James Blunt: The most hated man in pop?
He’s often called the most hated man in pop, but does nice guy James Blunt care? Does he f**k, he tells Lauren Murphy as he shares the secret of his thick skin
Most musicians would agree that a sense of humour comes in useful in the crazy, surreal, occasionally vacuous world that is the music business.
If you’re James Blunt, it’s not just useful: it’s essential. Blunt is, after all, often referred to as ‘the most hated man in pop’, even by his fellow musicians – Noel Gallagher (half) joked earlier this year that he had sold his home in Ibiza because Blunt had bought a house nearby, allegedly complaining that he “couldn’t stand the thought of [Blunt] writing crap tunes up the road”. Paul Weller once said that he would rather “eat his own shit” than share a stage with him, and his name has become embedded into modern rhyming dictionary slang (use your imagination).
Yet while he may be painted as an Alan Partridge-style character by some factions of the media, and is, undeniably, quite posh (“In real life I have a Yorkshire accent but I put this posh one on for interviews,” he deadpans), James Blunt is, whisper it, actually a rather witty chap.
Skeptical? Take a look at his Twitter account, where several exchanges over the past few months have included his re-tweeting of comments such as “Just heard a song, liked it & then found out its James Blunt. Sum 1 give me a lobotomy”, and adding the straight-faced riposte of “Somewhere in here, there’s a compliment”. Another user tweeted “SHOCK NEWS!!! I have actually found myself liking and tapping foot to a JAMES BLUNT song!?!!’ (His reply: ‘You’ll never live this down.’)
“Yeah, I really enjoy Twitter now – it’s taken me a while to find it so, but now I’m really enjoying it,” he says. “I come from the army, where we took the piss out of each other all the time – where, if someone’s taking the mickey out of you, it’s a form of affection. So I’ll take that – be it in the media, or real life, or in the digital world.”
A thick skin and ability to poke fun at oneself have proven equally necessary for the one-time army man, but being scorned and stereotyped by the masses is not something that bothers him.
“I think the moment you put music out there, you have to realise that it’s going to be judged,” he says, shrugging. “Anyone who puts music out is gonna get some praise, and some people who don’t like it. That’s the nature of music, and I’m pretty comfortable with that. I think it sometimes becomes more of a story than a reality. If you sell a few thousand or a few million of something, it means things are going pretty well. At the same time, lots of people say they don’t like it – but there’s a much more positive story there too, which is lots of people are turning up to concerts and buying the albums. Sometimes we focus on the negative. So I’m pretty much at ease with what goes on.”
Blunt has sold more than a “few” million albums – 18 overall, in fact, with 11 of those attributed to 2004’s world-beating Back to Bedlam – but he sees no shame in celebrating the fact that he is mainstream.
“Not at all. The consequences of that have been fantastic: it’s taken me on three world tours, I took my touring band in for that second album and made a deep, rich album as a result of their musicianship,” he says with a shake of his head.