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We all know Hugh Laurie as one of television’s most famous doctors – “Dr. Gregory House” on ABC’s blockbuster hit drama series HOUSE. Superstar Hugh Laurie recently performed for the first time in Nashville at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center--for one night only, Laurie performed songs from his acclaimed debut Let Them Talk and his recently released Didn’t It Rain. While Laurie’s first album focused on the sounds of New Orleans, his new album follows the blues upstream and into the American heartland with songs by W.C. Handy, Jelly Roll Morton, Dr. John and The Animals. His worldwide legion of fans primarily recognize Laurie for his award winning role of Dr. Gregory House, which after 8 seasons yielded him a multitude of awards, including 6 Emmy nominations. But since the series ended last year, Hugh Laurie the singer/musician has been at the forefront of his multi-dimensional career. After a lot of schedule maneuvering, Hugh took the time to chat with exclusively about his recent Nashville debut appearance, his music and about that other guy—“Dr. House.”
(FOOTNOTE: THIS INTERVIEW WAS RECORDED 3 DAYS BEFORE HIS NASHVILLE CONCERT)
TRIBUNE: What can fans expect from your concert shows?
H, LAURIE: “I hope that we can deliver a rollicking good show of blues, jazz and folk tunes that are tunes some will be familiar with and others not so much. I’m playing with this wonderful band. I describe them as being the best band in the world because I believe they’re worthy of that title. Basically, I’m the face of it all. I’m the host for the evening, as I sit at a piano. I play a note here and there, tell a story, and sing a song. We’ve done about 100 shows and I’m now proud to say this is a really good show that I would enjoy attending. I’m sticking my neck out a bit by saying that I think this is a show the audience is really going to like.”
TRIBUNE: I understand this is your first time visiting Nashville.
H. LAURIE: “Yes, it is. I’m very excited to come to Nashville. It’s the city for American music. Some of the guys in the band have played in Nashville before but I’ve never even peeked inside of this great city. I am so excited. I just can’t wait to get there.”
TRIBUNE: Before you leave town you must get you an official pair of cowboy boots and matching cowboy hat.
H. LAURIE: “You understand me perfectly! A man needs to have his cowboy boots and hat in his life. I will definitely be properly attired for the evening.”
TRIBUNE: You’re a multi-talented performer: acting, singing, music, directing. Which of these talents came first for you? The music or acting?
H. LAURIE: “They kind of evolved separately for me. Music was sort of secret thing in my life. I really sort of hid my music under a bushel of sorts. Music was just a secret passion I had. Acting was much more public for me. I think a lot of people become actors because they’re looking for an opportunity to hide behind other talents and identities. Music is something that’s always been in my life but it’s only been within the last couple of years that I’ve taken the music out in public and I’m absolutely loving it…I’ve recorded the classic song The Tennessee Waltz. If an Englishman such as myself comes to Nashville and performs the Tennessee Waltz, do you think that will be ok?
TRIBUNE: I think the fine people of Nashville will give you the Englishman a standing ovation. They will be flattered and honored.
H. LAURIE: “That’s good to know because I think The Tennessee Waltz is one of the greatest tunes ever written. The song’s been done by so many people, so I just hope the people in Nashville aren’t tired of hearing it. I never get sick of hearing the song because I love it so much, not matter what version it’s in. We may perform it but if it doesn’t work and people start to throw cabbages at me I will just blame you. (he laughs)
TRIBUNE: And if that happens I will just take the cabbage and make some great cole slaw for you and the entire band!
H.LAURIE: “Ok, sounds good!”
TRIBUNE: Have you ever met an actual doctor who had a similar personality as your Dr. Gregory House character?
H. LAURIE: “No, I haven’t. The truth is no doctor would survive if he behaved like that. He would probably be in jail or out of the medical profession! (he laughs)…I must admit I’ve met some who might be headed that way though but not quite to the extreme of Gregory House.”
TRIBUNE: Which of these two statements about your career makes you the most happiest: Being the highest paid actor ever in a television drama in House, OR for being the most watched leading man on television?
H. LAURIE: “First of all, I personally don’t believe that either one of those statements is true, by any margin. I was certainly paid very, very well for the work I did on the HOUSE show. Without a doubt, I’ve been incredibly lucky and I do give thanks for it every single day. Also, with the Presbyterian streak within me, I’m always anticipating disaster at any moment. (he laughs) The way that I was brought up is that if you have good luck in one area, then something equally disastrous is going to happen tomorrow but that somehow keeps me sane. I also think the idea of having done a show that entertains people, makes them think, and makes them laugh is a great honor. I wouldn’t swap that for anything in the world. I will be very proud of the House show for the rest of my life.”
TRIBUNE: I have an email from someone who wants to know what do you like to do in your off time?
H. LAURIE: ‘That’s a good question. My two favorite things to do are riding a motorcycle and playing the piano. These are my solaces in life. So I’m either playing piano or riding a motorcycle. If I could find a way to play the piano while riding a motorcycle, I will do that.”