James Blunt has come to terms with the success that made him a household name almost a decade ago. And with his new album, "Moon Landing," he says he was finally able to produce a collection of songs that is almost a logical extension of his 2004 debut, "Back to Bedlam."
"This album is the album I would have written and recorded if the other albums hadn’t sold the way they did," he says. "These are songs that are personal and, you know, I suppose a great example is you might take 'Goodbye My Lover' on the first album, it’s opening yourself up, and then to have it be a commercial success you also get a lot of criticism."
When the topic of criticism comes up, Blunt reveals his acid tongue in a hilariously lightning fast rant.
"I’m not singing manly songs about how big and strong I am, so people say that it’s a little bit wet and delicate, words that you don’t want to be described as, like romantic," he says. "So maybe I didn’t want to open up that way and accept that type of criticism. But I realized, ‘You know what? Some terrific guy that is up onstage singing about how big and strong he is, he was led to that stage by six big and strong security type guys, and I’m not, I walk through the audience.'
"I don’t sing songs about how big and strong I am; I was in the army for six years and I know how perfectly strong I am. I was in the war and I know how hard and rough it is to get in a serious fight. So instead of singing about that, I sing about my weakness. I don’t sing about my successes and how rich I might be, I sing about my failures, my hopes, my fears, these things are much braver to sing about. Any critique you have is probably from one guy in his bedroom with his trousers around his ankles in the shadows, feeling brave as a result. You put the spotlight on him and he’ll probably shit himself."
It's taken a while for Blunt to come to this level of disenchanted acceptance about his critics and audience.
"My first record I cut to try and get a record deal, and I did," he says. "I made the album as an innocent and naïve recording, then being on that indie label as I was, it became mainstream with one song that the whole world knows. And because of that I wrote a reactionary album called 'All Lost Souls.' It wasn’t written to embrace the new audience I had. It was dark and I was kind of unhappy being thrown into the public eye like that, and that's why it’s called 'All Lost Souls.' It’s not a happy title, and then the third album I did embrace it more — there’s fun to be had as a pop star, and so I wrote songs for my arenas and it made a third world tour great fun. But with all the fun that the tour was and how special it made that tour, it wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as when you are writing something much more personal."
For "Moon Landing," Blunt enlisted producer Tom Rothrock, who helmed "Back to Bedlam," the album that spawned "Goodbye My Lover" and the “one song that the whole world knows” that Blunt speaks of, “You’re Beautiful.” One particular song on the new album that feels especially personal is "Miss America," a tribute to the late Whitney Houston.
"What was interesting and tragic about her was that the insight into her life overtook her talent, and then it just became about her tragedy and her story, but it was also about how we spectated that — and her story is not unusual," says Blunt. "Amy Winehouse was something similar, even Princess Diana ... where we spectate to such a degree that we almost become players in their downfall, because every time we buy a magazine to read about their worst moments, or go online to see a picture of them, another paparazzi is sent out; and with every new lens that is pointed in their faces, I think their world becomes that much smaller and their problems much more intense, and I think it contributes to their downfall."