Jamie Cullum, pianist and singer, has sold more jazz records in the U.K. than any other British artist. Since his album Twentysomething was released in 2003, he's sold more than 4 million records and been nominated for a Grammy and two Golden Globes. Now 30, he's released a new album, The Pursuit.
On the new record, Cullum continues to be a pioneer. He writes his own jazz numbers, in addition to covering the standards. It's this blending of the old with the new that attracts many young fans to his music.
"All I've tried to do on this album is try to embrace that part of me that is a young man who does go out and do young-people things," Cullum says. "I've tried to try to inject that in my love of music of the past."
He also tackles some pop songs, like Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music."
"Doing covers of new songs in a kind of crazy way is nothing particularly new," he says, "but this is me trying to channel my understanding of Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk and Herbie Hancock with an understanding — and a love — of great modern pop."
According to Cullum, he comes from a "somewhat musical" family. His grandmother played guitar in bars in Berlin before she fled Nazi Germany, and his grandfather played violin. His parents are less inclined, but sang in church choirs and strummed the occasional guitar. Cullum, however, cites his brother Ben Cullum — a musician, composer and producer — as his primary musical inspiration. Their collaborations, including the song "Music Is Through," are featured on The Pursuit.
Cullum is a big fan of the theater and recently wrote the score to the stage version of When Harry Met Sally. He says he chose the title of his new album because he continues to pursue new frontiers in music.
"As a musician, you never get to the finish line," he says. "There are goals along the way, but you never finish it. It is this constant pursuit, one that I wake up every day wanting to get better at and wanting to make better music."