James blunt: bro­ken hearts and lost love

James Blunt talks about re­veal­ing more of him­self on his new al­bum – and his Christ­mas trip to Afghanistan.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By Neil McCorMiCk n James Blunt’s Some Kind Of Trou­ble is re­leased by Warner Mu­sic Malaysia.

Jarvis Cocker, the crit­i­cally ad­mired song­writer, broad­caster and front­man for newly re­united Pulp, some­times gives a lec­ture about the art of lyric writ­ing, dur­ing which he com­i­cally dis­sects James Blunt’s ca­reer defin­ing hit You’re Beau­ti­ful. His chief com­plaint is that, in the first verse, Blunt sees “an an­gel” with an­other man and an­nounces he’s “got a plan”.

“ac­tu­ally, now i’m in­ter­ested,” ad­mits Cocker. “He’s got a plan, so i’m go­ing to stick with this and find out what it is.”

How­ever, when Blunt’s song ends with the con­clu­sion, “i will never be with you”, Cocker be­comes com­i­cally in­censed. “That’s the plan? What­ever other de­fi­cien­cies the song may have, this is the biggest one – it’s a lie! There is no plan and there never was!”

The author of You’re Beau­ti­ful is com­pletely in­cred­u­lous as i re­late this to him. “is he se­ri­ous?” asks Blunt. “i think he’s pa­thetic for dis­sect­ing it in such a petty way. But, if he’s re­ally se­ri­ously ask­ing me for an ex­pla­na­tion, well, who am i ad­dress­ing? in the verses, i am telling a story to you, but, in the cho­rus, i am sing­ing to her. so yes, i have a plan, and it is to tell her that she’s beau­ti­ful, to show how i feel.”

so there you go, Jarvis. The cho­rus is the plan.

Blunt, to his credit, is laugh­ing as he dis­cusses this. “it’s an ab­so­lutely straight­for­ward plan, and one that has worked a num­ber of times in the past. Though not on this oc­ca­sion.”

Last week, Blunt re­leased his third al­bum, Some Kind Of Trou­ble. There are more songs about bro­ken hearts and lost love, al­though there is also a strand of sala­cious­ness (on the sin­gle, Stay The Night, the slinky Dan­ger­ous and saucy ditty Turn Me On) that show an­other side of his char­ac­ter, per­haps fa­mil­iar to read­ers of the tabloids, where he is fre­quently linked with beau­ti­ful women.

“My mum wor­ries about my mu­sic. she says, ‘ James, why are you so sad? What did i do wrong?’ But, in a sense, i write songs about things i am prob­a­bly bad at ex­press­ing in life. i ac­tu­ally en­joy the great rack­ing of the heart. But, at the same time, you’ve got to have a bit of shal­low in there. Oth­er­wise, the per­cep­tion and the per­son are go­ing in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions and some­thing will break. You’re sup­posed to be so del­i­cate and ro­man­tic but they’ve seen you on a boat with an­other bird and some weird sex toys. as hu­mans, we are all a bit of ev­ery­thing, and the al­bum hope­fully re­flects that.”

in per­son, Blunt comes across as calm, thought­ful, con­sid­er­ate and good hu­moured. Hard to hate, re­ally. Fol­low­ing his sud­den rise to promi­nence with his 11-mil­lion­selling de­but al­bum Back To Bed­lam in 2005, Blunt be­came a whip­ping post for a par­tic­u­larly un­pleas­ant kind of pop snob­bery. He’s posh, exarmy, and makes highly emo­tional, at times al­most tremu­lously sen­si­tive mu­sic, set to an easy-on-the-ear, 1970s-soft-rock tem­plate (think Bread, El­ton John and Fleet­wood Mac) and sung in a high, sweet voice rem­i­nis­cent of Cat stevens. No great crimes there, you might have thought.

“i be­came quite de­fen­sive,” he says. “i felt i hadn’t done any­thing wrong. Many peo­ple liked this to a great de­gree – why should that be a cause of such ag­gres­sion? i have to bat­tle with that per­cep­tion of me, but it’s im­me­di­ately a lost bat­tle if you’re fight­ing it.”

