By Ryan B. PatrickAlthough a United Kingdom native through and through, Jamie Lidell is a bit homesick for his home base in Nashville right now. But the eclectic singer/producer has been doing this long enough to understand that putting in the final prep work before heading on world tour — in support of his new self-titled studio project — trumps any niggling emotional predilections.
Heavily Prince and golden era Motown-inspired, the 39-year-old's continued experimentation with all things soul, funk and electronica have served him well, supporting a five-album deep career as he carves out for himself a nice "inspired by retro-R&B" niche within the modern day, post-electro landscape. "I don't like being put in boxes, but when I hear other people's music, I tend to categorize it myself. Humans tend to describe things based on other things as that's the only way he can do it," Lidell admits. "I just wanted to make a record I liked, make it electric, and throw in a healthy dose of pop hookery throughout. Just basically make a really fun listen."
What are you up to? We're in sunny, tropical London right now. Actually it's miserable, grey. But's it's good to be in London: we're on the East side and we've been here so often we've kind of made a little home. I'm not really up to anything more than getting ready for these shows, to be honest. It's an all-consuming kind of marathon. I think every album campaign, I kind of forget just what goes into it. I've been looking at all aspects of making a show. It's been very enlightening. It's full production mode really.
What are your current fixations? I tried to read the Nile Rogers book, which was great back when I had time to read anything. I think I got through a chapter or two. My wife and I got pretty addicted to watching Breaking Bad, which is a healthy addiction I think. The other day I went in to get some medicine for a cold and the friendly Belgium pharmacist reminded me that it had ephedrine in it. And I thought, 'Oh that's speed isn't it?' And the way that he bounced that question back at me with a knowing smile saying, it's not really speed. So in my mind I clocked it was, yes, it's speed. It took me back to Breaking Bad — I felt like I was buying illegal drugs off a nice friendly man in Ghent. So Breaking Bad has been infiltrating my daily life. Musically, I got really into the Kendrick Lamar thing. I'm really feeling pockets of that new record really hard and that made me happy.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig? It's funny, really, as I was just watching Prince on Jimmy Fallon. I'm a massive Prince fan and have been since I was really in my teens. One day I got that call that I was going to open for Prince. And I opened for him with my band and shared the stage with him in Belgium. I'll never forget that because Prince never removes his equipment from the stage so I essentially had my mic stand, and right next to it was Prince's mic. Just two different poles standing up. It was at his height and his pedal board was fully set up. I remember as a kid I would wonder what type of pedals he had and sure enough, everything was right in front of me. It was just surreal and amazing. And we got to meet Larry Graham that day. It was just a brilliant day.
What have been your career highs and lows? I opened for James Brown once, in Stuttgart. And one of my favourite things ever was hearing James Brown say "Danke Schoen." I don't know why but it always made me very happy. There was just something so proud about it in all the right ways. That was amazing. And when we finished the show we got to watch James Brown from the side. I was literally a few metres away from him and he was really good that night. I remember seeing him back in 1986 and it really wasn't good. But this show was actually pretty stripped down and it was brilliant. Career lows? We once played a gig in Paloma, CA and we turned up and there were about ten people there. Someone had a private party arranged and it was just them and their mates. But to be honest it was actually quite good. So I wouldn't call that low but just surreal. But I quite like lows, you know what I mean? I quite like that lows are the things that you learn from. It's always where things go wrong that you actually get a glimpse of what to do next.