'The fact he's my husband didn't enter into it': Diana Krall on why she decided to work with Elvis Costello on her new record
17:13 GMT, 25 October 2012
New role: Diana Krall collaborates with her husband Elvis Costello on her new record Glad Rag Doll
Diana Krall made two bold decisions when she came to record her tenth studio album this year. Jazz diva Krall is normally sophisticated with a capital S. But on Glad Rag Doll, she reveals a down to earth side few would have suspected.
Oh yes – and she decided to bring her husband, Elvis Costello, along for the ride.
'Some people might be wary of collaborating with their spouses, but I was thrilled to be working with Elvis,' the Canadian singer says. 'The fact that he’s my husband didn’t really enter into it.
'There’s no power struggle in our marriage. Once we were in the recording booth, he’d give me a wink and a smile, and we had fun.
'Our lives get busy at home with the children, so it was lovely to have something else to share.'
Singer-songwriter Costello (billed on the record as ‘Howard Coward’) adds ukulele, mandolin, guitar and backing vocals to Glad Rag Doll.
With US producer T Bone Burnett at the helm, the record allies Krall’s sultry vocals and virtuoso piano work with a batch of largely forgotten American songs from the Twenties and Thirties.
The record is a major departure for Diana, 47, best known for her cool interpretations of the Great American Songbook hits of Jerome Kerr, Cole Porter and the Gershwins. Here, she proves she can also cover rootsy rockabilly on I’m A Little Mixed Up, and go country on Prairie Lullaby.
The inspiration for Glad Rag Doll dates back to her childhood on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Her accountant father, Jim, was an avid collector of old 78rpm records, and the young Diana would spend hours listening along with him. It was a process she found herself repeating on a visit home in the summer of 2011.
'My dad and I sat and listened to his wind-up gramophone for six hours,' she says. 'We didn’t talk very much. He would tell me that nanny used to love a certain song. His parents were coal-miners, and they’d make their own entertainment around a piano when they got home from the pub.'
Diana’s mother, Adella, who died in 2002, was another source of inspiration: 'She sang in a choir, and originally came from Southern Alberta, so she loved country & western and rock ‘n’ roll. It was through her that I got into songs like I’m A Little Mixed Up.
New music: Few fans would have thought that Diana would have taken the step of collaborating with Costello
'I didn’t want to make a period piece,' she adds. 'We played the old songs as if they’d been written yesterday.'
When we meet for a cup of tea at a London hotel, Diana is dressed in a smart, pinstriped suit. That sober look is a far cry from the racy sleeve of Glad Rag Doll, on which the mum of two poses provocatively in stockings, suspenders and a saucy basque. It is a picture inspired by the Ziegfeld Follies, the famously lavish Broadway productions of the 1920s.
'I was playing dress-up,' Diana laughs. 'Now I’m all grown up, I wanted to live out the characters I used to see at the late-night pictures. I didn’t just want to stand there with a ukulele.'
Krall and Costello, who met at a Grammys ceremony in LA, divide their time between their New York home and a summer residence in Canada.
Their six-year-old twin boys, Frank and Dexter, go to school in Manhattan, a situation that causes problems whenever their parents are on tour.
Belting it out: Diana is known for her soulful voice and piano-playing talents
'The boys are in a great school, but I will pull them out of class to be with us if I have to,' Diana admits. 'At the moment, I’m doing shows in Europe and it’s the longest I’ve ever been away.
'It’s been really hard, so we’re going to have to decide whether to take the boys on tour and hire a travelling tutor. I’m still figuring that one out.'
Krall, who plays two London shows next week, has been busy elsewhere, too. She began 2012 adding piano to Paul McCartney’s Kisses On The Bottom album and recently worked with the former Beatle again on a fresh take of the seasonal standard The Christmas Song. They were the sessions of a lifetime, she says.
'Working with Paul was an honour – he’s always a part of the band. When we did The Christmas Song, we were throwing around ideas.
'At one point, I looked up and apologised for taking so long over a certain part. Paul just said: “Diana, that’s how we roll; that’s how musicians work.” I looked over and realised he was right.'
Glad Rag Doll is out now. Diana Krall plays the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday (30 Oct) and Wednesday (31 Oct) (royalalberthall.com).