In the last ten years British vocalist Jamie Lidell has created some of the darkest, most challenging music under the name Super Collider. But 2005’s Multiply and the recently released Jim, have seen some of the happiest, most optimistic pop music; a blend of Stevie Wonder soul and accessible modern R’n’B-tinged pop; Jamiroquai with critical kudos attached.
The 34 year old Brit has been very busy in promoting this new album with “two months of live shows in Europe” and he tells me down the phone line that he is preparing for a round of American shows.
Lidell is no longer a stranger to the American audience thanks to tracks from Multiply being used in the television show Grey’s Anatomy and for a series of commercials promoting the retail store Target. He is sure that there will be plenty of people that will never hear the mind-bending sound of Super Collider and he is fine with that, telling me that it really does not matter when or how people discover his music, he remains flattered and never expects anyone to work through his entire catalogue.
“It still amazes me that people come to shows. You know, just the idea that someone pays their money and turns up to see little old me doing my thing. That’s really cool. And I never get sick of doing that. I never get tired of performing for people that want to see me sing”.
The American shows are a blast for Lidell and his band because he says “the road trip is so huge and you really feel like you are living the dream”.
Speaking of living the dream, I ask Lidell about his upcoming commitment, opening a series of shows for Elton John. I make the mistake of stating it as a one-word question: nervous?
“Oh I shouldn’t imagine Elton will be nervous”, Lidell laughs cheekily and heartily, “he should be an old pro by now…”
He then admits that it will be great to play with Elton John (“I’ve never met a sir before, never partied with a knight”) but is relaxed about whether he will discover a new audience as a result. “I guess that’s part of it, sure, but for me it’s just about going up there to the stage and giving it a go and trying to do my best. Yes, it will be a slightly bigger venue than I could fill on my own”, he wryly understates, “but I think we’ll have a great time and the band will be well road-tested by then. And the only thing I’m worried about is Elton outlasting me. He’s twice my age and he seems to have more energy than me. I get exhausted watching his shows. He really is a legend”.
In terms of influence Lidell leans toward the soul-funk sound of Sly Stone. “It has baffled me a bit that so many people have said that Jim sounds like Motown. But then, I guess they are talking about Stevie Wonder perhaps. Especially his stuff from the 1960s and if that’s the case, well you can’t go wrong really, can you? That’s about as good as it gets. Stevie and Sly. They’re the guys for me”.
For Jamie Lidell music is fluid, the concept of creation is to keep moving. He says that Multiply and Jim are not examples of him becoming mainstream and selling out. Lidell believes there is a great challenge in writing an upbeat song that is actually honest and has something to say. “I’m basically an optimistic fellow with a range of emotions and lately I have been feeling happy. I have been trying to focus on my good side. But I don’t know what will come next. You’ll have to wait and see”.