24 Minutes with James Blunt
James Blunt. (Jimmy Fontaine Photo)
Taking radio by storm in 2004 with the song You’re Beautiful, James Blunt has since gone on to sell millions of albums worldwide. His latest, The Afterlove, sees the singer branching out much further musically. Joe Leary spent 24 Minutes with James Blunt.
Let’s go back to 2007 and the Back to Bedlam album, which was a huge seller for you and of course the song You’re Beautiful became an instant classic. When you launch a career with something that substantial, does it put vast amounts of pressure on you for subsequent releases?
No, not at all. I mean it’s just an awesome thing to have, isn’t it? To have a big song and a huge album. It’s actually given me lots of freedom in many ways. Freedom not to worry about too much and thinking too hard about it. I’ve had a great time and made some albums that I loved. This one in particular, The Afterlove, I just put out is my fifth. I spent two years making it and wrote over a hundred songs and have just loved every minute of it making something really special. Without the start I had, I definitely wouldn’t have had that freedom.
In your latest bio, you were quoted as saying that you were s----ting yourself prior to releasing it because it was taking you in different directions. As an artist, don’t you have that creative freedom to do whatever you feel is appropriate at the time? Was the main concern that the public/press wouldn’t receive it well or the James Blunt fans?
No, I’m probably prone to a little exaggeration. It’s just more diverse perhaps as an album than what I’d done before. My four albums before are all beautiful but they are all one man on a guitar playing miserable songs. This album is not just that. It has those beautiful songs perhaps ever more beautiful than I’d done before because I have more life experiences that have happened in the last few years inspiring me to write some pretty painful and some incredible and touching songs too. But I didn’t just stick to singing those miserable songs and it’s not just ballads. It’s songs that perhaps will take people by surprise.
You really pored over these songs. Are you happy with the output?
Absolutely! As I said, I made my fifth album something special and I did that for a reason. I suppose my main reason was my producer Tom Rothrock was with me in the desert at the Burning Man Festival at five in the morning and he said, ‘James, it’s been a great run; four albums – you could retire', and I thought, wow, if my own producer is telling me that, that’s pretty amazing, and after thinking about it, I realized that what he was saying is that if I’m going to make a fifth album, it has to have a purpose and it can’t just be like the other ones. It needs to be different, it needs to stand out and needs to be special and that’s why I’ve really gone away and made something that I hope will surprise people.
On social media, you’re not afraid to be a bit self-deprecating and have some fun. Is that a part of your personality that we previously didn’t know?
Well, yeah, because I guess people expect me to be that guy that sings You’re Beautiful, the serious, miserable guy that they think is a romantic. Your romantic song you sing to this girl that you’re beautiful. I mean for me, that’s not who I am in the first place. If you think about that song it’s about a guy who is high on drugs talking to someone else’s girlfriend in a public space on a subway and so I probably should have been arrested rather than romantic (and) probably creepy! Perhaps I’ve been misunderstood.
I am NOT desperate to sell records. At all. pic.twitter.com/D9vovCbWKk— James Blunt (@JamesBlunt) May 25, 2017
You’re now a dad. How has fatherhood changed you?
I’m always really private about my private life, but I suppose recently I found myself writing songs about those life experiences that I’ve gone through. Ed Sheeran – who I’m on tour with right now – he and I went away and wrote a song about my family life called Make Me Better and it’s the most touching song on the album in many ways. My wife says it’s the most romantic song that Ed Sheeran’s ever written her.