INTERVIEW: James Blunt

Posted by Dean Piper On January 5th, 2014

Singer James Blunt is having somewhat of a career rebirth right now thanks to his fantastic online smackdowns aimed at evil Twitter trolls.

Initially sceptical about the social networking site, the star is now embracing the power of getting feedback from his fans and critics and giving them hell when they slate him.

“Twitter’s been really funny for me because I’m pretty useless at that kind of thing and I always felt stupid saying what I had for breakfast because it wasn’t interesting,” he says with a smirk. “You have the usual amount of people saying please would you follow me which sounds a little creepy. My parents always told me not to follow strangers.

“And then I started to see what people were saying about the me personally and that was where I saw some negative comments and that’s when Twitter started to be really fun.

“I wasn’t bothered about the negative tweets either way – but I loved laughing about it and engaging with the trolls. I guess people finally got the chance to see my self-depracating humour!”

Over the past few months, he’s perfected the Twitter smackdown responses for the people who slag him off online. People such as @alif_novaldi, who felt the need to tweet: “F*** you, James Blunt.” Blunt was straight back at him with: “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to get to the back of the queue.”

A query from @laurenlyall about why he sings like “his willy is being stood on”. Blunt snapped back: “Damn thing’s always getting caught under my feet.”

When @blackeyelined sneered: “Who’s the bigger twat, Robin Thicke or James Blunt”, James squealed: “Me! Me! Pick me!”

Such responses prompted website Buzzfeed to list 17 Reasons You Should Be Following James Blunt on Twitter (which can be condensed into one line: because he’s funny).

James laughs at the buzz saying: “I never really had a chance to show who I am. Twitter’s become the simplest way for me to be myself, rather than the guy people know for just one over-played song.”

The singer proved his comedy worth on the Christmas special of Celebrity Juice this week alongside Keith Lemon, Fearne Cotton and Holly Willoughby and his latest album, Moon Landing, was classified Gold after just two weeks of sales. He narrowly missed out on hitting number one – selling just 8,000 copies less than US superstar Katy Perry with her latest album Prism, all backed up by what has been an undeniable smash – the hit song ‘Bonfire Heart’, his first Top 5 single since ’1973′ some seven years ago.

But even with 20 million album sales under his belt and endless sell-out tours around the world since he hit the music scene in 2004 with debut album Back To Bedlam, he’s thankful to be back and appreciated.

“I’m over the moon and it’s totally taken me by surprise at how well Moon Landing has been received,” the 39-year-old says at his London home. “What’s surprising and great to see is people saying, ‘I like the album and I’m prepared to say so.’

“Outside the UK things have been amazing too. I’ve been spending a sh*t load of time in the States but also around the world things couldn’t be going any better. Australia’s been brilliant, I’ve got my first number one in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and number two in Canada. It’s just flown and it’s been awesome Life is good.”

Part of the recently-engaged singer’s happiness these days has to be down to the fact behind the scenes he’s settled down with fiancé Sofia Wellesley, 30 – granddaughter of Arthur Valerian Wellesley, the 8th Duke of Wellington. The pair have been dating for nearly two years and things appear to be serious, with Sofia recently deciding to take time out from working for Cherie Blair as a human rights lawyer to join him on tour when he hits the road on New Year’s Eve in Shanghai, China.

But just because the star’s settling down, doesn’t mean he’s ready to stop playing the kid. “Sure, I’m getting older,” he huffs jokily. “Maybe it’s time to head out to LA and have some surgery done?”

“I do a very immature job if you think about it too. I get on a bus with 12 men and we go and drink beer, do some music and travel the world. It’s a young mans game and I live it like that until things change.”

When you meet James in real life you immediately realise he’s a joker at heart. He’s full of life and spends as many of his days when he’s not on tour at his £2 million luxury Ibiza villa – a present to himself after his first album’s success.

He calls the six-bedroom property his main home and loves having friends come and stay throughout the summer months. James, who also has London and Verbier homes, recently decided he needed a more of a unique method of transport to get to and from the island’s famed nightclubs and shipped a Tuk Tuk over from Thailand to swerve rush hour traffic.