Per­son­ally, i think Blunt has been harshly judged be­cause he is so rem­i­nis­cent of the great sen­si­tive singer-song­writ­ers of the 1970s, but what he makes is ac­tu­ally a kind of emo­tional pop mu­sic. “i think my strength lies in crys­tallis­ing quite sim­ple emo­tions,” he says. “and i en­joy go­ing out and sing­ing to those mil­lions of peo­ple who come, and there is a great con­nec­tion that out­weighs the negativity.”

The al­bum’s high­lights still tend to be songs about lost love. If Time Is All I Have stands out as a stark, heart­felt bal­lad of re­gret, with an al­most Everly Broth­ers pu­rity. it is, he ad­mits, al­ways about the same girl (al­legedly Dixie Chassy, a cast­ing di­rec­tor who has worked on the Harry Pot­ter movies, whom Blunt dated long be­fore he be­came fa­mous). “Your first love is prob­a­bly the most ide­al­is­tic. i prob­a­bly do have a sense of ro­man­tic yearn­ing, but i’m re­ally a failed ro­man­tic, as the songs at­test.”

De­spite ti­tles such as Best Laid Plans, No Tears, So Far Gone and These Are the Words – all songs about love gone wrong – Blunt in­sists this is his most up­beat col­lec­tion. “Things haven’t nec­es­sar­ily gone right, but that’s life: you’ve gone through ex­pe­ri­ences. i went on an army ex­er­cise for a week in Wales, where we climbed up moun­tains car­ry­ing half our body weight on our back and got maybe three hours’ sleep in a pud­dle full of sheep s***, and at the end of it, ev­ery­one goes, ‘That was great!’ Well, it wasn’t great, it was ter­ri­ble, but the ex­pe­ri­ence of go­ing through those things has been good. Maybe you’ve learned things, you’re proud of your­self, so that’s what i’m talk­ing about.”

Blunt’s mil­i­tary back­ground (he served six years with the House­hold Cal­vary, ris­ing to the rank of cap­tain) is an­other thing that makes him seem an anom­aly as a singer­song­writer, al­though he per­sua­sively ar­gues that sol­diers are ac­tu­ally highly sen­si­tive in­di­vid­u­als.

“You are trained to watch peo­ple and as­sess your sur­round­ings. There may be dan­ger nearby, and you need to sense who is look­ing or mov­ing in a par­tic­u­lar way and what their in­ten­tions might be, and i take all those lessons into what i do now.

“and we had to re­ally un­der­stand emo­tions, too, be­cause, if some­one starts get­ting fear­ful, then they will feel ag­gres­sive and some­thing might tum­ble out of con­trol. There might be mo­ments when we are peace­keep­ers, when you have to be re­ally a diplo­mat, and un­der­stand the con­text and dif­fer­ent sides of a story. if there are two peo­ple (in­tent on) mur­der­ing each other, you have to be em­pa­thetic and un­der­stand the emo­tion be­hind it in or­der to try to find some kind of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. so i think sol­diers are much more sen­si­tive and aware when we come back to civil­ian life.”

He re­mains in close con­tact with his reg­i­ment, sup­ports the Help For He­roes char­ity, and of­ten per­forms for troops. “i’m go­ing back out to afghanistan around Christ­mas, and i’m go­ing to sing the Tal­iban into sur­ren­der,” he jokes.

There are, he says, as­pects of army life that he prefers to pop star­dom. “i like the pu­rity of the job of a sol­dier, be­cause you’re deal­ing with two fun­da­men­tally clear, im­por­tant things: one is life and one is death. in the mu­sic in­dus­try, you are deal­ing with per­cep­tion and mis­per­cep­tion, the sense of fame and im­age. it’s all a dis­trac­tion. But i can still find that pu­rity when i’m out on tour. i look peo­ple in the eye. i’m not afraid to go in emo­tion­ally. i’m just try­ing to con­nect with an­other hu­man be­ing when i’m sing­ing. all the rest is non­sense.” – © The Daily Tele­graph UK 2010

Emo dude: ‘I think my strength lies in crys­tallis­ing quite sim­ple emo­tions,’ says James Blunt.

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