Four months after walking away from fake American hospital scrubs for good, eight-season "House" star Hugh Laurie has taken on a simpler role -- piano player. Instead of following up his iconic Fox role as the lovably sarcastic, drug-addicted, video-game-playing, people-hating Dr. Gregory House, the 53-year-old British actor interprets Stephen Foster, Professor Longhair and Robert Johnson songs as the singer and pianist in his boisterous New Orleans-style blues band.
"That's one of the real delights that I'm most enjoying about touring, being able to relax more and find -- and therefore express -- the joy and pleasure I get from it," he says by phone from a tour stop in Annapolis, Md. The tour brings him to the Paramount in Huntington Tuesday night.
You write in the liner notes to your 2011 album, "Let Them Talk," that you stopped taking piano lessons as a kid when your teacher, Mrs. Ware, freaked out over "Swanee River" because it was a "Negro spiritual." After that, did you teach yourself piano?
I didn't touch it for a couple of years, and then I started just fooling around. I had a friend at school who] showed me a couple of licks, and that was enough to get me going, and I started listening to Muddy Waters records and trying to hear what the hell Otis Spann was doing in those songs.
Otis Spann played fast!
When I was a kid, for a time I seriously believed [jazz legend] Oscar Peterson was playing a different instrument that had more notes on it. I had black and white notes, he had black, white, blue, red and orange. But ultimately, like everything else in life, you break it down and you go slow.
What's different about playing an American on TV compared to singing American blues songs?
I'm much less conscious of it when singing. When acting, that's almost all I could think about -- the accent. That was the chain around my ankle that I was sort of dragging behind me. . . . I don't think of it so much -- or, at least, not consciously -- when singing.
What do you miss least and most about "House"?
The thing I miss least is getting up at 5. Most of all, I miss the character. I loved that character and still do. I love a line he said or an idea he had. Of course, I miss the people I worked with, and I hope down the road we wind up working together at various times so I'll get to see them again.
WHO Hugh Laurie
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Tuesday, the Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington
INFO $35-$65; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com