A former army officer, James Blunt rose to prominence in 2004 with his debut album, Back to Bedlam. He has sold more than 20m albums worldwide and performs regularly in Dubai. While headlining at this year’s Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival, he told Emily Handford why he is more than just ‘a man with a guitar, singing miserable songs’
I primarily live in Ibiza, but I’m barely ever there. I’ve been on this 18-month world tour, so my home has been my tour bus, there’s 14 of us in beds the size of coffins. It hasn’t been very glamorous but it has been fun.
I have played in Dubai a few times now and it has always been great. The Dubai Jazz Festival venue has changed and I loved playing there last time – the audience was fantastic. Dubai is a really interesting city to visit, for me it’s a highlight of our tour and I’m thrilled to be invited back. I think it’s an amazing place, the way it pops out of the desert like that. It’s an astonishing feat of construction and as a result there’s a certain kind of vibrancy and excitement to the city.
The thing I miss about being in the army, is that we dealt with very real things, like life and death, whereas the music industry deals with what’s cool and what’s not cool. So I miss the kind of reality of what we dealt with then. But in many ways there are similarities between what I do now and what I did then. Before, I used to travel the world with a troop of soldiers in our tanks where we were very dependant on each other and everyone was an expert, and now it’s sort of the same kind of thing except my tank is a little more comfortable and it’s called a tour bus and we go to places that are a little safer.
For my third album I was writing songs for the tour, for the arenas that I was playing in, writing songs that would fill that space with an electric guitar, instead of acoustic sounds. And it made the tour fantastic, but I suppose it wasn’t necessarily as personally rewarding writing songs for other people, than it was for myself. So on this album, I wrote really personal songs, without the audience in mind, capturing my thoughts and recording them.
Writing both upbeat and slow songs comes quite naturally to me, although personally I find it more rewarding when I’m writing from my own personal perspective, without an audience in mind. It is like opening up, some sort of therapy. There’s something cathartic about capturing emotions in a song.
I can’t wait to be in my five-piece band again, which some people would have seen. And those who haven’t will be surprised as they expect one man with a guitar singing miserable songs. But it’s something that’s upbeat and a lot of fun.
I was never especially interested in social media at first. I just wanted to sell records; I didn’t want to tell people what I was having for breakfast. But I think it’s great that social media allows artists to have their own voice, rather than always having to go through their record label. I’ve only recently found my niche and that is abusing myself on Twitter. I’ll probably do one tweet plugging the album, but then one’s probably enough, and then I can go back to normal service.