“Well I love a motorbike and hate being stuck in traffic,” he explains. “But the roads in Ibiza are pretty dangerous – mainly because of the states everybody is in leaving nightclubs.

“You have to be with it and visible if you’re going to drive so I got a tuk tuk in Bangkok and shipped it back and I’ve got it now in Ibiza. It’s all decorated and ha flashing lights.

“It’s actually the most awesome thing I’ve ever bought. The plan is for it to go to clubs with us. Everybody wants a ride in the tuk tuk so in the future I might start charging. When things go wrong with all the singing I will be found driving a tuk tuk around Ibiza for a price.”

It’s easy to forget when you’re with James that he spent six years from the age of 21 in 1996 in the army, serving as an armoured reconnaissance officer in the NATO deployment in Kosovo.

Training initially at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Life Guards, a unit of the Household Cavalry, where he rose to the rank of captain.

When his time in Kosovo began in 1999 James was initially assigned reconnaissance of the Republic of Macedonia-Yugoslavia border. The singer, who travelled with his guitar strapped to the outside of his tank, and his unit worked ahead of the front lines directing forces and targeting Serb positions for the NATO bombing campaign.

The lessons he learnt within the army have stayed with him and he’s keen to lay down his thoughts on army cuts and why he thinks the people of the UK are the people truly looking after our injured troops, not the current government.

“They’re not supported enough on the ground with the modern equipment they need,” James explains. “When I was there in Kosovo I was one of the only ones with a GPS because I went and bought my own. Everyone else was using World War 2 maps. Soldiers often supplement their own kit, but all too often, it feels like we’re sending them in to fight with one arm tied behind their backs.”

James last made a trip out to perform and meet the troops in Afghanistan at Christmas 2011 and found out firsthand how tricky things are for the troops heading to the frontline.

“The planes were 40-year old Tristars. We were sending our soldiers to war in vintage aircraft. Of my three journeys accompanying our soldiers to Afghanistan, none of them made it. While one of our brave soldiers is going into battle, his buddy, who he relies on, is either stuck on a runway at Brize Norton, or developing an airleak over Dubai, or dumping fuel over the Mediterranean because the wheels won’t come up after take off in Cyprus.”

After huge press outcry, in many ways helped by articles James wrote in the broadsheets, the RAF has started replacing the Tristars with new Voyagers – modified Airbus A330′s.

Another area that concerns the singer is the treatment our troops receive when the come home from combat injured.

He thinks the government fail to live up to their responsibilities, and says the great British public are the true heroes for those returning from war injured.

“For over a decade, our politicians sent our soldiers into wars that some of us, for good reason, struggled to entirely believe in,” he explains. “But despite that, the public recognised that we voted in those politicians, and so if they can’t live up to their responsibilities to look after our injured soldiers, we will. Help For Heroes (of which James is a patron) was set up in a small tin shed, but has basically grown into a publicly-funded institution. Our soldiers do an amazing, selfless job of trying to bring peace and stability to someone else’s country, and the British public have been their champions every step of the way. You can never underestimate how much that means to the men and women on the frontline, and to the injured soldiers on their return.”

Memories of his time in the army will clearly stay with him for life. He’s still friends with many of the troops he served with and still hears from his Sergeant Major occasionally too.

Performing at the recent Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, James’ tour manager received an email from Garrison Sergeant Major Mott, the most senior Sergeant Major in the British army, with a clothing request for the singer – who’s famed for his love of a good pair of jeans and a t-shirt on stage.

James laughs: “I knew Sergeant Major Mott from my time at Sandhurst and he sent an email to me via my tour manager saying, ‘very much looking forward to seeing Mr Blunt cleanly shaved and not wearing the devil’s cloth’ – meaning jeans. I wore a suit that day of course – because you really don’t want to f*** with the Garrison Sergeant Major!”

James Blunt’s new album Moon Landing is out now, for tour dates log onto www.jamesblunt.com.

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