He’s the music legend set to bring live music to the seas in ‘The Club by Jools’, an exciting new venue aboard Saga’s brand new ship, Spirit of Discovery. Before setting sail, he spoke exclusively to editor Rebecca Martin for Into The Blue.
Jools, thanks for finding the time to chat with us in the midst of a busy European tour.
You were recently announced as the face of ‘The Club by Jools’, a brand-new venue on Saga’s Spirit of Discovery. What can we expect from a night at the 1950s-inspired spot?
Well, I think great food and a lovely atmosphere are the main things, and to have something that is lively yet retrospective. It’s retrospective in a way that being on a ship is a glamorous idea and ‘The Club by Jools’ plays into that a bit. I think that, certainly in my mind, the glamorous age of travel was really between the 1930s and 1950s. We have a sort of picture postcard in our heads of what that period was like and there’s a sense of that on Spirit of Discovery.
You’ve had a train named after you, now a live entertainment venue on a cruise ship; how does it differ?
It’s all a great thrill and an honour to have anything named after you. When we discussed going out on the ships, I was very excited, and then they said ‘you’re going to play at the launch of the ship’. I thought it’d be great to have a ship named after you, but I think the easiest thing for me to do is change my name by deed poll to Spirit of Discovery, so that’s probably what I should be working on at the moment. It’s nice having things named after you, you know. My wife wanted to call our dog after me but that was one step too far.
You’ve made much of your passion for live music in the past and are something of an ambassador for it after almost 30 years of BBC2’s Later…with Jools Holland. You must be thrilled to be bringing live music to the ocean waves?
It’s great! There’s something really special and magical about being at sea. When you approach some of those amazing cities from the sea, you’re approaching them from the very best angle and the same angle that the ancient travellers approached them from many years ago. It’s the same when you walk into the cities, through the docks and the cathedrals and the like, and I think the music that accompanies that, that atmosphere of music and celebration, is an incredible thing to have alongside the experience. Some of the greats have performed on ships in the past, so it’s fantastic to be able to do it too.
You’ll join Spirit of Discovery for a host of special sailings over the next two years. Which destinations are at the top of your wish list?
I’m looking forward to going to the Dalmatian Coast because I’ve never been there. I think there more than anywhere, by approaching it from the sea, you’re going in from exactly the right direction because those port towns sort of work their way in from the coast. You once weren’t able to get trains there, so going in by sea is how people used to approach it from the Middle Ages onwards. I think that will be very beautiful to look at. And it’s just a place that I don’t yet know, which is always nice.
I’m also looking forward to seeing Portugal and St Petersburg. I think it will be great fun and I think, wherever you go, the point is that there’s enough to do and enough to keep you occupied and enthral you on-board that the ship is kind of a destination in itself really. It’s almost like these magical places you visit float up to you.
What’s your idea of the perfect sea day?
There are always a few books, I like to catch up on reading, and I like to do a bit of sketching. It gives you chance to do that. All of us have busy lives now and the older you get, the busier you get. I think it’s great to be cut off in a way that means you can plan ahead to make time to do the things you quite like doing. My sketching things and my books will be coming with me and I shall enjoy being with them and just taking in the sea air.
And when you reach your destination, where is the first place you head?
I think it depends where you’re going but old port cities are great because they used to be the main way into a place, so you arrive right into the heart of it. The train came much later and the car much later still, so I think it’s great to weave right in there from the sea. There’s usually a grand port building and I quite enjoy seeing working docks too; it adds to the romance of it. Beyond that, in my experience if you head for the cathedral of a city, you’re likely to be in the centre of it. Those parts between there and the port are usually the best parts of town for me and the most atmospheric.
You’re already an avid cruiser. What do you enjoy most about cruising?
Well, there are two things. One is that you are cut off in a bubble, away from the reality of home. I think everyone has things they’re trying to get away from and it’s just a very nice way to escape. And then the fact that you’re visiting places that are really beautiful is like an incredible bonus. You’re escaping, for those moments, into a magical world.