Chartopper James Blunt insists he can bring the war in Afghanistan to an end – by singing the Taliban into submission.
The former Army Captain who served in Kosovo quips: “I’m tired of the Afghanistan war and I’m going to go out and fix it. I’m going out there round at Christmas time and sing the Taliban into surrender. If I can’t do it then who can? And if that doesn’t work then I’m going to take Katherine Jenkins with me and set her onto them. We’ll flush them out somehow.”
On a more serious note James, 36, says he’s genuinely worried about the coalition government’s rumoured plans to cut army funding. He feels pen pushers at the Ministry of Defence should receive budget cuts and those funds should be delivered direct to troops on the front line in Afghanistan.
“I would hope they’re going to cut funding in the bureaucracy that’s within the army in the Ministry of Defence,” he says. “I think what they’re going to do – if common sense does prevail – is that on the front line where the equipment is needed is where they’re going to go. So taking money away from the overpaid desk jobs and putting it where it’s needed.
“It’s streamlining but it’s also refocusing the cash away from the Ministry of Defence. And that’s what’s needed. We’ve all read about the MoD wasting money.”
The star, who’s releasing his third album Some Kind of Trouble, also admits he tried to make a trip out to visit the troops six months ago. But his plans were scuppered when two C-17 planes broke down before even taking off from a secret base to fly into Afghanistan. He reveals: “I was with 120 soldiers and we got held just outside Afghanistan in a camp out there. We waited to try and get in under the cover of darkness. We were on the runway in a plane, helmets on, armour on and were ready to go in hard and fast at night to avoid any problems and get into Camp Bastion. And then the plane broke down. So we were off the plane. We waited 24 hours, sleeping on the floor, and then a new fixed plane turned up. Helmets on, body amour on, going along the runway. I was actually in the cockpit and then the plane broke again. We’re certainly not going to win a war like that. I wanted to get in there and scare the Taliban.”
The singer’s new album marks an upbeat change in the star’s career. Gone are the sorrowful tunes like You’re Beautiful and Goodbye My Lover on his 11 million debut selling album Back To Bedlam and in are upbeat rock tracks.
And he credits his “crazy aunt” Elton John as being a significant factor in his rise to success. “Elton’s been a Godsend from the word go,” he reflects. “He’s like my crazy aunt. Recently I ended up in Denver working on the album completely on my own on my birthday. The record company sent me a bottle of champagne to my room and a bucket of chicken wings and I’m sitting there thinking: “Fuck what a miserable birthday.”
“Then the phone rang and it was Elton. He said: “James, Happy Birthday. What are you doing?” I told him I was drinking champagne and gnawing on chicken wings and he said: “I’m down the road doing a gig. Come down.” He was doing a concert with Billy Joel. So I spent my birthday in Elton’s dressing room with him sitting there in his underpants having his hair cut and getting ready. He’s the sweetest man.”
Nowadays the star divides his time between London and his home in Ibiza. But he denies leading an extravagant lifestyle despite his multi-millionaire wealth. Blunty, as he’s known to his friends, admits: “My Ibiza home is all I’ve gone for. Everybody asks about how “all the money” has changed my life but I’m not a materialistic person. It’s the only thing I’ve really gone for and splashed my cash on. It’s the best thing in the world.”
The star, who has been dating stunning Spanish girlfriend Sabina for the past two years, also says he’s come to terms with people’s perception of him being a posh boy crooner. He explains: “I think You’re Beautiful did annoy people with the huge amount of airplay. But I’m grateful for that.
“In Britain where we have this tall poppy syndrome. The moment you get up there everyone goes for the jugular. Britain is one of those places that is slightly negative towards me. I’ve just done a radio tour and everybody keeps saying: “You’re so posh – how have you done it. Why do you deserve to have an emotion because you’re posh.” It’s mad. I’m starting a campaign for the MOPO Awards – the music of Posh origin. It’ll be me trying to beat Coldplay and Keane. We’re in the same category. Some people will read that I’m really fucking square and some will say I’m some complete junkie in Ibiza that’s out all the time in clubs. There has to be somewhere in the middle – and there I would sit.”
James releases the single Stay The Night on Oct 25 and the album Some Kind of Trouble Nov 8.
And here’s more of music based Q+A with James too…..
Is it good to be back with new single Stay The Night?
Yes, it is! The single’s gone down really well. I was a bit nervous. I permanently lie to people and say I don’t feel any fear or nerves. I do get very nervous about going on stage when it’s an audience that could be judgemental. I was more relaxed but I get very f**king stressed. You can’t control nerves. And I like to control everything. Also right now it’s remembering the words – I had a cheat sheet for the gig I did to launch the album in London. I only slipped up on one verse.
