Hugh Laurie: An Excerpt From ‘House on Fire’

April 22nd, 2011

Story by Joe Bosso | Photography by Kevin Scanlon

Hugh Laurie isn’t just the star of one of television’s most popular shows—he’s also a lifelong blues fanatic and musician who burns up the frets on his rootsy major-label debut.

Hugh Laurie does not walk with a limp. He’s light on his feet, gliding across the room with Fred Astaire–like grace. Nor does he speak with a gruff American accent. Rather, his voice is proper British and vaguely stentorian, but not stuffy; imagine Jeremy Irons unwinding at a cocktail party and you get the picture. Lastly, the actor doesn’t come across as particularly misanthropic. In fact, he’s downright gentle and courteous, oozing an easy charm and wit.

So there you have it. The 51-year-old, two-time Golden Globe winner has been at Milk Studios in Los Angeles for all of one minute, and the differences between Laurie and Dr. Gregory House, the emotionally tortured protagonist he plays in the smash Fox TV series House, couldn’t be more apparent.

But there is one striking similarity between the two: both are known for their propensity for strumming the guitar and tinkling the ivories. And the Hugh Laurie at Milk Studios today inhabits a real-life character that requires no sense memory preparation or Method: Hugh Laurie, musician.

Dressed in a snazzy suit that fits his wiry six-foot-two frame to a T, and sporting a porkpie hat, Laurie radiates an elegant hipster vibe. It doesn’t hurt that he’s wielding a guitar case, but it’s hardly a prop. Before delivering himself to wardrobe and makeup artists, he sits down, flips open the case, and pulls out a 1942 Martin 0-17. The guitar’s mahogany body is well worn, but the instrument is rich in tone. Laurie puts an ear to the air to absorb the Robert Johnson emanating from the studio’s sound system, nods appreciatively and starts playing along. He’s not showing off, however; he’s just doing what comes naturally.

To read the rest of this story, pick up the May/June issue of Guitar Aficionado. You can buy the issue online here.

  • Don Courson

    Way cool article. I was walking through the airport and just had to have the Hugh Laurie month. I had just bought a 1938 0-17. It is still being rescued from age and cracks. The sound is just beautiful