James Blunt has come a long way since serving in the British Army. His 2004 debut album, Back to Bedlam, still stands as the best-selling UK recording in this century, thanks to the explosive success “You’re Beautiful.” After a slight sophomore slump on All The Lost Souls and Some Kind Of Trouble, Blunt released Moon Landing last year, which many critics are calling his finest outing to date. Here, he talks about reuniting with his first producer, sounding a bit like the Lumineers, and what really went down when Atlantic Records balked at Weird Al’s parody, “You’re Pitiful.”
French Davis: Talk to me about the process of recording Moon Landing. Why these particular songs?
James Blunt: I think it’s from having written my first album a long time ago. You just write songs as you go when you haven’t got a record deal. I wasn’t thinking about anything then, or about an audience. I started with an indie label with the man who produced my record named Tom Rothrock, and then on that album it had a song called, “You’re Beautiful.” That took me on an amazing journey of three world tours and two subsequent albums. I suppose after that moment, you always have an audience in mind. So the second and third albums were definitely with the audience in mind. But this fourth album I wrote for myself, and then in order to capture it in the most genuinely accurate way I needed to go back to the man that was there before the audience…Tom Rothrock.
FD: How would you describe this album as compared to your previous outings?
JB: I think it’s pretty raw and exposed. I hope there is a romanticism to it, I hope heart, the sort of thing I think I have experience writing about now.
FD: What did Ryan Tedder (frontman for OneRepublic, co-produced on Moon Landing) bring to the table? What was it like working with him?
JB: It was great fun working with Ryan. He and I had worked together a bunch times, and so I called him up and said, “I’m going to come and find you.” He was on tour in Europe, so I found him and I jumped on the One Republic tour bus. I was like a groupie to One Republic—then I had to put out. On the road, we wrote “Bonfire Heart.” It was the sort of song that everyone needs, about our need just to connect with someone, and so it is the words of people like us: “you don’t need that much/to light the spark/in our bonfire hearts.”
FD: “Bonfire Heart” sounds like it would fit well on a Lumineers album. Are you finding new influence from that musical camp?
JB: No, I don’t think so. I don’t listen to too much contemporary music. But no, I’m one man with a guitar and a voice and that’s been going on for a long time, for many different years.
FD: There was some controversy back when Weird Al wanted to release “You’re Pitiful.” Al said Atlantic Records, not you, wouldn’t give their blessing, as they were afraid that it would contribute to pigeonholing you as a “one-hit-wonder.” Is that true?
JB: I think it was really sad. I thought it was a massive compliment — it was Weird Al Yankovic covering a song of mine. He covered Michael Jackson. That’s pretty awesome. I’m sad they took it too seriously, particularly because I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t take any of it too seriously.
Deb Flomberg contributed to this story.
James Blunt plays the Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax Ave., Denver on May 12