James Blunt Biography
In the nearly three years since Blunt released his debut album, Back to Bedlam, it has sold 11 million worldwide, going No. 1 in 18 countries and top 10 in 35. A short list of his accomplishments includes being nominated for five Grammys, landing the first No. 1 single in the U.S. (“You’re Beautiful”) by a British act since Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997,” and winning two MTV Awards and two Brit Awards.
That seemingly sudden rush to global superstardom and the attendant experiences make up much of the lyrical content of his second Custard/Atlantic album, All The Lost Souls. The 10-song cycle about life – and death – shows tremendous growth from Back to Bedlam, which Blunt calls “a very honest, slightly naïve collection of thoughts, emotions, and experiences. I wrote them without any knowledge that anyone would hear them.”
This time around, he knows there’s an audience eager to hear his songs about “the ups and downs of his journey.” Blunt bristles at the notion that his now-lofty perch distances him from his listeners. “Just because I’ve been given the fickle title of celebrity, it doesn’t mean I’m any less human. I go through the same things, only my mother hears about them first now,” he says, laughingly referencing his frequent appearances in the tabloids.
Indeed, one listen to All The Lost Souls and it is clear Blunt is talking about what unites us, not what divides us. We all crave love, comfort, and security, especially in those times when they seem the hardest to find. Those intersections are the ones that interest Blunt the most, and on All The Lost Souls, he brings a focus, clarity and, at times, urgency to our travels.
“We go through this really amazing experience called life, and we’re trying to understand it and understand why the hell we’re here,” he says. “I really love life. I really enjoy it, but it does trouble me. And as it goes and it ticks by – it’s not very long – you kind of wonder what you’re going to get out of it, where to look for greater depth and meaning, and why we do the things we do to fill it. I think we all experience that.”
All The Lost Souls was found as James toured the world in support of Back to Bedlam. He wrote five songs while on the road, testing them before a very willing audience. When it came time to write the remaining songs, Blunt needed to get off the merry-go-round of the last few years and be still. In the summer of 2006, he retreated to Ibiza, off the coast of Spain. After the constant cacophony, the silence took some getting used to. “It was the first minute I had to stop and look around at what had really happened over the past three years and have a think about it,” he says.
James returned again to Ibiza last winter and received songwriting assistance from a most unlikely source: “Someone had stolen my boiler, so there was no heating,” he explains. “I was in the house wearing an overcoat, a hat, and fingerless gloves playing on the piano. The builder said I lived like a monk. When you’re cold, no one’s around, and you don’t speak the language, then you can write the songs: ‘This is a miserable experience.’ The songs I’d written in the summer, having just stepped out of a club, were much happier.”
Seeking some different flavors for the album, Blunt asked his publisher to pair him with “people who weren’t necessarily the obvious writers… to just free myself.” While James wrote the bulk of the album himself, his request led to collaborations with Mark Batson (Dr. Dre, Dave Matthews Band), Jimmy Hogarth (with whom he also wrote for Bedlam), Steve McEwan, Eg (cq) White, and Max Martin.
Musically, the album draws much of its inspiration from great artists of the ‘70s: “Fleetwood Mac, Don McLean, Elton John, maybe a touch of Steely Dan in there, and if I’m lucky, a bit of Bowie,” he says, before cheekily adding, “and if I’m lying I might as well add Zeppelin as well.”
The album opens with the layered, rollicking “1973,” a nostalgic look back at sharing great times with friends. Songs such as “One of the Brightest Stars” and “Annie” deal with the vagaries and distortions that fame can bring. “Carry You Home” and “I’ll Take Everything” tackle our fragile mortality, while “I Really Want You” and “Same Mistake” showcase Blunt at his most vulnerable.
The Sandhurst graduate who served in Kosovo admits that he finds language limiting, but, in song, he finds the freedom to write what he can’t speak. “My music is autobiographical. It’s my expression and it’s for me,” he says. “It’s a necessary expression; otherwise I’d just be this Brit that has a shell.” As for those who may find his confessions too dramatic, he quotes Jeff Buckley: “Sensitivity isn’t being wimpy; it’s about being so painfully aware that a flea landing on a dog is like a sonic boom.”
When it came time to record in Los Angeles with Back to Bedlam producer Tom Rothrock, Blunt brought in the boys from the road. The recording marked a sharp contrast to “Bedlam,” which was tracked with studio musicians and then with Blunt overdubbing many of the instruments himself. This time, “I sat behind a piano or a guitar and played the band the songs and described what I wanted from them,” he says. “We’d been touring together for two-and-a-half years. They know exactly what it is I’m after, and it takes very little time for them to put the flesh on a skeleton.”
With the recording behind him, Blunt is eager to get back before his fans. “Touring is the most fun you can possibly have,” he says. “It’s the best invention anyone ever came up with.” Yet even he imagines a day – hopefully in the far, far future – when the audiences are no longer there. On the album’s closer, “I Can’t Hear the Music,” he sings with a quiet resolve that even after the fans’ applause has faded and the curtain has come down for the last time, the music remains. For Blunt, it’s a song of hope and an ultimate reminder of why he’s here. “The chorus sums it up: ‘And if I can’t hear the music and the audience is gone/I’ll dance here on my own.’ It’s about saying I’m in it for the passion,” he says. “I’m in it for the love of it, and the audience may be a temporary thing.”
James Blunt Bio from Discogs
Blunt was an officer in the Life Guards, a cavalry regiment of the British Army, and served under NATO in Kosovo during the conflict there in 1999. While posted to Kosovo, Blunt was introduced to the work of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF or "Doctors Without Borders"). Since then, Blunt has supported MSF by holding meet-and-greet auctions at many of his concerts.