For Jamie Lidell, success has had its advantages. He’s been able to tour the world and got Beck to help him produce parts of his new record, but life has been far from perfect since he released his critically acclaimed soul records Multiply and Jim.
“I lost control of my career,” he says.
Management, he explains, got too involved, making him feel like someone else was running his life. “I allowed them to have too much power and at that point I didn’t feel like I was the boss anymore.”
He fired his team and started over. He moved from Berlin to New York and put his tour manager — who also happens to be Feist’s manager — in charge.
“It’s about not saying yes to everything,” he explains. “And I’m in a much better place. Plus, my new manager is a champ.”
The turmoil is one reason why his new record, Compass, takes a harder, more electronic edge than his past releases. Lidell actually started out making abstract electronica, but shifted to classic soul on 2005’s Multiply. The new album combines the two — the title track has a classic R&B vocal melody, but enough strange drumbeats and atmospheric keyboard noises to make this sound more like a mash-up than a fully formed song.
Beck’s involvement is another reason for the edgier sound. When Lidell sat down with the singer-songwriter in L.A. for the first time, he realized his material wasn’t strong enough. “I was a bit overwhelmed and out of my depth,” admits Lidell.
He went back to New York, holed himself up in his apartment and thought long and hard about what he wanted the album to sound like.
“I had a month of intensive soul searching and then just went at the songwriting process flat out,” he says. “I ended up coming up with so much material. I never knew I had it in me.”
Discovering that he could be a songwriting machine, though, also made him realize that he couldn’t work with Beck. While Beck wanted to collaborate on songs, Lidell was looking for a producer to craft material that was already written. “I told him, ‘Hey it’s been great, but I think I need to work on these songs myself.’”
In the end, Lidell recorded most of his record in rural Ontario — at Feist’s cabin. He brought members from Zeus and Grizzly Bear to play on the disc (Feist also sings on some tracks) which may be another reason for his musical evolution. “It was such a contrast from working in L.A. ... And that gave the album the really strange contour.”