It always felt awkward to Jamie Lidell, trying to capture his huge, thumping techno-soul ideas in a cramped British flat. After years of what he calls “flaccid bedroom recording,” worrying about neighbors and “tiptoeing around like a bloody idiot,” the singer moved to Nashville, Tenn. He conceived his new, self-titled fifth album (featuring synth-based R&B standouts such as “Big Love” and “Why_Ya_Why”) in a house in a part of the city populated by hard-partying college kids, who never complained about the sound.
Why move to Nashville?
Basically just to prove that Sun Ra was right — space is the place. I had a great lifestyle in Britain, and I miss the place. But Nashville is a music town on one hand, and it’s also a people town. When we first went there, we met an incredible group of people almost immediately, and one of those characters was Harmony Korine, who turned out to be a cool friend. He’s shown us the various underbellies of the city.
Harmony Korine, the filmmaker?
Really? Yeah. Him and his wife have been great. And Harmony’s philosophy of living in Nashville is one that me and my wife have adopted — it’s basically a creative place with a lack of distraction. It’s actually a place to go to make stuff, and then once you’ve made stuff, you can explore the more beautiful parts of the world.
What parts of Nashville did he show you?
Some crazy karaoke joints that have been there for years, and strange restaurants that you have to travel to get to. You’d never imagine that in this godawful strip mall there would be such an amazing eatery. A little local knowledge can go a long way when you’re trying to find your way in a new city. But randomly, I met Harmony going to boot camp, training with characters like Eddie George, the old NFL football player.
Yeah. It’s some extreme training, a really hardcore workout. And Harmony was adamant that you need to work out till you puke. And I’ve seen him puke, actually, whilst we were working out. And the first time I met (The Black Keys’) Dan Auerbach, I was holding his feet as he was doing crunches in my face. Somehow, that boot camp has united a few celebrities in Nashville, and it’s quite an ego-killing way to meet people. Everyone looks like a fool, simultaneously!