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She is a world-renowned jazz icon with a record eight albums that have debuted at the top of Billboard's jazz list, but Diana Krall says she's not a jazz singer. "I'm a jazz piano player," she explains. "My greatest inspiration is Nat Cole, for that reason. He was also a jazz musician. I always go back to Nat Cole."
Her fans would probably beg to differ. Krall's voice is beloved, often described as "sumptuous" and "sultry." With the release of her new jazz album Turn Up the Quiet on May 5, the Canadian-born singer is set to begin a world tour in Minneapolis on June 2. We caught up with her to find out how she makes the most of touring and travel—and how she balances her exhausting schedule with being a wife to singer Elvis Costello and a mom to their twin 10-year-old boys.
Q: Media have been calling this a return to jazz for you. Is that how you feel about this album?
A: My last studio album was not a jazz record. But I don't look at this as a "return" to jazz. I never left. It was also a chance for me to return to working with my producer Tommy LiPuma [who passed away in March].
This album was about gathering all the great artists I've worked with for the last 20 years. To see what happens with the different ensembles. That I could get together with three different ensembles and they all understood what I was trying to do without too much direction — it really was special.
Q: With two iconic musicians in one house, what is your workflow like? Do you and Elvis bounce ideas off of each other?
A: The most joyful thing to do when you're finished making a record is getting to play it for your husband. We have a relationship now for 15 years where we don't get too involved in each other's work. But it's tremendous when you have someone who totally understands and gets what you're doing. He loves the record, and that makes me happy. And he's enthusiastic. That's what we all desire in a partner.
Q: You're about to start your world tour. How do you stay healthy with such a rigorous travel schedule?
A: You say world tour, but I like to think of it starting in America. I like to look at things one step at a time. I've been touring for so long that it seems like we're always touring. I love playing live music for people, but being away from home is very difficult. It's a work in progress — how to balance touring, being away. You have to take care of your body and your mind.
Q: You often bring your sons along on tour. Is that difficult?
A: That's all they've known, since that's the life for both of their parents. They're proud of what we do in their own way. They go on tour with us. But they have their own interests. They play baseball and chess. They're exploding creatively now. They've discovered Billy Crystal's stand-up recently. It's fantastic for them to discover someone I've loved for so many years.
Q: Do you ever get bored playing the same songs over and over, a new city every night?
A: I have a huge repertoire, so I can get out there and play songs from 13 different records. I'm not a new artist with just a few records. I'm established, and that's a good feeling. Every night is not the same for me. I crave that variety.
Q: Speaking of variety, tell us about other projects you have in the works.
A: I play the mother in the upcoming animated Amazon series Pete the Cat. It's done by the same person who did Phineas and Ferb. I play the mother, and Elvis is playing the dad. I'm excited about it. I've always wanted to do animation. My dream is to be more involved in animated films and voice-over work.
Q: At the end of the day, a performer is nothing without her fans. What do you hope yours take away from Turn Up the Quiet?
A: This record is so beautiful and relaxed and romantic and positive. I'm not trying to be nostalgic but modern. We all need a little romance. It's not necessarily music that brings you back to old days. It's just great music, and it feels good. I just want to make people feel good. That's all. And maybe someone will dance to it.