Jamie Cullum on lockdown’s ‘silver lining’

Jamie Cullum has said enjoying home life with his wife and young daughters has been the “silver lining” to a year in which Covid-19 halted live music.

The Brit Award-nominated musician was due to embark on a European tour in support of his 2019 album Taller but was forced to postpone as Covid-19 spread globally.

Instead, he spent lockdown writing a Christmas album of original music, The Pianoman At Christmas, at the family home he shares with former model and author Sophie Dahl and their two daughters – Lyra, nine, and Margot, seven.

Speaking about the extra time with his family, the 41-year-old told the PA news agency: “That’s been the true silver lining for me. I have absolutely loved it. I am luckily in a position, my touring schedule is much different from when I was in my 20s. I am a father and a husband and I have managed to keep my travelling to a not too insane level.

“But I love to play live and I have obviously missed aspects of it. This isn’t taking away from the fact that it has been an absolutely dreadful time for the planet.

“My heart aches for the world right now, for the people who have lost their jobs and loved ones, and haven’t been able to go to people’s funerals and see them in hospitals and stuff – and I have some experience of that myself.

“But at the same time it did make me feel acutely lucky to spend such concentrated time with my young kids and my amazing wife.”

Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition Preview Party 2018 – London
Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition Preview Party 2018 – London

Cullum said Dahl, the granddaughter of children’s author Roald Dahl, had been encouraging him to write a festive record for some time.

But he also credited Robbie Williams with inspiring him after they worked together on the Take That star’s own Christmas record last year.

Cullum said: “I had kept a little notebook of some ideas for a while because my wife had been encouraging me to make a Christmas record for a while.

“But I think I was also really inspired by working with Robbie last year as well.

“I mentioned to him I was thinking about making one of all original songs, because he did that on his brilliant Christmas record. He was really encouraging and said, ‘Go for it man, that would be great’. That was a big inspiration.”

Recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London with a classic big band set-up, the 10 original compositions draw inspiration from the work of artists including Nat King Cole.

Cullum said he had not aimed to write an album that reflected the pandemic and instead hoped the songs were in the tradition of “timeless” music.

He said: “When I wrote the album, I certainly didn’t imagine we would still be in this position by Christmas. It was such an abstract thing at the time and so confusing.

“And also, when I was writing the songs, I didn’t think about them being for this year’s Covid Christmas.

“I tried to write very classic timeless Christmas songs that felt like they would sound good in 50 years, although that aspect of that definitely creeped itself into the lyrics without me realising at times.”

The Pianoman At Christmas by Jamie Cullum is out now.