We bring you an exclusive interview with one of the world’s most successful musicians, as James Blunt takes time out of his gruelling world tour to speak to Azzam Alkadhi before his arrival in the capital
Speaking to us from Brazil, where he begins the Latin American leg of his world tour, which has already seen him visit Europe and Africa, James Blunt gushes excitedly about his first visit to Colombia and the prospect of a local audience: “I have only heard great things about your country by people who have visited, and I am really looking forward to coming! I’m guessing the Latin blood makes you a more entertaining audience than the English, so I think the concert will be great!”
Perhaps it’s his media training, the influence of a PR team, or maybe he’s just a nice guy, but his somewhat effusive comments about Colombia are just one of the signs that he is a real charmer who knows exactly what to say.
When asked about the best concert of the tour so far, he explains: “The Royal Albert Hall in London was amazing because it’s such a prestigious venue, and loads of my friends came, but I reckon the gig in Bogota will be better.” Smooth-talker or not, I’m pretty sure he won’t be disappointed.
So what’s in store for Bogotanos going to see James Blunt? Can we expect any Bieber-esque shenanigans when the soft-spoken Brit visits the capital?
“I’ll leave my surprises for the concert… It’s a very different show from what people expect. It’s not just one man with a guitar playing sad songs, but a five-piece band, and it grooves.”
When I mention the altitude (with Blunt playing in Quito the night before coming to Colombia), he tells me “I’ve played in Denver, which is 1,609m, and a concert on the Eiger Mountain [Switzerland]. I hadn’t thought about it being an issue. Should I bring oxygen?”
Despite his phenomenal levels of success, with over 20 million albums sold worldwide, Blunt appears less international pop superstar and more ‘that guy that everybody likes’.
Except, on the surface at least, not everybody likes him, and it’s hard to understand why. Yet, with a turn of phrase that belies his military background, Blunt casually brushes off the criticism: “When you put your head above the parapet, you expect to get shot at… I’m really lucky that I have enough of a following to do a world tour.”
Humility shines through most of his comments and I get the sense that he genuinely feels fortunate to be a musician, despite some of the haters.
Blunt explains: “I love life, and I write music about the journey. I’ve been so lucky to do what I love as a job, and I hope to keep doing it as long as I’m allowed.”
“It’s hard to take it all too seriously when I’m fortunate enough to be playing live every night for the last 10 years to a few thousand people. You’d be a fool to focus on a handful of negative people,” he adds.
Blunt has used this relaxed attitude, in combination with a sharp, self-deprecating wit, to turn himself into something of a Twitter sensation. His responses to negative tweets and his ability to poke fun at himself (and others) have seen his Twitter account – with his profile reading ‘Proof that one song is all you need’ – explode. Below are some examples of his recent tweets.
— James Blunt (@JamesBlunt) February 25, 2015
My real name is James Blount, but I changed it as people teased me that it rhymed with ‘count’.
— James Blunt (@JamesBlunt) November 19, 2014
Yet despite his very public Twitter presence, Blunt has always managed to keep his private life private, something which he deftly sidesteps. Is it hard for him to do? “Not really.” Simple as that.
With a home in the party island of Ibiza, I wonder what Blunt gets up to in the little spare time he has and it appears he’s not exactly what his songs and quiet demeanour suggest: “I live and breathe Ibiza. The clean cut image is just a cover!”
And does living there mean he’s a fluent Hispanist? “Hablo español perfecto!” he jokes, before adding “In truth, my Spanish is only especially good when I’m in a bar or restaurant, but I love the language. I have sung a bit in Spanish. I’ll have to get practising…”
The current tour is promoting his most recent offering, Moon Landing, which Blunt tells me is his favourite album. “I went back to LA to record it with the man who made my first album [Tom Rothrock]. We think it sounds great.”
How does Blunt, who helps with fundraising for Medecins Sans Frontieres, explain his levels of success? “I write songs about real life experiences that both you and I can relate to. Music is supposed to make you feel something, and hopefully, mine makes some people feel something.”
His inspiration comes from real-life situations – No Bravery was written while Blunt was serving in Kosovo, during the war in 1999. The poignant lyrics paint a harrowing picture of life in Kosovo – ‘Old men kneel to accept their fate, Wives and daughters cut and raped, A generation drenched in hate.’ Blunt wistfully reflects: “Sadly, it took no imagination.”
I ask him how it feels to know that he won’t be the most famous James here, to which he replies: “It’s an honour to share a name with Sr Rodriguez!” Our survey says: top answer.
And his Colombian-Latin America love-in doesn’t stop there. Having played in Rio, Buenos Aires, Santiago and Mexico City, Blunt concludes that “Latin Americans love music, and so it makes playing here really great fun.”
He goes on to say that he’s looking forward to hearing some traditional Colombian music and, when I suggest he records a salsa remix of one of his songs, he says that it “sounds fun, and would probably be easier to dance to”. You’re not wrong there.
It’s difficult to see the negative comments or criticism of his music as anything other than jealousy or the modern obsession with attacking celebrity and success. Despite what is often written or tweeted, Blunt remains one of the most popular British artists of all time, and his often-maligned song You’re Beautiful has sold more than 10 million copies. Clearly someone’s listening to Blunty.
He ends with a message for his Colombian fans: “Gracias por invitarme! Y hasta pronto!”
James Blunt will appear at the Royal Center on March 20. Tickets available through tuboleta.com. The full interview with James Blunt will appear in the March 24 edition of The Bogota Post.