Cullum gets intimate in Singapore

Jamie Cullum says he will play a unique set list on Friday in the intimate setting of The St. Regis Singapore.
Jamie Cullum says he will play a unique set list on Friday in the intimate setting of The St. Regis Singapore.PHOTO: REUTERS

British jazz-pop singer-songwriter Jamie Cullum is in the mood these days for doing things that are unusual for him.

On Friday night, he will perform an intimate set in Singapore at The St. Regis Singapore, the tickets for which have been snapped up.

"It's an opportunity to do something I don't usually do, which is to play a unique set list and also to just play with the intimacy of the place," says the 36-year-old crooner and pianist in a telephone interview from his house in London.

Cullum - who had performed in Singapore at the Esplanade Concert Hall in 2010 and at the inaugural Singapore International Jazz Festival at Marina Bay Sands in 2014 - returns to Singapore as brand ambassador for the global hotel chain's Jazz Legends at St. Regis music series.

Back home in his studio, he is working on his upcoming album, which will be his eighth.

The new songs will be all Cullum's self-composed works, unlike 2014's Interlude, the most recent work, which comprised entirely of cover versions of songs by artists ranging from jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie and Ray Charles as well as contemporary acts such as American singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens.

"I am working right now, literally today," he says. "It's going really well. It's gonna be all original songs. I mean, I've written a lot of original songs obviously, but making one album of original songs is new."

His breakout sophomore album, 2003's Twentysomething, for example, contained covers of hits by artists ranging from Cole Porter to rock guitar icon Jimi Hendrix. It sold three million copies and secured him the title of the biggest-selling British jazz artist of all time.

He will not say much about the new material yet, only that they are inspired by things close to him.

"At this stage, the best way I can describe the songs is that they are very personal songs, very much songs I feel come from where my head is at this time," says Cullum, who is married to model- turned-writer Sophie Dahl, 38, with whom he has two daughters.

Fans of his covers need not fret that he is giving up his famously eclectic reinterpretations.

His online video series, The Song Society, sees him take on current pop hits from the likes of Justin Bieber to Zayn Malik.

"Personally, my listening habit is like a full-time job. I listen a lot, I'm always listening to new stuff. If I've got time to spare, I'll usually be checking out new records.

"It's one of my interests, really; it never feels like it's something I have to do. It's something which is natural."

Cullum, who has a regular British Broadcasting Corporation jazz radio show, says jazz is "the antidote" to the world of pop and rock 'n' roll.

"Jazz is about the creativity of the moment and to not be concerned with image or popularity.

"What I've always loved about jazz is that the only thing you're concerned with, if you're interested in jazz, is whether the person can play. It's not whether they've been in magazines or anything. If you can play, you're most of the way there."

•Tickets to Jamie Cullum Live At the St. Regis Singapore are sold out.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2016, with the headline 'Cullum gets intimate in Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe