LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hugh Laurie, best known as the cantankerous doctor Gregory House from Fox TV series “House,” has carved out a new career path that has steered him away from acting and led him to music.
The British actor released his second album “Didn’t It Rain,” a nod to New Orleans blues, in the United States last week. The record features a mix of classic blues tracks performed by Laurie on piano and ensemble group The Copper Bottom Band.
Laurie, 54, talked to Reuters about his transition from an actor to a blues crooner, working with Stephen Fry and appearing in a Daft Punk tribute with Stephen Colbert.
Q: Is it strange to switch between acting and music?
A: It’s not an obvious transition, but it was one I was very grateful for. Because I suppose after acting on the end of a television show, I would’ve probably had quite a long period of, I don’t know if mourning is quite the word, but withdrawal anyway, because it was a thrilling time in many ways ...
(House) was a character I loved, still love, always will love, he will be forever with me. And I might have gone into a strange withdrawal period, but (I had) this incredible opportunity, I mean really, really once-in-a-lifetime chance to suddenly get in a room and speak in different tongues, as it were, with a whole different set of people with different ideas about life.
Q: You’re a Brit. Why take on the blues, which is a genre that has its roots in Southern U.S. culture?
A: This is the music I’ve always loved. I know that I‘m not really allowed to say this because I‘m not from here, I‘m a “damned foreigner.” But it felt like this was my music. I mean I know it’s not and I know I‘m an outsider coming to this, I‘m trespassing. I know that and for that reason I treat it very seriously and I treat it very reverently where I can.
But this is just the music I’ve always loved and always will ... The truth is there is a lot of English folk music in American music. ... from the very first moment I heard it I knew that this (blues) would be home for me.
Q: Is music a break from TV?
A: This is more than a break. I know, I completely understand people who look at this whole thing and it might look like a hobby or it might look like a sort of a vacation. It isn’t that at all. This is where I, believe it or not, this is where I always wanted to be. I‘m lucky enough to be here now, by a fairly circuitous route but I‘m where I wanted to be. I mean there are things about the job I had playing House which of course I will miss. I will miss the people, and I’ll miss the character. There are wonderful, wonderful experiences I had but this is on a whole different level for me. This is real, it’s a thrilling experience.
Q: You worked a lot with British comedian Stephen Fry early on in your career, specifically in “A Bit of Fry & Laurie.” Would you work with Stephen again?
A: I hope so. Stephen would be the first to admit that music is not his (thing) - he loves it, he’s extremely knowledgeable and he consumes it voraciously but he’d be the first to admit that it’s not his strong suit as a performer. We once sang a song together on live television and he actually had to undergo hypnosis to allow him to basically finish the song at the same time as the band finished. It wasn’t a question of holding a note ... He sort of finished, more or less, in the same calendar month as the band, which had not been the case in rehearsal.
Q: You recently appeared in a video tribute to French electronic duo Daft Punk on “The Colbert Report” with host Colbert. Did you ever think you’d do something like that?
A: I didn’t dare dream. No, I did not, I did not. That was pretty extraordinary. I feel honored to have touched the hem of whatever it is that they wear, I don’t know how you describe it. And also to have touched the hem of Stephen Colbert’s raiment as well. No I did not anticipate that, but that’s great. That’s how life should be.
Reporting by Lindsay Claiborn for Reuters TV; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Mohammad Zargham