Photos by Caroline Edgeton
Jamie Lidell knows what it’s like to be in his own niche. This British born, Nashville based soul/electronic artist has been making waves since the release of his 2005 album Multiply. Due to his ability to make complex, funky jams that layer his phenomenal vocals on top of various tracks and beats he makes himself, Lidell’s unique, one-man-band approach to making music has caught the attention of listeners all around the world. Seriously, just check out this setup he has on stage.
Fans haven’t heard much from Lidell since the 2010 release of Compass. That album seemed to be a stark contrast from 2008’s Jim, which was an album that was quite different from Multiply and Multiply Additions. However, just this past February, Lidell has once more surprised fans and released a self-titled banger that, in my opinion, is the funkiest compilation he has released to date. This 11-track collection appears to channel the sound he wowed fans with starting in 2005, only this time it’s more confident and, as he put it, “it’s more clear and focused.”
On Sunday, April 14, Lidell concluded his current tour with an absolutely KILLER show at Philly’s Union Transfer. Rocking a white trenchcoat and strutting around the stage like he owned the place, Lidell kept the room bumping and the audience dancing the whole night. While he played mostly songs from his new album, he allowed room for some old favorites such as “Your Sweet Boom,” “When I Come Back Around,” “Multiply,” and what appeared to be a freestyle remixed rendition of “Another Day.” While sometimes the song would sound like the recorded studio version, the interesting thing about Lidell is you never know what to expect; he rolls with the punches and tries to create something new and fresh all the time. He includes an actual performance that makes him worth seeing live. During his encore he sang “Big Love” which is a song that, to me, just screams Prince and funk. Towards the end of that he was rolling around on the stage, singing a capella, snapping his fingers, and stomping his feet. It’s very obvious that when the spirit moves him he lets it groove him. He can get lost in the performance of a song while never losing his focus. It’s quite brilliant, really.
Lidell began as a solo artist then started to tour with a band. Now he’s back to being a solo artist. Imagine having to sing (like, really sing your heart out), beatbox, play synth, play the keyboard, and operate programs from a laptop all at the same time. Oh, and dance around the stage, too. After seeing his Philly performance, it only leads me to believe that Lidell was born for this. This guy is seriously a natural performer, through and through.
two.one.five chatted with Lidell for a bit about his new album, his old albums, and how good he feels about his career up to this point.
two.one.five: So, what’s been going on with you recently? How’s your tour been?
Jamie Lidell: It’s going well, I can’t complain. It’s pretty intense going back to solo performances; I haven’t really done that in a while. It’s hard work, you know? You really work up a sweat. I enjoy it, though. Going on stage and being up there working hard. It’s kind of how I started out, back in the early 2000s; I’m kind of going back to my roots in many ways.
two.one.five: Yeah, you’re promoting this new album which is self titled. Like you were saying, it sounds like you’re going back to your roots, to the sounds you were making on Multiply. On this album it seems there’s more confidence and a fresh perspective. Does that have any influence on why you decided to self title it?
JL: Partly, sure. I think of it more as a chronology of my whole career to this point. After Compass I made an album that was very slippery in a way. Each album is like a sketch and I sketched Compass pretty quickly. It was sort of like, “Oh, I like this one song right now,” and just threw it on the album. After that experience I kind of wanted to come back with a collection of songs that were a bit more focused. The goal really was to make something that was more clear and more focused. I named it Jamie Lidell because the name of the record should be clear and focused. It’s also been great because as I’ve been on this tour I’ve been meeting lots of people who’ve been saying, “I didnt know about you; I really like your stuff.” Having an album out that’s self titled helps to simply promote my name, you know? It feels good to feel like I was feeling when I first began but with new experiences and new music.
two.one.five: Yeah, that’s understandable. I’ve been following you for a while. I was formally introduced to you through your 2008 album Jim. I’ll never forget to first time I heard “Another Day.” It was surprising to me to hear the differences between Multiply, Jim, and Compass. Jim to me seems to stand out as an album that’s quite different; it’s more stripped down but very heavy on soul which is something we can always expect from you. Do you think you’ll ever make an album like that again?
