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Hugh Laurie: 'I Wanted To Be A Sitting-Down Guitarist'

The former star of the Fox TV drama 'House' talks the blues, American accents and karaoke.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Hugh Laurie (Mary McCartney)

There are people out there who might be surprised to learn that Hugh Laurie -- star of the incredibly popular Fox television drama House -- isn't American, although he played one on TV for eight years. He's English, and among his many talents, he has a real knack for imitating those of us from the opposite side of the Atlantic.

Still, despite his British roots, Laurie has always had a deep interest in at least one aspect of American culture: the blues. In 2011, he released his first blues album, Let Them Talk, and now he's back with a second album called Didn’t It Rain.

Interview Highlights: 

Hugh Laurie, on his first encounter with the blues: 

I heard it on the radio first -- that was the first electric shock, the thunderbolt that descended from the heavens. The first record was Muddy Waters' record Live At Mr. Kelly's. Muddy Waters was my first sort of touchstone, I suppose. Back in the days when I wanted to be a guitarist; who didn't? I wanted to be a "sitting down" guitarist. Muddy sat on a stool, B.B. King sits on a stool, I kind of like that sitting down thing. I suppose that's probably what eventually led me to the piano, because that's a good sitting down instrument. 

In response to the idea that there is a tradition of English comics who are also musicians: 

But I think of American actors and comedians being -- I think of all Americans, actually -- just sort of being born able to go onto straight a Broadway stage and sing a song and hold a tune and dance. You're a very entertaining people. It's been observed by the rest of the world. 

On having an American accent while singing the blues: 

I'm actually not aware of any affect in the singing of these songs. They just sort of come out the way they do. I suppose having grown up listening to this music every day, this is just how it's imprinted itself on my brain. It's just how I hear them. 

On whether he found it difficult adopting an American accent for his character on House

I certainly did. My daily struggle was with how on earth do Americans say the word "murder." That's a particularly difficult one for English people. Or "federal court." Wherever you've got a lot of Rs close to each other. That's where my tongue starts bleeding. 

On whether he'd ever performed live music before releasing his albums: 

I'd dabbled in comic songs, in pastiches of things. And very often the pastiches appeared on the surface to be a way of making fun of something, in actual fact I was only really using it as an excuse to do something that I loved.

So I wasn't really making fun of anything, actually they were little tiny coded love letters that I was writing to certain kinds of music.... and then to take a step into the world of sincere performance and the vulnerability that comes with that -- it is a very exposing experience, but exposing in a great way. In a sort of taking off all your clothes and running into a freezing cold North Sea way. 

 

Guests:

Hugh Laurie

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