Jamie Lidell: The New King of Blue-Eyed Soul

I think I'm going to have to step out and get into some of the coffee shops. I'm trying to write a little song... so obviously I am getting as wasted as possible to allow the muse to work its magic.

-Jamie Lidell, working in Amsterdam

"I like other people to decide what the influences might be," Lidell said before launching into a list of more than 20 artists that have influenced his music ranging from Prince to Kraftwerk to Bob Dylan. "Somewhere out of all those people comes my global influence and somewhere out of that comes this music. It's strange for me; I don't really like the idea of saying 'this song was influenced by this and that song was influenced by that.' For other people the influences may seem really clear but for me it is all mashed up together. 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
Confused or not there are bound to be comparisons flying as this record works its way into the mainstream. While Lidell seems to channel Curtis Mayfield on "All I Wanna Do," "Figured Me Out," seems to steal a page from the playbook of Jamiroquai and the smooth and jazzy feel of "Green Light," could land him on tour with Steely Dan.

In another twist, Lidell will be performing with a live band on this tour. After years of touring as a one man show and layering electronics and vocals to create a blend of high energy soul tinged electronica, he is forgoing that to interact with other musicians on stage.

After playing with so many talented artists on the album it is easy to assume that Lidell was able to pull a band together easily but that didn't prove to be the case. "I'm in a difficult bind as a solo artist who's decided to get a band together. It can often go wrong when people do that," he explained. "You can get a bunch of hired guns and they might be good players technically but they sometimes are in it as a money making gig. I was really conscious of that and I spent a long time honing in on a combination of good friends of mine who I had to persuade pretty heavily to drop their solo stuff and other commitments to come on the road with me and also a couple of new players who have fit the bill perfectly."

In his searches he was able to find a pretty amazing group of musicians including a "drummer who can play bass at the same time as drumming. He uses organ bass pedals on his left foot. He's kind of a freak and it is amazing that he can do it." Also joining the band will be a guitarist who also plays bass, and a horn player that brings something very interesting to the table. "My man, Andre Vida will be taking on horn duties. One man, two horns. Think Roland Kirk. Crazy harmonized saxophones from one mouth. It's amazing to see and to hear," Lidell said. "He's had a lot of experience in the free jazz world. He's played with Anthony Braxton for example and it's going to be cool for audiences to hear that crazy shit because it is usually reserved for the snobby jazz crowds."

In the end, Lidell wound up with an ensemble that he is particularly excited to work with. "In addition to the band, Pablo Fiasco, my visualist and visionary, will be gracing the stage with his madcap action as well," Lidell said. "It's going to be quite a show. I know that I've got the players I want and they've got the talent and the individual character. I'm going to try to pull a Duke Ellington and work out what everyone's strengths are and not just make them play my music, but have them play their music and my music at the same time."

The importance that Lidell places on letting his band members discover his or her own musical identity within the parameters of his songs is a testament to his belief in how important music is to the identity of a person. While he has obviously chosen musicians that he works well with and shares ideals with, he is not simply spoon feeding them the charts. "I decided I want a bunch of innovative and expressive players up there with me as opposed to talented but traditional players. I am very conscious of the fact that there are so many great players that can really kick my ass and rather than viewing that as a weakness of mine, I really enjoy the fact that I get to open it up and hear how other people interpret my ideas and add their experience and knowledge to them." As a result he is relying on the band to be fluid and expecting that they will help the music to evolve and to grow as the band matures.

It is this kind of modesty, open mindedness, and respect for the ideas of others that has helped define the progression of Lidell's music. From the sampling and electronic meanderings of 1997's Freakin' The Frame to the edgy electronic soul of Multiply, it looks like he has been plotting this course toward refined soul music for the 21st century for the last ten or more years. While it is clear that electronic music is important to him and has helped him to get where he is today, he made it very clear that "deep down I was always a beats man and for lack of a better term, a soul man. That's what always stirred me up inside."

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[Published on: 5/6/08]

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All Loving Liberal White Guy Tue 5/6/2008 09:30PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

All Loving Liberal White Guy

you'd have to be an elephant gonad sized douche bag with a cold heart not to get any enjoyment out of jamie lidell's music. his songs are soo effing groovy. one cant help but shake their ass.

Chaloupka starstarstarstarstar Wed 5/7/2008 08:02AM
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This guy makes some good ass music!

hobex Wed 5/7/2008 10:42PM
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If you dig Jamie, you'd probably dig HOBEX. Opening for George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic in Raleigh this Saturday, May 10. 7 pm outside the Lincoln Theatre!

HoodooVoodoo Fri 5/9/2008 03:19PM
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Never heard of him.

amayam Sun 5/11/2008 12:17AM
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Get his new album, soooo much fun.

hajimemashite Wed 5/14/2008 10:54AM
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I was turned on to Jamie by the same friend who blew my head open w/Squarepusher a few years back. We're driving down from Humboldt County to catch SF and LA. I recommend ya'll do the same.