Every so often, when things are looking a bit jaded, a fresh new talent emerges on the popular music scene and everyone sits up and takes notice. Pop music survives on copy-cat culture, but when something sharp and individual breaks through into the mainstream the excitement takes off at full steam. Jamie Cullum is a 23-year-old singer and pianist who has just hit the headlines by signing a #1 million (HK$13.7 million) record deal in the United Kingdom. His new album, Twentysomething, is currently flying off the shelves like hot cakes and his name is plastered all over the press as the one to watch. Jamie has been called the future of jazz, but this is limiting his potential. His style is upbeat and jazzy, but jazz has always been a specialised musical taste limited to fans who knew what they liked and stuck to it. But Jamie has seized what some people hear as jazz and shaken it by the shoulders. He does not see Twentysomething as a jazz album. He wanted to make a record that his peers would appreciate and enjoy, something that was a bit different and would challenge what they were used to hearing. He has certainly succeeded. Twentysomething has the high energy of the best rock-and-roll album and the sexy coolness of a new talent who knows exactly where he is going and what he wants to do. Jamie is a self-taught musician who has always been surrounded by music. His father used to head a family band called The Impacts. With dad playing rhythm guitar, mum doing the vocals, uncle on lead guitar and grandad on saxophone, The Impacts toured local spots playing 60s pop. Jamie began playing the piano when he was eight, but hated it and gave it up when he was 11. He then discovered the guitar. His brother, Ben, got an electric guitar for his 13th birthday and soon both brothers were totally in love with the instrument. They listened to the rock-and-roll guitar greats and practised hard to become as good as their idols. But Jamie had also started to listen to classic jazz artists and he gradually got back into playing the piano. His love of jazz grew, and the year after sitting his A-level examinations, Jamie began performing in jazz clubs. He went to university to study film and English literature, but still continued to play gigs whenever he had the time. He recorded his own album and sold it for #10 a copy wherever he played. After graduating in 2001, Jamie played both jazz and pop gigs all over the UK before using his savings to finance the recording of Pointless Nostalgic, which appeared on a small, independent jazz label. But people up at the top heard Pointless Nostalgic and after eight years of working hard in bars, cafes and clubs, Jamie was about to become an overnight success. TV appearances brought Jamie to a wider audience and major record labels offered him contracts. The jobbing musician days were over for Jamie and stardom was banging on the door. His unique voice and sharp piano playing mark him out as one of the most exciting newcomers in years. Questions: 1. Jamie accompanies himself on what instrument as he sings? 2. What is the name of his new hit album? 3. Who were The Impacts? 4. What instrument did Jamie play when he was a teenager? 5. Who is Ben Cullum? 6. What subjects did Jamie study at university? 7. What else did he do while at university? 8. Who financed the recording of his first album? 9. When did Jamie graduate from university? 10. How did he earn his living after leaving university? Answers: 1. Jamie plays the piano. 2. His new album is Twentysomething. 3. This was the name of the family group Jamie's father once headed. 4. He played the guitar as a teenager. 5. Ben is Jamie's brother. 6. Jamie studied English and film while he was at university. 7. He performed at gigs whenever he had the time. 8. Jamie's first album was self-financed. 9. He got his degree in 2001. 10. He played in pop and jazz venues all over the UK.