Dad's music not for his kids

SINGAPORE - British singer-songwriter Jamie Cullum's two young daughters could very well grow up not knowing that their father is one of the world's biggest jazz-pop stars.

While the 34-year-old's albums and songs sell millions of copies around the world, the father of a two-year-old and a 10-month-old baby with his wife, writer and former model Sophie Dahl, does not play his music to them at home.

"I try not to let my career impact on their lives at all. I don't think it's fair, they're just little kids at the moment," he says.

Cullum, who last performed here in 2010, will be back for the gala opening show of the inaugural Singapore International Jazz Festival (Sing Jazz) at the Grand Theatre, MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands on Feb 27.

The double-bill show will also feature a set by Australian jazz trumpet player James Morrison and the All Star Big Band.

Cullum says he has "less time" these days after becoming a father, but he is still as productive as ever.

Besides his current world tour in support of his sixth and most recent album, Momentum, he also has a weekly jazz show on BBC radio and a three-part radio documentary, Piano Pilgrimage, also on the BBC, about the role of the piano in British society.

He also recently launched a magazine, The Eighty-Eight Journal - Volume I, which contains writings and pictures by himself, Dahl and close friends such as playwright Duncan Macmillan.

"I guess my brain is always on and when it's off, I'm sleeping," he says of his workload.

"When I'm home, I really try to focus on my family, the wife and my kids. But when I'm away, I enjoying being creative and doing cool stuff. You get very inspired when you're on the road."

He is also planning to have two new releases this year, including his first acoustic jazz album.

"I've never made a straight acoustic jazz album. This is, in a way, funny because people associate me with jazz but I never made a pure jazz record."

He is secretive about details and will only say that it will contain "jazz standards, songs people will know and recognise". The album was recorded at the end of last year and he expects to release it in the next few months.

The other album, set for a Christmas release, will comprise jazz-pop originals that he is best known for and will be in the style of Momentum.

"I'm pretty ahead," he says. "I'm working hard to get something done this year. I think my fans deserve new music as quickly as possible."

While he is still working on a batch of new original songs, Cullum says fatherhood has affected the way he writes songs these days.

"I think I see the world much more clearly and I see nuances in things a lot more. I see maybe a little more of the sadness than before, a little more of the difficulties," he says.

"You have to view it through your children's eyes and how it's going to affect them. So it's important to look at it in a really fresh way, maybe more critically, kind of hold a magnifying glass up to the world.

"The songs benefit from this richer experience of life that I have."

Cullum, whose mother is Anglo- Burmese and father is English, released his first album, Heard It All Before, independently in 1999, and a follow-up, Pointless Nostalgic, in 2002.

It was his third album, Twentysomething (2003), that thrust him into the spotlight. It sold four million copies worldwide and made him the best-selling British jazz artist of all time.

The piano-playing star is excited about his upcoming gig at the Sing Jazz festival, and promises a lot of surprises as he and his bandmates thrive on spontaneity on stage.

"I don't have a set-list so it's always a little different each time, I never do the same show twice," he says.

"I do things on stage I don't even expect. I kind of make it up as I go along. Part of the fun of watching my gig is watching the band trying to work out what's coming next."

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