Jamie Lidell | Interview

by John Dugan

I chatted with my old buddy Jamie Lidell for TIme Out Chicago, roughly 7 years after I first wrote about him.

The U.K. electro-soul crooner calls Nashville home now, but he hasn’t gone country.

We’ve followed Jamie Lidell from his days as a Berlin-based beatboxer to more recent turns with a full-blown soul band. Now, the U.K. native is back with a self-titled album of aggressively funky tunes recalling early ’80s R&B in the best way. We caught up with Lidell via Skype as he toured his new one-man show in Belgium.

After moving around you’ve settled in Nashville.
It was like a Sun Ra move, you know? Space is the place. We realized, my wife and I, that we just couldn’t afford to stay in Manhattan and grow as artists and a couple. A few people told me to check out Nashville—one of them was Beck, the other was Pat Sansone from Wilco. We’ve got a great place and we spend most of our time at home.

You record at home?
[The new album] was entirely recorded and mixed at home. I never left the house for any of it, which is something I’m pretty proud of because I think I got a decent sound for a home recording. It was a pretty serious undertaking. I don’t think it’s for everyone, working out of home, but it’s definitely for me. The empowerment is something that can’t be underestimated. It’s ridiculous.

The album recalls early ’80s funk and boogie. Is that what you were going for?
Living in Nashville, we got addicted to this radio station called 92Q. Michael Baisden puts on this amazing show, it’s become a huge thing for us, they play these amazing jams. It reminded me of these hidden gems that I grew up loving and listening to that I’d put to the back of my mind. Drum-machine funk. And, because I made a lot of this music on my own, starting with a drum machine made a lot of sense. That immediately put me back in the ’80s in a sense.

Did you have a crisis being pegged as part of a wave of soul revivalists?
When I did Multiply and Jim, I was heading down the road of the blue-eyed soul crooner. To sing like I did on those two albums, I’m proud of all that stuff. When I made Jim, to try to follow with what I thought people wanted me to be, some part of me was a bit dead when I did that. It felt like I was chasing the money. There’s some great music on that record, and I don’t regret doing it. It’s an interesting challenge to stay relevant, stay popular enough to tour and stay true to the music you want to make. You’re always going to shake people off if you take a heavy turn.

What can you tell us about your current tour?
It’s a one-man show, so sonically I’m presenting new material and old material in a made-over fashion. I’m taking people back to the early house days, which always seemed a good setting for my voice, my horn of a voice. I’ve been tapping into my inner diva. I’m just belting it out over house music at the end. I get everything lathered up and at the end we have a wash down. That’s why they call it a rinse. You check your troubles at the door and rinse it out.

Published April 4, 2013

Jamie Lidell

Jamie Lidell