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A Minute With: Hugh Laurie sings the blues after 'House'

British singer and actor Hugh Laurie greets the audience before his performance at the 46th Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux July 9, 2012.
British singer and actor Hugh Laurie greets the audience before his performance at the 46th Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux July 9, 2012.

By Lindsay Claiborn

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hugh Laurie, best known as the cantankerous doctor Gregory House from Fox TV series "House," has carved out a new career path that has steered him away from acting and led him to music.

The British actor released his second album "Didn't It Rain," a nod to New Orleans blues, in the United States last week. The record features a mix of classic blues tracks performed by Laurie on piano and ensemble group The Copper Bottom Band.

Laurie, 54, talked to Reuters about his transition from an actor to a blues crooner, working with Stephen Fry and appearing in a Daft Punk tribute with Stephen Colbert.

Q: Is it strange to switch between acting and music?

A: It's not an obvious transition, but it was one I was very grateful for. Because I suppose after acting on the end of a television show, I would've probably had quite a long period of, I don't know if mourning is quite the word, but withdrawal anyway, because it was a thrilling time in many ways ...

(House) was a character I loved, still love, always will love, he will be forever with me. And I might have gone into a strange withdrawal period, but (I had) this incredible opportunity, I mean really, really once-in-a-lifetime chance to suddenly get in a room and speak in different tongues, as it were, with a whole different set of people with different ideas about life.

Q: You're a Brit. Why take on the blues, which is a genre that has its roots in Southern U.S. culture?

A: This is the music I've always loved. I know that I'm not really allowed to say this because I'm not from here, I'm a "damned foreigner." But it felt like this was my music. I mean I know it's not and I know I'm an outsider coming to this, I'm trespassing. I know that and for that reason I treat it very seriously and I treat it very reverently where I can.

But this is just the music I've always loved and always will ... The truth is there is a lot of English folk music in American music. ... from the very first moment I heard it I knew that this (blues) would be home for me.

Q: Is music a break from TV?

A: This is more than a break. I know, I completely understand people who look at this whole thing and it might look like a hobby or it might look like a sort of a vacation. It isn't that at all. This is where I, believe it or not, this is where I always wanted to be. I'm lucky enough to be here now, by a fairly circuitous route but I'm where I wanted to be. I mean there are things about the job I had playing House which of course I will miss. I will miss the people, and I'll miss the character. There are wonderful, wonderful experiences I had but this is on a whole different level for me. This is real, it's a thrilling experience.

Q: You worked a lot with British comedian Stephen Fry early on in your career, specifically in "A Bit of Fry & Laurie." Would you work with Stephen again?

A: I hope so. Stephen would be the first to admit that music is not his (thing) - he loves it, he's extremely knowledgeable and he consumes it voraciously but he'd be the first to admit that it's not his strong suit as a performer. We once sang a song together on live television and he actually had to undergo hypnosis to allow him to basically finish the song at the same time as the band finished. It wasn't a question of holding a note ... He sort of finished, more or less, in the same calendar month as the band, which had not been the case in rehearsal.

Q: You recently appeared in a video tribute to French electronic duo Daft Punk on "The Colbert Report" with host Colbert. Did you ever think you'd do something like that?

A: I didn't dare dream. No, I did not, I did not. That was pretty extraordinary. I feel honored to have touched the hem of whatever it is that they wear, I don't know how you describe it. And also to have touched the hem of Stephen Colbert's raiment as well. No I did not anticipate that, but that's great. That's how life should be.

(Reporting by Lindsay Claiborn for Reuters TV; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Mohammad Zargham)

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