And how’s the single doing so far?
The single’s number one on the airplay charts in Holland, number three in Italy in the airplay and midweeks number 13 in Germany and France. So it’s looking positive. Europe and Australia has really started taking off. I hope this song Stay The Night won’t be a song too late for the summer. It’s a lot more upbeat for me.
Have you felt a lot of pressure this time around on the third album?
I think the label felt more pressure. They know it is an album by one of their bigger acts. Around the world it’s one of their bigger. I mean, I don’t know for sure and I might be bragging. But financially they want to flog this album.
I guess career wise I have to look at Back to Bedlam which was 11 million sales and All Our Souls was five million so it looks like it’s half as much but you have to think that in that period album sales decreased by about 50 per cent. It’s still a huge album but it doesn’t look great. I think they know they need this one to work. They feel the pressure. I’m kind of think: “F**k it.” I’m having fun. I’ve got an amazing house in Ibiza and I’m enjoying it. I’m in a position where I can enjoy it and I set out to make an album that I was going to enjoy performing. It was never going to be a repeat of You’re Beautiful – that just doesn’t happen. Or another Goodbye My Lover – I’ve said all those words, do a degree.
And this time around the album is a lot happier and upbeat!
I’m having a lot more fun. I’ve really picked up an electric guitar and pretended to be a rock star. I know I’m not. But I’m thrashing about and enjoying it. In the old days I was a boy sat alone with his guitar writing ‘poor me’ songs. And this time I’m fronting a band and it’s different. I get out there and have to front things. We did 260 concerts in a 12 month period last time. For that reason alone it needed to be more up tempo. There are still properly sorrowful ones in there but it’s generally more upbeat. But the bulk of it is more energetic.
And this time around you’re waiting until you’ve conquered Europe and Asia before you take on the States again.
Yes, the really good thing this time around is we’ve decided to release their later in the States. It’s what we did the first time round and it worked well. On the last album I spent six months flogging my arse off and missing Europe and the UK and it struggled out there and it was a long time away from home. I got a fair bit of play on the east and west coast but the centre is really tricky. You can’t take it for granted. I missed out on doing anything over here at all. It’s out February 1 over there. So I can concentrate on Europe, Australia, Japan and home turf. Then I can go over to the States in the new year.
My biggest market is Britain, France and Germany and I need time for them. If Germany’s good for Hasselhoff and Bryan Adams then it’s good for me.
And how was the album put together and written this time around?
Most of my first album I wrote on my own and then took things to somebody to help tie up the lose ends. Second album it was on my own and with co-writes. This one is all with Steve Robson on the whole thing – and he also produced the album. Carl, my drummer, introduced me to Steve and nobody else said I should work with him. He wasn’t necessarily big enough and I walked in and we wrote Dangerous. And it was exactly what I wanted. That innocent, optimistic rock that as a teenager we would have wanted to have listened too. In the eighties when there wasn’t the cynicism – and the nineties and noughties it was full of it. There were a couple of exceptions – working with Ed White and going over to LA to work with Ryan Tedder to write Stray The Night. He’s a little whore now, working with everyone. But he’s amazing.
Were you conscious of the negative publicity you’d received for being posh and slightly ‘square’ in some people’s eyes?
I was conscious of all the negative publicity that I gained following You’re Beautiful. But one thing I’m not is square. I read everything in the press. But I don’t mind it – I’ve learnt to deal with it. I can read anything as positive as you like and it means nothing. And somebody can write the most venomous things and once again it means nothing. There are just one or two exceptions that annoy me. But on the whole I’ve read things that are horrendous to anybody else and the only person who gets annoyed and wants to murder people is my sister. She wants to commit murder. But for me I’m fine about it.
Do you ever get bored of performing your hits like You’re Beautiful?
I don’t think I do get bored of singing that song at all. I think when I was trying to plug my second album there was a radio station in America and a few hundred people had gathered and they wanted me to play it and I refused. They kept asking me. But I walked out and now I realise what a dickhead I was – that’s what they know and what they want to hear. It made my name. Those people wanted to hear and I refused. I will always play it now. That was three years ago and I should have f**king played it. It’s been overplayed in certain places but I never get bored of playing it live and I think people love hearing it live. It’s a pretty song and I enjoy it. Marti Pellow said he didn’t ever want to play Love Is All Around again and then I heard him rehearsing that song in a rehearsal studio recently. When the cash dries up I’ll pull that song out the bag again.