I'm still kind of a hapless character in my everyday life. But when it comes to the writing, my influences are very old influences. I love American music of absolutely all stripes, including show tunes, advertising jingles, theme tunes from quiz shows, all kinds of American music.
One of the most memorable live performances of my career took place on the 2002 American Music Awards show when I had to the opportunity to sing with Elton John. I was moved by the way he played the piano onstage.
Bill Monroe spoke of bringing 'ancient tones' into his music with echoes of British and Irish fiddle and bagpipe music, while also delving deeply into American blues, gospel, folk hymnody, and hill country dance music. To that gumbo, he added the invigorating rhythms and harmonies of hot jazz. It was a new kind of American music, named in honor of his band The Blue Grass Boys to be known, simply, as bluegrass.
I quite like American music, like The Fray - I'm a massive fan of them - and The Killers. I also like more acoustic stuff like Ed Sheeran; I like this English songwriter James Morrison and another singer called Ben Howard.
You certainly don't hear any country music on pop radio today. But for a while you did, and it was a lovely thing to have all the different genres of music cohabitating the Top 40 - the folk sound, The Beatles, the British sound, the Motown sounds, that kind of light country - it was a welcome relief after a few hard rock records. Everyone was sharing the airwaves, and I think it was a beautiful time for American music.
The extent of his influence across jazz, across American music, and around the world has such continuing stature that he is one of the few who can easily be mentioned with Stravinsky, Picasso and Joyce. His life was the embodiment of one who moves from rags to riches, from anonymity to internationally imitated innovator. Louis Daniel Armstrong supplied revolutionary language that took on such pervasiveness that it became commonplace, like the light bulb, the airplane, the telephone.
Because the blues is the basis of most American music in the 20th century. It's a 12-bar form that's played by jazz, bluegrass and country musicians. It has a rhythmic vocabulary that's been used by rock n' roll. It's related to spirituals, and even the American fiddle tradition.