"Jamie Lidell," the just-released album from the U.K. soul-pop provocateur of the same name, was recorded through a vastly different creative process than what the Cambridge native has ever been used to. For his last album, 2010's "Compass," Lidell collaborated with artists like Beck and Feist in his native New York; in February 2011, however, the 39-year-old singer-songwriter moved to Nashville, built his own home studio, and self-produced a solo album while hanging out with musicians like the Black Keys and Will Oldham.
Part of the reason for the NYC exodus was that Lidell was simply being too noisy for his own good. "Having lived in New York for a couple years, it was just really like, we've got to get some space!" Lidell tells Billboard. "There's nowhere to record. I'd slowly turn up the music and I knew everyone in the building would hear everything… The thing about Nashville is, much of the year, you can't open your windows. It's pretty hot in the summer. You'd have to be really cranking it for [the neighbors] to be able to hear it. So it's really brilliant."
After nudging at his more experimental tendencies on "Compass," "Jamie Lidell," released Tuesday (Feb. 19) through the singer's longtime label, Warp Records, has a warmer feel, and is quicker to embrace the throwback R&B featured on 2008's "Jim." According to Lidell, the combination of both live drums and drum machines on the album is one of the reasons why the new LP has a more inviting texture.
"It's sort of that sensibility you would get from Quincy [Jones] -- the late 70s approach, that 'Billie Jean' approach, when they made drums sound like a drum machine," says Lidell. "We're using real bass, real guitar and real drums with a bunch of backup vocals. The synths and the drum machines are that kind of cold iciness, with the consoles, you get that little bit on the brittle side. So you fly in all the warmth from the real stuff, and it feels good."
Two years after moving to Nashville, Lidell is now close friends with the Black Keys members Dan Auerbach and Pat Carney, who performed earlier this month at the the Grammy Awards. Lidell and his wife attended Carney's wedding last September, for instance, and asked the "El Camino" drummer to preview "Jamie Lidell" months before its release.
"I sat Patrick down in front of my album, and he really wanted to listen to the whole record," says Lidell. "He was just right in the middle of the speakers the whole time, just getting me to rewind sections and freaking out. He really loved the music, and it was very clear that he was a real music lover."
With "Jamie Lidell" finally in stores, Lidell now has to put the finishing touches on an international tour that kicks off on Mar. 8 in London, and heads to North America on Apr. 1. The singer-songwriter collaborated with electronic maestro Tim Exile for his new live show, which has long been based around looped samples but has expanded in even more technically ambitious directions.
"I've got a huge array of equipment lined up for what is meant to be my solo show. It's a little bit daunting," Lidell admits. "I'm trying to get the best of all worlds, trying to get make live loops again, but take that way further than I used to, using a custom looper that's been developed by Tim Exile, who's like a little bit of a hidden master of electronic music. He's done some Warp records, but his electronic machines are staggeringly incredible." Lidell adds that the video show incorporated into his live set will also be more far-out: "It's not going to be pre-programmed video. I actually don't quite know what it's going to be, but more abstract than synchronized."