Cullum: Football is a universal language

With five successful solo albums to his name already (Heard It All Before, Pointless Nostalgic, Twentysomething, Catching Tales and The Pursuit), Jamie Cullum is without a doubt one of the best-known jazz musicians on the scene today. This achievement is even greater when you consider that he had to market his own debut album, paying for the pressing of 1999's Heard It all Before and selling copies at his concerts.

By 2008 his fame had spread, and he was chosen by American actor, director and producer Clint Eastwood to write the music for the latter's film Gran Torino. "First he asked me if I could perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival," Cullum explained on his website.

"After he saw my performance, he was all excited. He shoved the script of Gran Torino into my hands and quite simply said: ‘I want you to write the music for this’." The title song of the soundtrack would go on to be nominated for a Golden Globe.

FIFA.com spoke to the affable Englishman about his performance at the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala and about what music and football have in common.

Football with all its beauty and simplicity really does bring all cultures together, and this is what music does as well.
Jamie Cullum, musician and football fan.

FIFA.com: Jamie, you are the headline act at the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2010. How much does this mean to you?
Jamie Cullum:
It's a great honour for me to play at the Gala. Any musician could have been picked to perform at an event of this status. I feel very honoured to have been selected to play here. 

You will be performing in front of the biggest names in football. Will this be a special moment for you?
The biggest stars of the footballing world are coming to this event. Throughout the world, football is something that unites people, just like music. It brings people of different cultures, countries and continents together. This is exactly what FIFA does, and what music does as well, and I hope that I will be able to make my own little contribution to this.

What are your links to football?
I play football when I'm at home, in a team where we play once a week – it's just an amateur team. The closest I'd ever got to FIFA before was on a game console (laughs), if you count that then I play a lot of football. I also support my local team, Swindon Town. When you travel around the world a lot like I do as a musician, you find that you can always strike up a conversation with someone about football, even in Japan or America.

What were the highs and lows of the footballing year for you in 2010?
The high point was that my team Swindon Town didn't get relegated. They had a tough season last year. The low point was that Swindon Town didn't get promoted...

What do music and football have in common?
Football with all its beauty and simplicity really does bring all cultures together, and this is what music does as well. It's a terrible cliche but football and music really are universal languages which go beyond borders and countries. If you are watching a good game, the way the Brazilians play for example – a match full of spirit, passion, imagination and artistry – and you see the way it unites people, well that's just like music. 

If you had to compare football with a type of music, what would it sound like?
Brazil would be like a symphony, with lots of different movements, different ways of playing and different styles. England would sound more like The Rolling Stones – always working on the same level, but when it comes off, it really is great.