Actor, comedian, writer and musician… House-star Hugh Laurie talks about some daily rituals, musical heroes, and recording experiences.
Singing or acting?
– I love playing music with this band more than anything I’ve ever done. To start a song, any song, and feel it come alive as the band joins in – it’s just thrilling to me. I mean I love acting too, obviously, but music, that’s the thing…
As a child, who was your musical hero?
– It would take me weeks to name all my musical heroes. Far too many… And of course they kept changing, as my favorite songs kept changing. Music is a river, and it keeps on flowing.
You began learning an instrument aged 6 – what made you start again?
– I never really stopped playing the piano – I just stopped having lessons. But I was always listening to my heroes, trying to work out what they were doing and how. I still am.
Do you prefer to spend time with musicians or actors?
– They’re not so different, really. They’re both trying to tell a story, communicate with an audience, getting everything they can from a song to make it work. I suppose I admire the musicians’ skill more, but that’s always been the case, long before I tried doing either of these things.
How do you find the process of choosing songs to cover and to record?
– It’s almost the best part. The producer of the record Joe Henry and I spend months swapping ideas for songs, and of course we both keep finding things that the other one hasn’t heard – so that’s a great learning process for me. But then comes the really painful part of cutting a hundred songs down to just 15 or so. That hurts!
You’ve collaborated with some wonderful jazz/blues/country artists. Would you work with any pop musicians too?
– Absolutely. I don’t have any tribal feelings about what kind of song belongs to jazz, and what belongs to pop – all music is music and all musicians are brothers under the skin…
Have your daily rituals changed since you launched your musical career?
– I practice more, obviously, trying to learn things I probably should have worked at when I was a child, but it’s never too late – at least I hope it isn’t!