Knowing me, Knowing you: Jamie Cullum and Alan Bates

A relationship under the microscope

Tuesday 01 November 2011 01:00 GMT

JAMIE CULLUM, 33, is a jazz and pop singer-songwriter. He rose to fame in 2003 when his second album Twentysomething became the No 1 selling studio album by a jazz artist in the UK. He lives in London with his wife, Sophie Dahl, and their baby daughter.

I first became aware of Alan through Clare Teal, who was signed to Candid Records, his jazz label. She heard my first CD that I'd made with about £300 and told Alan to check me out. I was about 21 and Alan got hold of my number and invited me around to his house. On the walls of his office were all these artists that Candid Records had been recording since the Sixties. There were names up there like Charles Mingus, Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, which was really overwhelming. Alan was such an interesting guy and he'd known all these people over the years and here he was talking about enjoying my CD and signing me. He's smart; he knew that it's not all about the record and he needed to know that I could perform live. He had a friend with a jazz club and he booked me a gig there. I made sure all my friends came down to make me look like I already had a massive fan base. Alan decided to sign me afterwards. I released Pointless Nostalgic on Candid, which then brought me to the attention of Universal Records who I went on to sign with. Alan was instrumental in helping me develop. What's great about our relationship is that we always talk about music and he never turns up to lunch or dinner without a bag of records for me. He's one of the old-school record guys so while he wants his business to work, the number one thing is the music.

ALAN BATES, 84, founded Black Lion Records in the late Sixties before taking over the running of the Candid label in 1988, signing Stacey Kent, Clare Teal and Jamie Cullum among others. He won the Services to Jazz award at the 2008 BBC Jazz Awards.

Clare, who was recording for me at the time, came to me and said that I had to listen to this bloke Jamie Cullum. I told her to get him to send me a demo. I liked it very much and I thought he had a really mature style when it came to singing standards and I loved his phrasing. I said I'd like to see him perform. I called my friend Salena Jones, who had a jazz club in Shepherd's Bush, and asked if he could do the intermission spot at one of her nights. So we went, he played, and Salena gave him a gig on the spot. He opened our annual showcase at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho in the winter of 2002. I remember it was bloody cold and he surprised everyone by singing 'Let it Snow'. It was the last thing anybody expected and he did it brilliantly. I never forgot that moment. Eventually, the Universal might was very enticing so we thought we'd better let him have his career developed by them. I still see him as much as I can and I feel immensely proud of him. The last time I saw him play, he had the whole audience eating out of his hand. His ability to communicate with an audience is like none I've ever seen. I'll never meet anybody else like him in my life.

Jamie Cullum has teamed up with PizzaExpress and Barclaycard Freedom for The Big Audition, searching for the next big name in live music. Visit to vote.

Interviews by Gillian Orr

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