Jamie's career gains fresh momentum
The night before I speak to jazz singer/songwriter Jamie Cullum, he was performing to a packed crowd on a beach in San Sebastian in Spain. A couple of days before that he was in the Czech Republic. That morning, Jamie's woken in yet another country – Portugal – where he'll be putting on another show the following evening.
"We left Spain at midnight last night," says Jamie, sounding a bit sleepy. "We've got this big double-decker tour bus with a kitchen and everything and we travel through the night.
"Today we're in Lisbon. It's like a boys' camping holiday."
I have an image of a group of teenage boys spending chaotic nights under canvas, Inbetweeners style, and suggest that Jamie's situation might be a bit more luxurious, if not glamorous.
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"You haven't seen inside," he laughs.
I can't imagine it's that bad. After all, although most of his publicity pictures show him looking moodily down the camera lens, Jamie seems like the type of boy you could take home to meet your parents; the sort who would change his socks every day without being reminded.
For the past few months Jamie has been touring Europe, playing numerous gigs and festivals, but next month he will be returning to the UK after a well-earned break, to start his Momentum tour – his first UK tour in three years.
And on October 23 he will be arriving in Bath to perform at the Forum. It was a late addition to the schedule but, having grown up close to the city in Hullavington, Jamie was keen to perform to a home crowd.
"I approached the idea of playing in Bath a while ago," he said. "But we weren't sure that we were going to be able to do it.
"I really wanted to make it work, though, so I could play for my friends and family.
"It's such good fun playing in an area I know so well, and that's completely the reason why I'm doing it.
"I have played in the Forum before, so I know it pretty well. It is going to be really great."
Jamie, whose father John, a former high sheriff of Somerset, is chairman of the Forever Friends Appeal at Bath's Royal United Hospital, last played at the Bath Forum in April 2011, when he made a special guest appearance at a concert held in celebration of the Silver Ring Choir of Bath's 60th anniversary.
He joined the choir on stage to perform the finale – the premiere of a piece entitled Silver which he had written with his brother, Ben, and donated to the choir.
Jamie is very much the family man. In 2010, he married food writer and former model Sophie Dahl, and earlier this year the couple had their second daughter.
"When I'm away it's tough," he says. "It's hard for the ones left at home, and it's hard for me because I miss them.
"But I'm never away for long. It's usually only three or four days at a time.
"And when I am not touring, I'm at home all the time, so on average I'm probably at home more that most people.
"Getting the work-life balance is that elusive thing for everyone, no matter what they do."
Much of Momentum, Jamie's latest album, was written at the family home in Buckinghamshire.
"I have a little music room at home," he says, "so I could go in there and work on the album. I did tons of stuff on opportunistic instruments.
"I wrote two songs making a beat on my phone. I wrote a song on the ukelele. It was the things that were at hand, rather than painstakingly tracking down the right kit and players that I needed to do that particular jazz song.
"It was very much finding that hour that I had spare and just getting on with it. In a way, it has helped to shape the album into something more adventurous."
Momentum is the first album Jamie has released on Island Records, the first time he has recorded with his live band and the first time he has written most of the songs himself. But although some critics have said that Momentum has taken Jamie in a new direction, he disagrees.
"I think a lot more has been made of that than it is," he says. "I am the same musician that I always was. Anyone who is familiar with my music will recognise that. It is just a continuation of what I have been doing.
"After I moved label, I did wonder whether I should just go in and cut an album of jazz standards – in some ways what the wider world expects of me. But it just felt like the wrong time to do that.
"I've always acted on instinct and my gut told me to focus more on my songs this time around. And Sophie said to me, 'Go in this room that you've set up and have fun. And don't think about sweating your writing at this stage. Why do that? Just go and have fun'. So I literally did."
He goes on to explain: "The album is about that cross-over period from youth into adulthood where you still have one foot in each. You start to understand the world in such a different way and see things more as they are – both ugly and beautiful. You're caught between that fresh sense of the wider picture while still battling those same old issues within your own head. Have I done enough? Have I achieved all that I thought I would? What about everything I didn't do?"
Jamie's brother, Ben, is also musically talented and has worked with Jamie on Momentum and on previous projects.
"Ben has written songs for me," says Jamie. "He is a very accomplished songwriter and producer and is always my sounding board.
"We are very, very close – not just as brothers, but as friends, which is great. We are a very close family. I lucked out there."
Momentum is Jamie's first studio album since 2009, but the singer has not spent the past four years resting on his laurels.
As well as getting married and starting a family, he also regularly hosts a show on BBC Radio 2 and has spent much of the interim years performing outside the UK.
"I only ever get asked about what I've been doing when I'm in the UK," he says. "In the UK, we think that everything revolves around us. I'm guilty of thinking that about other artists, too. There are all these festivals and touring opportunities all over the world, so for most of the past four years I have been touring other countries in Europe, Asia and the US.
"It takes a lot of time to get around the world. At the time, though, it felt like no time at all.
"I have really loved touring in the US. They really love live music, especially when you get out of the big cities and into the backwaters.
"Going to a gig is something that families will do just for the sake of it. There's a different excitement for live music over there.
"I love going to Japan, too. It's one of my favourite ever places because it is so different. It's one of the few places where you feel like you're on another planet.
"They have a slightly different version of things that you know so well. There's always a twist on the familiar."
Jamie may have sold more than ten million records worldwide and be the biggest selling UK jazz artist of all time, but it has taken him many years to come round to the idea of thinking of himself as an artist.
He says: "I've always said, 'Oh, I just like to play music, I like jamming and whatever comes out is the best'. And that's still the truth.
"But I've started to think of myself now in terms of someone who creates stuff for a living. And I had to wait for that to come to me.
"So being able to distil something down to the simple hook of Everything You Didn't Do or Edge Of Something or Sad Sad World – well, it's actually been hard for me to come around to that more simple and direct way forward.
"But that's exactly where I'm at right now. And it feels entirely correct and exciting."
For more about Jamie and to book tickets, go to www.jamiecullum.co.uk. or alternatively visit www.bathforum.co.uk