11 November 2014
A fixture on UK television and radio with his boogie-woogie piano playing, jovial personality, and banter with other musicians, Jools Holland really does love what he plays. Erica Worth meets the high-energy star. Read Part 4 of the interview now.
Jools Holland interview with Erica Worth continued (Part 4)...
If you’ve seen Jools on Later… with Jools Holland, you’ll notice that his piano has something of a dual identity. On the show’s set, each guest band has its own perch in a semi-circular setting. Jools himself talks to his chosen interviewee, sitting at the piano. ‘The piano in Later… is the prop that we use both to lean on, to sit against – and you learn far more about the interviewee from what they sing or play. Getting a tune out of them is great. Each band has its space, and my space has a piano where most would have a desk instead!’
The Later… piano is a Yamaha S6, but I’m curious to know how many pianos Jools Holland himself owns? ‘I have roughly seven or eight. Something like that. They all have their different purpose. So for touring we have a Yamaha GT7 GranTouch. We use our samples in it to make the sounds even broader. An acoustic piano would be great, but impractical for touring. This has both the attack of an acoustic and the action of an acoustic. Here [Greenwich], we have a Yamaha acoustic grand that I bought new 25 years ago. We record everything in here on it. Ideally I’d always use an acoustic. Nothing beats that. But I endorse Clavinovas and they are the best in that field.
‘I also have a Wurlitzer spinet that I first saw in a shop in Texas. They were trying to sell me a new piano, but this Wurlitzer wasn’t very much, and I asked how much to ship it back to Greenwich. They said something like 150 dollars. A month later I still hadn’t heard and I thought, “Oh well, it will never arrive.” Then one day I had a ring on my bell and there it was! At home I have a big Yamaha grand. That piano has the best bass – and it really sings. I also have a Steinway, which was given to my mother-in-law as a wedding present in 1958. I am thinking of having it restored, but I don’t want it to lose its sound. So I’m in a conundrum. It’s like the friend that you love in the corner of the living room – like the family dog. If a certain piano has been with you for a long time, it something special.’
Does a day go by when Jools doesn’t sit down at one of his beloved instruments? ‘Well, sometimes, if I’m away. But I’m much happier when I’m playing. Then you are in another world. Your requirements are completely different. Your whole spirit has changed into something else. You’re like one of those monks seeking something. Sometimes I have been away somewhere, like on holiday where they haven’t had a piano, for some five days, and actually, I come back and feel refreshed when I come back to the piano.’
I feel rather refreshed myself right now having spent this inspiring moment in time with Jools. I can’t wait to get back to the office and transcribe this interview. As I gather up my array of recording devices and place them back into my bag, I look at the timer on one of them. Forty-five minutes. How lucky was I?
Read part 1, part 2 and part 3.