British singer-songwriter James Blunt’s latest album may be called Moon Landing, but he’s far from having a highly elevated sense of self.
In fact, the 40-year-old troubadour is, at least during our brief interview time together, the epitome of down to earth.
After bursting onto the musical landscape in 2005 with the mega-hit You’re Beautiful, from his 2004 debut effort Back to Bedlam, Blunt has steadily built himself a very successful career. Now, four albums in, he’s gone back to what made him a household name in the beginning - writing songs for no one but himself. '
Nestled cosily in downtown Toronto hotel room during yet another blast of Old Man Winter, Blunt talked to QMI Agency about getting back to basics on Moon Landing, his Princess Leia-Stars Wars connection, and his huge popularity in French Canada (he plays Montreal's Bell Centre on Apr. 23, Quebec City's Colisee Pepsi Arena on Apr. 25, La Baie's Theatre du Palais Municipal on Apr. 26, Sherbrooke's Salle Maurice O'Bready on Apr. 27, as well as Toronto's Danforth Music Hall on Apr. 29 and 30th).
Why did you feel the need to get back to the basics? Was it part of a rediscovery process?
I started to write songs for other people and I wanted to go back and write songs for myself — to enjoy music for what it meant for me in the beginning. So I wrote these personal songs on Moon Landing...I suppose this time around I felt confident enough to say, ‘That’s my job and that’s what I do.’ I made really fragile, genuine, honest songs and I had to record it in a way that captured that without an audience in mind.
How did you meet Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher and what has she meant for your career?
Ten years ago I sat down at a restaurant with some mutual friends and she was at the end of the table. I was about to record Back to Bedlam, and she unbelievably offered up her home to me. Outside my room she put a cardboard cutout of herself as Princess Leia with her hair up in a bun -- it was outside my bedroom protecting me at night (laughs). This time around, I stayed with her again, and she gave me a lightsaber so I was safe. She’s a very special, bright person - so bright that people might think she’s a bit crazy. I would go to the studio early in the morning and I’d be back late at night and she'd still be up. I’d play her the songs and she’d listen and give her opinion and send me out the next day to fix them up. She's in the credits as the housekeeper (laughs).
How have you been able to stay successful and keep a loyal fan base?
I think I’m in a position where I understand the ups and downs of a singer-songwriter and understand the differences between sales in various countries and songs. I’m a one-hit wonder in America, and people who say that probably have no hits… I’ve sold more in French-speaking Canada than in English-speaking Canada, and I play in large venues there and smaller venues in English-speaking Canada… I think with time and experience, you think about it less, and enjoy it more.
Do you ever get tired of playing You’re Beautiful?
I’m asked the question so often. People that are coming to see me on the Moon Landing tour expect to hear the newer music but they don’t want the whole album — they’d be pissed off if I didn’t. They would ask for their money back. It’s still a pleasure for me to play it — when you see the audience singing your song and smiling, it’s a thrill. It’s a constant of my career — without it, I wouldn’t be here talking to you.
What’s the oddest thing that someone has thrown up on stage?
I did come backstage after a show and randomly in my dressing room, was a table with a box of my life on top of it. In it was everything I’ve ever mentioned in my life… Every CD that I ever said I listened to, every book I mentioned I'd read, awards were on the wall inside the box, a little piano, a guitar, pictures of me as a child, pictures of my family, of the band, hats that I had worn on stage. All in a box with a glass front so you can look in and see. The only thing that was missing was me.
JAMES BLUNT RESPONDS TO HATERS ON TWITTER
There may be no one that's more blunt on Twitter than James Blunt.
To get a little taste of his sharp and self-deprecating sense of humour, just read some of his personal responses to his 700,000-plus followers (which includes Toronto Mayor Rob Ford), and even some of his haters out there. He could possibly have a second career doing stand-up.
Here's a sample:
Says the None-Hit Wonder. RT @MyNameIsKyle23: Does James Blunt only have that 1 song? Lol— James Blunt (@JamesBlunt) December 12, 2013
And no mortgage. RT @hettjones: James Blunt just has an annoying face and a highly irritating voice— James Blunt (@JamesBlunt) December 24, 2013
Viagra and coffee mostly. RT @paigefergg: Bloody hell why is James Blunt still going— James Blunt (@JamesBlunt) December 12, 2013
Yet so many people bought it, bought it. RT @yanto1973: That James Blunt song is utterly horrific, horrific.— James Blunt (@JamesBlunt) February 7, 2014
Sorry. Wrong hole. RT @Sam_SamV: James Blunt makes my ears bleed— James Blunt (@JamesBlunt) January 20, 2014
As does your missus. RT @teamtommo58: James blunt your music sucks #fact— James Blunt (@JamesBlunt) December 31, 2013
Only I was drunk at the time. RT @tianpogiaf: People who think you're beautiful - 1. Your parents 2. James Blunt— James Blunt (@JamesBlunt) December 16, 2013
Try singing it. RT @AltySi: I cannot put into words how much I hate James Blunt— James Blunt (@JamesBlunt) November 11, 2013