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Music Interview

James Blunt

By
James Blunt
When you're a bona fide musical artiste, being known for one whopping great song tops the list of career nightmares. Therefore, we weren't surprised when James Blunt went all serious-face on us for his post-'You're Beautiful' album, 2007's All The Lost Souls. Now an Ibiza resident - with an actual club in his house - he's raised the BPM a touch and injected sack-loads of feel-good into his new LP, Some Kind Of Trouble. Intrigued, we met up with the man himself for some one-on-one time.

Are you pleased with the response to your new single, 'Stay The Night'?
"Generally. I mean, I'm not a singles artist in the UK. It's always been a tough market for me, but around Europe and the rest of the world it's done well on sales and airplay. People are singing the words back to me already which is encouraging, seeing as I often forget the words myself!"

So you weren't disappointed with its chart position over here?
"Not really. I'm an album-seller here, which is what I'd rather be. It's hard to feel down about it when it's been a success elsewhere."

It's a bit of a change in direction from your previous material - were you nervous about how people would react to it?
"I find it's better to put those things to the back of your mind. I think you have to focus on what you like yourself as a musician. At the end of our lives, I'm going to be the one left with the album on my shelf, so I'd rather I was proud of it rather than appeasing labels or living up to expectations. This album is the kind of music I want to listen to and they're the best songs I've ever written."

Having been away for three years, what do you make of the current music scene?
"Like any business it grows and changes - and this one has changed a hell of a lot since my last album. The British music industry is very different from the rest of the world. It's becoming increasingly hard for UK acts to break outside the country because our industry is quite British-centric. What I've discovered from touring the world is that we're quite insular here."

Do you think it's time for singer-songwriters to make a comeback?
"It's what I enjoy, but actually the songs I've recorded for this album were all done live. Instead of it being just me and a piano or guitar, I'm now fronting a band, which feels very different to the singer-songwriter I was. The industry will do its thing, and what people will like will always change, but hopefully they'll come back to the basics of music eventually."

You live in Ibiza, so why didn't you record the album out there?
"I'm found all over the place! I recorded my first two albums in LA because my label is based there, but this one was written and recorded in London. I like to think that Ibiza is my home and London is my office. I would have recorded bits of it in Ibiza, but I haven't yet learnt how to speak to the Spanish technicians! I can just about order a beer, so God knows how an album would turn out."

We heard you released a dance track to the island's clubs...
"I put out a Pete Tong remix of '1973' which I gave to Pacha. The song was written about Pacha and you can tell because that date is written above the door as you walk in. I also gave a song to the club Amnesia called 'She Loves Me For My Money'. I make my albums as they are and then if things are taken on by DJs and rappers, it's a bonus! It's a fun thing to be involved in once the hard work of an album is done."

Does the dance sound feature on your new album, Some Kind Of Trouble?
"It doesn't on this album. I enjoy going down to that area of Ibiza and talking ideas with people, but dance songs are normally without vocals, so I wouldn't be much use on them!"

How would you describe the album?
"It's got a certain innocence to it, which my last album didn't have. It doesn't sound like the current popular electro sound; it sounds like the late '70s / early '80s when the US electric guitar bands came to the UK. What I really like about it is its energy and optimism - it's completely positive."

What are your favourite moments on the album?
"My favourite track is probably 'Turn Me On'. It's strange because my record label were desperate to keep the song off the album - so much so that they refused to put any money into it, so the version you hear on the album is the raw demo. Fortunately it's my album and not theirs, and if I want to commit career suicide then I will!"

Which producers feature? We hear you're very close with Linda Perry...
"Steve Robson has produced the entire thing and he's hugely successful in the US. Greg Kurstin and Ryan Tedder are on there too. I always try and write with Linda Perry – she's a personal friend and a mentor for me, but she always keeps clear of producing on my albums, apart from one track on my debut. She's like my fairy godmother in the industry."

Do you worry about sales now?
"It's an easy way to measure success, but it's a pretty meaningless way too. It's nice to be told a song or album is number one all over the world, but they're naturally going to work in some countries better than others. Measuring success is hard when you release music all over the world, so I just try not to worry about it."

You've been touring non-stop for two years. Do you ever get bored?
"Not at all - some of my recent live shows have been the best yet. I'm always re-working songs too so they can excel in different ways. There's a song which I've tried to sing just standing there - no piano or guitar - which I think was a first! It was quite unnerving having nothing to hide behind. Touring the UK is particularly enjoyable because I see all the friends I've made up and down the country at my gigs. It's comforting, which means here will always be a special place for me."

Some Kind Of Trouble is released on Monday.

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