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“I don’t think I’m that dissimilar to how I am now. I have quite a lot of energy even when I’m absolutely knackered,” he says. She was with someone else and living in New York so they just became friends. “But it was kind of obvious – so did everyone else. What was interesting was that we just had quite similar interests.Being small - Cullum is probably no more than about 5ft 6ins – turns out not to have been a big deal for him. We both read a lot, we had similar rhythms to our lives.But it felt good to be doing jazz again after his previous album, Momentum which, although it had “jazz bones” was “more of a pop record”.His new album is a collection of covers and looks set to mark the space before he returns to writing his own music again.

His mother was a school secretary and his father worked for a business that supplied company cars.

Unable to read music, he chose to study English at Reading University (where he got a First) but continued to play in bands.

“If I wasn’t at lectures, doing essays or partying with my friends, I was driving in my Vauxhall Corsa to do a gig.

It kind of passes between humans.” Commercial success for Cullum hasn’t come at the expense of conforming to an image. No one ever really made major reference to it until I became known – and it was written about all the time.” Cullum says he never found it easy with the opposite sex but that he wasn’t a total disaster either. And obviously I took advantage of the lifestyle.” But, he says, he was able to check himself.

“I didn’t feel the need to put on a front,” he says. “I’d say I go to one per cent of the ones I’m invited to, and it’s not because I don’t like them, but because I always find it’s more pleasant to be at a party where you know everyone and you can get drunk or eat and no one’s taking your photo.” How accurate, I wonder, is the picture I’m developing of a charming, down-to-earth man? “It got easier when I was travelling and touring because, first of all, I was older and more confident, secondly, you have some validation by having some success, and thirdly being on the road – especially at that age when things are taking off – you get to party in a different way with different people in brilliant places. “I kept feeling like I wasn’t worthy, so I always managed to pull myself back from going too insane because I felt as though I had a long way to go musically.” Cullum met Dahl, now 37, at a celebrity fundraiser when she sang to his accompaniment on the piano.

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