Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018 | Last Update : 07:49 PM IST

Beautifully blunt!

THE ASIAN AGE. | IKYATHA YERASALA
Published : Feb 21, 2018, 12:26 am IST
Updated : Feb 21, 2018, 12:27 am IST

British singer-songwriter James Blunt will be performing in the city on April 9. He gets candid about his musicology and more.

In a world where our politicians just talk about the differences between black and white, man and woman and gay and straight, I play in these places and people travel a distance and come into a room — it doesn’t really matter where they’re from or what they believe in. (Photo: James blunt)
 In a world where our politicians just talk about the differences between black and white, man and woman and gay and straight, I play in these places and people travel a distance and come into a room — it doesn’t really matter where they’re from or what they believe in. (Photo: James blunt)

When he crooned You’re Beautiful more than a decade ago, he managed to create a blockbuster track that captivated audiences across the globe. Fast forward to 2018 and English singer-songwriter James Blunt is out with his fifth album titled The Afterlove and is gearing up to perform in Bengaluru for the very first time. The unbelievably witty singer whose self-deprecating humour is bound to leave you in splits, got candid with us in this tête-a-tête…

Is this your first time in India? What are your thoughts ahead of your visit here?

This is my sixth world tour and it’s surprising how I’ve never played in India before. So, it’s really exciting to come and play here. After Europe, Australia and South America, we will be coming to Bengaluru...it’s going to be a celebration. I hope to meet some of my fans and play all their favourite songs. After that, I hope to go around the city, meet some locals and try the local food. I have been to New Delhi, but never to Bengaluru.

Tell us about your latest album, The Afterlove. How is it different from your previous albums?

My producer Tom Rothroc and I were at Burning Man at 5 am and he told me I could consider retiring since it’s been a good journey and that’s when I thought ‘I need to make something I’m very proud of.’ I had a great run with the last four albums. If I just repeated myself, I might as well be dead. When you don’t change in any way, you slowly die — at least inside. So, I wanted to do something fresh and diverse that excited me. For this album, I took twice the length of time I normally do, two years. Usually, I write 25 songs for an album, but for this one, I wrote over 100 songs. The label recognised that I was really enjoying what I was doing and the standard of the songs were definitely a step up. I put together a dream team to assist me. I worked with Ed Sheeran and Ryan Tedder of One Republic. I spend most of my time at a nightclub having great fun and not writing songs. Then when I get home, I have a guitar, I’m on my own and slightly sad, so I write a miserable song. Instead of locking myself in a studoand writing such songs, I was more spontaneous in the writing this album.

How was the experience of collaborating with Ryan Tedder and Ed Sheeran?  

I often joke that I took Ed on a skiing holiday, taught him to ski and by night, he’d taught me how to write songs. But jokes apart, it was a real education working with him. He gave me good advice. And Ryan, I really enjoy working with him. We’re friends; he really gets what I want to do. I wanted to do things that were out of my usual boundaries. We’d do it spontaneously – when we’d be in a hotel room or I’d go on tour with him on the bus.

You’re known for your exceptional wit on Twitter. How do you manage to handle trolls in a light-hearted manner?

Once upon a time, we were told we should keep our opinions to ourselves, and that if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it at all. And then someone invented Twitter and we just seem to forget those rules – it’s a strange environment. People have always been nice to me on the streets. At the end of the day, the negative people are irrelevant and definitely aren’t the ones coming to my shows. For some reason, I still can’t help but focus on the one or two people who write something negative and really, I’m trying to laugh at myself on social media. They’re at home alone in a dark room, probably with their trousers around their ankles writing something negative. I don’t think they should be taken that seriously. Focusing on a bunch of people who write negative things online makes me look like an idiot. I don’t usually try and get into spats, instead I aim for one or two witty lines.

You surprised fans when you revealed that ‘You’re Beautiful’ was not a romantic number and was actually about a stalker. Does The Afterlove have any such interesting anecdotes?

If you notice the lyrics in Love Me Better, I’m making a remark on You’re Beautiful. I was in the army for a number of years –  you’ve got to learn to laugh at yourself! I start off by saying, ‘People say the meanest things. I’ve been called a d*&k, I’ve been called so many things’ and it’s pretty bold and an ugly way of starting an album – I’ve been called worse than that, so I thought I should confront it head on and have humour and irony, which I haven’t shown in many songs before. People think I’m an incredibly serious person, which I’m not. So, we’ve got a little bit of humour saying, “So I saw you standing outside a bar, I would have said you’re beautiful, but I’ve used that line before.”  Another one was Make Me Better. I’ve never liked revealing myself, but Ed said it was my job to as a songwriter. So I did that and the song that came out was Make Me Better, making me feel uncomfortable.

What kind of music do you want to create in the future?

Just music and more kinds of music. I get to travel the world and play to amazing audiences in incredible places. But you know what the most amazing thing is? In a world where our politicians just talk about the differences between black and white, man and woman and gay and straight, I play in these places and people travel a distance and come into a room — it doesn’t really matter where they’re from or what they believe in. In a world where there aren’t many opportunities to meet strangers, music brings them together. It’s been a huge honour and a pleasure to have that as my career.

Tags: ryan tedder, ed sheeran