Michael Wilson You probably know him as TV's Dr. House, but Hugh Laurie has…
- Posted on Sep 7th 2011 3:00PM by Chris Epting
Laurie's new album, 'Let Them Talk,' is no celebrity vanity project. It's a legitimate, passionate, authentic collection of blues standards performed by Laurie -- a standout piano player who clearly feels the emotion of the songs -- and a band of pure-pedigree experts that spin bright new life from some well-tested chestnuts.
Laurie spoke with Spinner about how important -- and humbling -- this project was for him. Talking about this music, he's as animated and involved as he is on the album.
Listening to 'Let Them Talk,' it's clear you took this very project seriously.
My reverence for this music is bordering on the religious. It means a great deal to me. Just to give you a an example of it, on the first day we were going to record, it suddenly hit me I needed to work out what I was going to wear. I thought, I can't do this music in jeans and sneakers. It doesn't feel right. So I went in wearing a suit and tie. Now, I don't wear a suit and tie, really, for anything -- maybe going to see the bank manager, although I don't even put a tie on for that [laughs]. It was, to me, a little bit like going to church. And I became completely lost in the music and the process. It truly was like being lost in an ocean of amazing music.
What is it about American blues and British musicians? The love affair goes way back.
I have thought of this long and hard and have yet to come up with an answer. You're absolutely right: There does seem to be a strong connection, going back to the Rolling Stones or Jeff Beck, Alexis Korner, the Yardbirds and on and on. I haven't found any explanation that makes sense to me -- it's absolutely baffling. In my case, it was an electric shock the first time I heard it; the first time I heard it coming out of the radio, it just grabbed me by the throat and hasn't let go since. [It] totally mesmerized me, and I've been dealing ever since I was very young. It was never a fad or movement around me. In my case, in my circle, I was the only kid with these records and the sounds just grabbed me. It wasn't as if everyone I knew felt this way. It was and remains something very special for me.
Have you ever toured the South to visit blues landmarks throughout the Mississippi Delta and beyond?
I have not, and that is my absolute goal once 'House' is finally laid to rest. I've got shelves of books about touring the Delta. I've got it all mapped out, and I'm ready. It's a very serious plan in my life, and I'm definitely going to take this trip. It was a big moment going to New Orleans recently for this record, and that trip felt like an odyssey of sorts, so I can only imagine what it will be like to really explore the area. I must get there. There have just got to be so many stories to be told and heard
Hugh Laurie Performs 'Let Them Talk'
There are some great guest appearances on the record: Tom Jones, Irma Thomas and one of your musical heroes, Dr. John. How was it playing with him on 'After You've Gone?'
Playing with Dr. John was beyond surreal. You have to understand, all of those songs of his are like a soundtrack from so many parts of my life. All of the songs on the record are, actually, but Dr. John is on a whole [other] level for me. From the moment I heard that this was going to happen with Dr. John, I simply could not believe it was really true. I laughed for about an hour, and I said, "This is crazy; I'm now officially in 'The Twilight Zone.' This is not going to happen. This can't happen." And so when it did happen, I was just in a complete daze. Afterward, I actually sat in my car and wept. It was so overwhelming. The hours, months, years of my life I've spent listening to him, his music, his arranging, his piano playing, his singing -- it was just an overwhelming moment for me.
Your band on the record is made up of some real heavyweights. Were you nervous when you first sat down to sing and play piano with them?
Before I walked into that studio, Ocean Way, I was just shaking like a leaf. I walked down a long passageway, down to the actual studio, and you're walking by photos of Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald -- just crazy the people that recorded there. And I thought, "I've got to get out of here! I'm badly out of my depth!" But those musicians, believe me, they could not have been any more encouraging or truly supportive. At no moment did I have the feeling of people rolling their eyes, thinking, "Can we get a real piano in here?" [laughs] Recently I toured with three of the guys -- we went to Berlin, Hamburg, Paris, London and some other places and we had an absolute blast. The fun we had in the studio and the love we have for the songs continued and grew every night. It was an absolutely wonderful trip and a good way to keep paying tribute to this amazing music.