Jamie Cullum is a jazz-trained pop songwriter and singer. He broke out in 2004 with Twentysomething, which mixed his own compositions with Radiohead and Jeff Buckley covers. His latest is The Pursuit.
Do you ever look at the Real Book or a standard song and just pick out stuff, steal chords, and mine it for ideas?
Sure, I have a ton of music books. I don’t read notes but I can read chord symbols. A lot of the time just for fun I’ll pull out the Real Book or a Ben Folds or Tom Waits anthology, just sit through and play a bunch of their songs. And then I find that after you play a bunch of songs that great, you tend to be in quite a fertile period. So I won’t necessarily kind of nick those four chords I like, well, that’s not true—maybe I have done that. But writing for me, it’s a good time to do it after you play a bunch of other songs, or listen to a bunch of music, and then just take one tiny idea from a great song you love, and run with it, and that tends to be a great way to write for me, definitely.
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