JL: I’m sort of a mixed bag, it’s always been that way for me. I’m kind of always in a post modern condition. I never know what I’m going to do next. I always try to go with what seems right at the time. I may make an album like that again, who knows? I just make music that inspires me during a period of time.
two.one.five: How are you able to translate all of the music you make live while playing it by yourself? I just can’t imagine how much work that must be.
JL: Well, it helps that I’ve got a lot more songs under my belt now. I can utilize lots of recordings and tracks. It’s quite hard to make electronic music live, but it’s always been that way since the beginning of electronic music. What’s different with me is I make soul music at the same time I make electronic music. I’m always trying to mix it up. Sometimes I’m creating everything in loops, sometimes I perform with something I’ve already recorded; sometimes I perform with a hybrid of both. One thing that’s for certain is I use this equipment to expres myself, but it’s still a challenge to make the music live. I’m a singer when it comes down to it; I think people don’t realize how much work that is — to make the music and sing like I do requires a lot of focus, a lot of energy.
two.one.five: How does one associate computer programming and soul music? What was it that drew you to the soulful side of things while doing this whole one man band thing? Did you begin playing music with instruments like guitar and piano?
JL: I did start out playing acoustic guitar and electronic guitar. I played some piano and other instruments at a young age. I was one of those kids who had a computer at an early age and the merge to making electronic music, well, it happened quite naturally, really. I grew up playing a lot of video games and had access to electronics…I listened to the electronic music that was happening in the ’80s. I got caught up pretty heavily in the rave scene in UK. There was all this disco and house music happening. The funny thing about that is the house music that was massive at the time is it was a continuation of disco. It was just beats behind soul divas. The music I was listening to was the early house, soul music; I try to make music like that but with heavier beats. When you’re making music like that all that really means is you’re putting soul in a familiar context; you’re making convenient sounds that are formulaic and fun to listen to…I really enjoyed listen to the greats like Otis Redding or James Brown after going out and listening to all this house music; it was always nice to come home and listen to something soulful, it was a good way to come down. It’s just warm, you know? That feeling happens all the time when you walk into a cafe and listen to some good soul music and you just start to feel warm. The way I see it, sometimes you want to feel warm and sometimes you want to shake it out and go crazy. I like music in all forms and I just strive to make something that’s simple but combines the music I like to listen to…I just want music to pass through me. It’s just like a big tasty gumbo; I make something or listen to something and put it in the mix and try to make it taste good. I try to make music in this style.
two.one.five: How does your songwriting process work? Does it start with making beats first then lyrics second? I am really curious about this process.
JL: It changes from project to project. For this album I’d ad lib the vocal shape, freestyle. I like to come from that jazz background where you’re just always thinking about making music; I like the way that works a lot. Back when I was doing stuff with Super Collider we always wrote like that. Sometimes I’ll think of lyrics and just start writing them down. For example, “Blaming Something” is a song I wrote outside in Nashville with just pen and paper, real simple. I wrote the lyrics first then allowed that to influence the song. Sometimes it’s easier for me, sometimes it’s not. Generally, writing the lyrics is the hard part.
two.one.five: Since you’re playing in Philly do you have any fond thoughts or memories of the city?
JL: Spent a little bit of time out in Philly. My wife used to work with Urban Outfitters. The harbor area is just beautiful. Philly is always a good-looking place with all the brick buildings. I have a lot of memories of food in Philly; it’s very much a great food place. I think of the Roots and Questlove, good soul and R&B music. Philly soul is a big deal. It’s cool to come back to there. I also think of World Cafe; have some great memories of playing there. It always just feels like a good music town, a good place to be.
two.one.five: How do you like living in Nashville?
JL: [My wife and I] love Nashville. We’ve met some great people which makes living there really easy. I kind of like the whole being a Brit living in America. Yeah, Nashville is great. Real easy livin’.