Jamie Lidell: The New King of Blue-Eyed Soul

I am a kind of schizophrenic guy and on the one hand I go out on the road and play crazy electronic solo shows and on the other hand I am go into the studio and make a classic soul record. It really confuses people.

-Jamie Lidell

The fleshed out songs that came from these sessions may not have been the final arrangements that made it to the record but it guaranteed that there was a solid place to start from. In the studio Lidell wasn't too proud to take coaching from the other musicians and understood the importance of admitting when something wasn't working. Maybe a piano line isn't right, or maybe a song is just begging for a little more to put it over the top. "Usually I feel the holes in the music and I just sing a fill for them. Mocky will interpret that for the others because sometimes players need it to be written in a formal way, sometimes they need the notes and can't just take my vocals and translate them," Lidell explained. "I write with my voice, I just sorta sing stuff and sometimes record it down on top of the track. [The track] 'Another Day' was a classic example of that. It didn't have that Bacharach section in there at all when the song was going down and I said 'well you know what, I feel like it needs a little bridge.' So, I made a hole for it in the pro-tools arrangement and just sang in an extra section that came to me and then we just filled it in, padded in some new piano sections, extended the drums, added the horns and it was done."

Jamie Lidell
Though Lidell and Mocky were the core of the project there were several others who contributed significant pieces to the puzzle. "Gonzales is another major voice on this record. He's playing piano on quite a few of the tracks and he wrote the song 'Where D'You Go.' He was a really important element bringing a lot of finger work," laughed Lidell. "Nikka Costa is also on this record. She's a lovely person, full of joy and it was a great pleasure to work with her. She's together with Justin Stanley who is also featured quite heavily and it was his studio in L.A. where I recorded most of the music for this project and he turned out to be a great asset and general dude."

In addition to Stanley's studio in L.A., Lidell also spent time recording in Berlin and Paris. Across the three cities they were joined by a number of studio musicians to help mold the sound to the sharp edge they were seeking. "There are a lot of backing singers, four or five different keyboard players, guitars, cello from a lovely Icelandic string player, you name it and we've put it in there. We really blew this one open, there's a lot of talent on there," Lidell said.

The finished product transports the listener back to those simpler days with nods to Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Sly Stone and other classic funk and soul artists of the '60s and '70s while at the same time keeping things fresh. "I put myself into this record like a man jumping into a pair of old shoes and I've been proud to walk in them ever since," said Lidell.

Those familiar with Lidell's previous work may be surprised at how polished and accessible this record is. "By the time I hit the stop button I was like 'hey, that's cool, it really feels like a step forward for me and I feel like I've achieved my goal of making a radio friendly album that is, at the same time, something that I really like," he said. "Those are two things that are usually hard to get to sit in the same room together. They repel each other pretty forcefully."

Jamie Lidell
It may also come as a surprise that an artist like Jamie Lidell had the goal of making a radio friendly record after the tone and experimental nature of so much of his output over the years. He counters this by saying, "We are all walking contradictions and I am just living proof of the human contradiction. I live it with pride and I sing it with pride too. That's my mission statement." When Lidell's catalogue is analyzed it becomes quite clear that Jim is the next step in the musical evolution that his sound has been undergoing throughout his career.

"For this project I tried to summon ten tracks from me that were really up-beat and characterized the kind of musical situation I am in and what I want to present to the world right now," said Lidell. Though the songs feature more actual instruments than anything he has released in the past, Jim does use electronic manipulation and the other studio wizardry that Lidell is known for to enhance the vintage feel of the tracks. "Snax did join us in the studio to add some synth magic when it was needed but sometimes the synthesizer is a powerful tool for evil. It just dominates the mix often," said Lidell. "When you try to slip it in with subtlety it doesn't really work. You've got to make a statement with a synthesizer. For me the synthesizer was taking me to the eighties a lot and I didn't really want to hang out in that decade. On this record, the kind of synths that I ended up using are a bit more '70s tinged."

While the '70s sound that is a theme throughout the album might hook some listeners, it is the pure soul of songs like "Wait for Me," and the album's first single "Little Bit of Feelgood," that remind folks of Gnarls Barkley's megahit "Crazy."

While the fickle and rollercoaster nature of the music business makes it impossible to guess what is going to the top of the charts in a given year, Jim is a record that seems to draw on feel-good music from the last thirty years as influences. From R&B to garage pop, it's all there and it seems to be portioned out in just the right doses.

Continue reading for more on Jamie Lidell...

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