Halfway through my interview with James Blunt, I got the feeling that I had mentioned You’re Beautiful one too many times.
“You’ve mentioned that song more than anyone else in the world!” Blunt said, er, bluntly, but jokingly.
Well, if you’re reading this, Mr Blunt, then I do apologise for harping on about that song so much. But really, how does one go through an interview with the British singer-songwriter without mentioning You’re Beautiful?
Taken off his multi-platinum-selling debut album Back To Bedlam in 2004, it is his most famous song, selling more than three million copies and winning him numerous awards.
More infamously, it was voted the seventh most annoying song in a Rolling Stone poll that year, and Blunt himself had said in a 2014 interview with Hello! magazine that the song was “force-fed down people’s throats” and “became annoying”.
Despite all the negativity that surrounds that song, however, Blunt has never let it define him as an artiste. He has since released four more albums – All The Lost Souls (2007), Some Kind Of Trouble (2010), Moon Landing (2013) and The Afterlove (2017) – and been on five world tours.
The current one, titled The Afterlove World Tour, brought him to Malaysia on March 25 for his first ever concert here.
Before that show at Dewan Wawasan PGRM, Kuala Lumpur, we caught up with the 44-year-old singer for a quick interview.
1. You’re Beautiful was such a massive hit. Were you worried you’d become a one-hit wonder?
You’re Beautiful was a huge radio song, yes. That song was a cornerstone of my career, and it’s great to have a good leg-up in the beginning.
But there were other songs on that album that maybe connected with fans on a more personal level, like Goodbye My Lover. So it wasn’t just that one song. The entire album sold 12 or 13 million copies! (11 million, to be exact.)
Then I put out a second album, with some deeply personal songs on it too, from Same Mistake to 1973.
I’ve just been putting out music that I loved and believed in, and I’m really lucky that they’ve sold.
2. With You’re Beautiful being as big as it got, how did you get beyond that?
While I’m still alive, and still have things happening to me, I’ll always have inspiration to write.
I’m a songwriter and performer – I really like it that I get to put albums out and get invited to go on world tours. It’s all about having inspiration, drive, and the need to write songs.
Things happen to me, and I’ll write a song about it. Some of them might work on the radio, some might work on an album, and some might be really personal songs that I keep to myself.
For me, they’re all little chapters in a longer story.
3. The Afterlove is your fifth album. How different is it from your previous ones?
I thought I’d approach this one in a different way. Rather than locking myself in a studio for a year or so, I wrote it on the road, at different places – be it at the side of stage at the MTV Awards, in a hotel room, or on a skiing holiday with Ed Sheeran.
I wrote over a hundred songs – I had lots of inspiration, and these are some of the strongest songs I’ve ever written.
For the recording, I did the same and just recorded anywhere I happened to be. It gave it some spontaneity and life, and made for a fun, exciting album.
4. You’re pretty active on social media. What’s the best way to handle Internet trolls?
I don’t really care about it so much. I just think that humans should be kind to each other and treat each other nicer.
But on social media, some people don’t. So, I laugh to myself when I’m reading them, and don’t take them too seriously.
5. Looking back, what’s been the most memorable part of your career?
My favourite moment was playing to 80,000 people at the Glastonbury Festival with the sun setting in the beautiful English countryside. It was an amazing experience.
But just to be on a tour around the world and come to places like Kuala Lumpur is also a great big honour for me. In fact, the greatest honour I have is to play music that brings people together.
In a world where politicians try to divide us, music brings us together.
I have a song on the new album called Someone Sing Along that was specifically inspired by Donald Trump, and the divisive politics that he talks about.
I don’t see a difference between skin colour or sexuality – we are all humans with the same hopes and fears and the same dreams for ourselves and for our children.