perform in Seattle June 4, 2012.
Special to The Seattle Times
Hugh Laurie and the Copper Bottom Band7:30 p.m. Monday, June 4, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; remaining tickets limited, call or check website for availability (206-215-4747 or www.seattlesymphony.org).
Let's say you've just completed your eighth and final season as the award-winning star of a beloved television series, and you're hot enough to handpick your next project as either a highly recognizable dramatic actor or comedy icon. What do you now?
Go play piano in Belarus, of course.
With Hugh Laurie's final turn as tormented, misanthropic Dr. Gregory House on Fox's "House" now behind him, the British star is playing New Orleans blues with a crack ensemble on a West Coast tour of the U.S., followed by shows in South America and Eastern and Western Europe.
Laurie appears in Seattle's Benaroya Hall on Monday.
Laurie has played music both on "House" and "Saturday Night Live." But last year he released a full album, "Let Them Talk," devoted to his lifelong passion for American blues and collaborating with such Big Easy legends as Irma Thomas, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint.
On May 25th, three days into his tour, Laurie stole some time from for an email chat.
Q: What is a world without "House" like for you?
A: All kinds of things seem strange and unfamiliar to me now. Sleeping past 4 a.m. is one of them. I wake up in a panic thinking I've missed something. It feels like an older part of my life, but also a new and exciting part that I never properly unwrapped before.
Q: A music tour is certainly different.
A: I am like a baby bird: big eyes, open mouth. I have nothing to compare any of this with yet. We've only done three shows so far — and I think they've gone really well — but it's going to be interesting to see how things change over time and from place to place. The only thing I know for sure is that I am playing with some of the best musicians anyone will hear anywhere.
Q: When did the blues come into your life?
A: I somehow knew American blues existed before I even heard it. It was like uncovering something I always knew was there. It's so hard to sum up in words what this music does to me — which is why music exists in the first place, I suppose. But it just reached out and grabbed me by the throat and hasn't let go. ("Throat" wasn't the first word I typed there.) I've played a little with others but not nearly as much as I wanted to. There is no feeling like it.
Q: "Let Them Talk" comes across as a personal journey through the blues. How did you draw the caliber of musicians playing with you? And could you say a word or two about Irma Thomas, one of our underappreciated greats?
A: The record had to be an expression of something I truly loved. How else could I expect anyone else to love it?
I suppose all these people, in the first instance, were responding to Joe Henry, the producer of the record. He has a very considerable reputation. They realized the album was a serious effort.
Irma Thomas is not underappreciated by me, I can tell you. She makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. She's also an incredibly beautiful and graceful woman. And funny, too. So is Mac Rebennack [Dr. John]. Funny, I mean. Not a beautiful woman.
Q: What should the audience expect to see and hear in Benaroya Hall?
A: They'll see me in a nice suit with shiny shoes. And behind me, a collection of some of the finest musicians in the world. They will hear playing of a kind they may never hear anywhere else.
Q: Word is you'll soon be collaborating with your comedy partner Stephen Fry ["A Bit of Fry and Laurie"] again.
A: Stephen and I will always be together in some way. He is my dearest friend in the world and also brilliant. I believe I may not be the first to observe that.
Q: What's it going to be like playing in Kiev, Minsk and Moscow?
A: This is going to be an adventure in all kinds of different ways. I hope to come back with some great and exotic luggage labels, and cracking good stories.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org