James Blunt speaking in the Cambridge Union chamberAlisa Molotova

They say to never meet your heroes. It’s a good job James Blunt is only a semi-ironic guilty pleasure, then. Like many a twenty-something with questionable music taste, Blunt’s intrusions into the sound waves of my life have been twofold: squeaky, pre-pubescent attempts at the falsetto in the ‘You’re Beautiful’ chorus, and daring efforts to squeeze ‘Goodbye My Lover’ into Sunday Life pre-drinks. I jumped, therefore, at the chance to fire some hard-hitters in Blunt’s direction. As it turns out, his feathers are not easily ruffled.

I met with Blunt after his talk at the Union last week. I caught his eye, as he walked on by – he could see from my face that I was eager to throw some questions his way. As was clear from his interview in the chamber, Blunt does not take himself too seriously. “I am essentially a man known for one song, and one song only,” Blunt points out, before strumming the opening chords of his ‘You’re Beautiful’. “Everyone’s got it wrong, though. This is not a mushy love song to be played at weddings, but one about me stalking an ex-girlfriend whilst very high.”

“I don’t usually try and get in spats, instead aiming for one or two witty lines”

You would think making one’s name by producing romantic ballads would make you a hit with the ladies, but you would be wrong. “Writing songs like ‘You’re Beautiful’ is not the way to find ‘the one’,” Blunt continues. “As it turns out, stalking is not a great flirtation technique. If you want to pay some bills, on the other hand, singing about stalking is perfect.” Blunt was clearly not a wise man in some of his earlier romantic endeavours, it seems.

A similarly self-deprecatory vein can be found on his Twitter feed. With a limitless sense of irony, Blunt proudly proclaims his No.1 status in Tajikistan and Niger, and responds to critical tweets with punchy one-liners. One poor soul tweeted: “James Blunt has a twitter, what would he even tweet about?”. Blunt replied: “Boning your mum”. Responding to a question about his Twitter acclaim, Blunt says “I don’t usually try and get in spats, instead aiming for one or two witty lines.” Despite this clear knack for vulgar humour, he is surprisingly friendly in conversation, only mocking my interview style once.

Many have compared Blunt’s musical style to other singer-songwriters of the early noughties. Damien Rice is particularly close in genre. “Damien Rice, David Gray, and I were starting out at a very similar time, and, in many ways, they opened the doors for me to the music industry,” Blunt says. “Without them, record labels wouldn’t have been as open-minded enough to give me a shot.” It is true that Rice and Blunt, in particular, are not traditional chart-topping pop stars. Both have effeminate singing styles, and their lyrics are underlined by a fragile masculinity that was not exactly mainstream back before Rice and Blunt made it so.

While Blunt did not have a clear idea about what music he was going to produce when young, he slowly gravitated towards the sound of the 70s as he matured. “From Elton John, Paul Simon, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, Cat Stevens, and bands like Fleetwood Mac – that was an amazing era of creativity, and a big source of inspiration for me.” It was through Elton John that Blunt arguably caught his first big break, touring with the star in late 2004 and early 2005.

Blunt at the Festival de Cornouaille in 2011 Thesupermat

Elton was a mentor to Blunt in his early years, taking him under his wing in a similar way to how Blunt has ‘apprenticed’ Ed Sheeran recently. The epitome of a high-flying ‘bromance’, Blunt and Sheeran have found themselves in many a drunken situation together. One story sticks out. At a party at Windsor Castle in November 2016, Princess Beatrice reportedly cut Ed with a ceremonial sword while trying to ‘knight’ James Blunt. It sounds the stuff of legends, and Blunt is unsurprisingly unwilling to comment. “My publicists would get very angry if I discussed this,” he says, with the wry grin of someone who is no stranger to hedonism. “We certainly have a mutual love of alcohol, long may it last,” he admits.


Mountain View

Are songwriters poets?

Asked what the essentials are for any tour bus, Blunt replies: “No food, just booze. Corona, Heineken, Vodka, and mixers. That really is it.” At the ripe old age of 43, Blunt’s tour lifestyle certainly hits harder in the mornings than it used to do. “Some gigs I’ve played, I’ve just been incredibly hungover, struggling to get it out. But that’s just the job.” I feel your pain, James, I reply – Thursday morning supervisions are probably a comparable experience to a rough gig in Sao Paulo.

With such esteemed musical influences as Elton John and Ed Sheeran, I was surprised that certain songs on Blunt’s most recent album, Afterlove, were so clearly geared towards the club music scene. His collaboration with Robin Shultz, titled ‘OK’, is a prime example of this. Blunt physically slumps as I mention this – I prepare for a quick repost, but am instead hit by a very frank admission of guilt. “I did not want that song on the album,” he sighs. “I never want to hear that song again, and I tried to get rid of it.” The song was a huge hit everywhere in the world apart from the UK, but it still seems too much like selling out for Blunt: “It’s not the kind of music I will do in the future, nor is it music that I want to make.”

Despite having convinced myself that I would end the interview by slipping into a rendition of ‘Goodbye My Lover’, my heart wasn’t really in it. In truth, Blunt had been too sincere and genuine to mock at the last. What is clear, however, is that although I don’t think I’ll see him again, we shared a moment that will last till the end

Sponsored links

Partner links