James Blunt (born James Hillier Blount, 22 February 1974), is an English singer-songwriter whose debut album, Back to Bedlam, and single releases, especially "You're Beautiful", brought him to fame in 2005. His repertoire is a mix of pop, rock and acoustic-tinged soft rock. Recording for Linda Perry's independent American label Custard Records, Blunt won two BRIT Awards and two Ivor Novello Awards, and was nominated for five Grammy Awards in 2006. He released his second album All The Lost Souls, in 2007.
Prior to embarking on a career in music, Blunt was an officer in the Life Guards, a cavalry regiment of the British Army, and served under NATO in Kosovo during the conflict in 1999. While posted to Kosovo, Blunt was introduced to the work of M?decins Sans Fronti?res (Doctors Without Borders). Since then, Blunt has supported MSF by holding meet-and-greet auctions at many of his concerts.
Blunt's primary residence is now on the Spanish island of Ibiza.
Blunt was born at an army hospital in Tidworth, Wiltshire, England, the first child born to Jane and Charles Blount. Blunt spent his early childhood living in England, Cyprus, and Germany, where his father, a Colonel in the British Army Air Corps, and military helicopter pilot, was posted at various times. He has two younger siblings. His father instilled in his son a love of flying, and Blunt earned his pilot's licence at age 16. The Blount family has a long history of military service, dating from the 10th century.
At age seven, Blunt was enrolled at Elstree School, Woolhampton, before continuing to Harrow School (Elmfield House) on an army bursary. From Harrow School he gained an army-sponsored place at the University of Bristol, where he first studied Aerospace Manufacturing Engineering and then subsequently read Sociology. He graduated with a BSc(Hons) in Sociology in 1996.
As the British Army sponsored his university education, Blunt was obliged to serve a minimum of four years in the armed forces. Blunt trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Life Guards, a unit of the Household Cavalry, where he rose to the rank of Captain. One of his first assignments was to British Army Training Unit Suffield in Alberta, Canada, where his squadron was posted for six months in 1998 to act as the opposing army in combat training exercises.
In 1999, he served as an armoured reconnaissance officer in the NATO deployment in Kosovo. Initially assigned to reconnaissance of the Macedonia-Yugoslavia border, Blunt and his unit worked ahead of the front lines directing forces and targeting Serb positions for the NATO bombing campaign. He led the first squadron of troops to enter Pri?tina, and was the first British officer to enter the Kosovo capital. His unit was given the assignment of securing the Pri?tina airport in advance of the 30,000-strong peacekeeping force; the Russian army had moved in and taken control of the airport before his unit's arrival. As the first officer on the scene, Blunt shared a part in the difficult task of addressing the potentially violent international incident. There were less intense moments during Blunt's Kosovo assignment, however. Blunt had brought along his guitar, strapped to the outside of his tank. At some places, the peacekeepers would share a meal with hospitable locals, and Blunt would perform. It was while on duty there that he wrote the song "No Bravery".
A keen skier, Blunt captained the Household Cavalry Alpine Ski Team in Verbier, Switzerland, eventually becoming champion skier of the entire Royal Armoured Corps. He had extended his military service in November 2000, and after an intensive six-month army riding course was posted to the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment in London, England. During this posting, Blunt was interviewed about his responsibilities on the television programme "Girls on Top", a series highlighting unusual career choices. He stood guard at the coffin of the Queen Mother during the days of her lying in State and was part of the funeral procession on 9 April 2002. Blunt finally left the army on 1 October 2002 having served six years.
James Blunt in April 2006
Blunt took piano and violin lessons as a child, but his first significant exposure to popular music was at Harrow School. There, he was introduced to the guitar by a fellow student, and started playing guitar and writing songs at age 14. At Bristol University, his undergraduate thesis was The Commodification of Image - Production of a Pop Idol; one of his main references for the thesis was Simon Frith, a sociologist and rock critic, and current chair of the Mercury Music Prize.
Blunt left the British Army in 2002 so that he could pursue his musical career. It was at about that time that he started using the stage name "Blunt", in part to make it easier for others to spell; "Blount" is pronounced the same way, and remains his legal surname. Shortly after leaving the Army, he was signed to EMI music publishers, and to Twenty-First Artists management. A record contract remained elusive however, with recording label executives pointing to Blunt's "posh" speaking voice as a barrier in class-divided Britain. Linda Perry, who was just launching her own Custard Records label in early 2003, heard Blunt's promotional tape when visiting London, and soon after heard him perform live at the South by Southwest Music Festival. Within a few days, Blunt signed a recording contract with Perry, and one month later he was in Los Angeles working with producer Tom Rothrock.
Back to Bedlam
Blunt recorded Back to Bedlam in 2003 with producer Tom Rothrock at Rothrock's home studio, using session musicians and performing on many different instruments himself. While in Los Angeles, he lodged with actress Carrie Fisher, whom he had met through the family of a former girlfriend. Fisher was very supportive of Blunt's aspirations, suggesting the name of the album and providing use of a bathroom in her home for Blunt to record the song "Goodbye My Lover". Back to Bedlam was finally released in the UK in October 2004.
The debut album from the unknown Blunt attracted little critical attention, and there were no published reviews from major UK music journals. His live performances, mainly in support of better known musicians, received somewhat mixed but generally favourable reviews. Blunt's lack of performing experience and inconsistent approach with audiences was commented upon, while his music was likened to that of Damien Rice and David Gray. In March 2004, with Blunt performing in the support role for Katie Melua in Manchester, Alex McCann of Designer Magazine wrote, "Blunt's ascendance is a dead cert and this time next year it isn't that far removed from reality to suggest that a number 1 album, Brit Award and countless accolade's will be his for the taking."
James Blunt's debut single in the UK was "High" (co-written with Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue). This song peaked below the Top 100 of the UK Singles Chart. However, the song was chosen to appear in a Vodafone commercial in Italy, and was a Top 10 hit in that country. Concert support slots for Elton John and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions in late 2004 and early 2005 followed, as did a band residency at London club 93 Feet East. In March 2005, his second single, "Wisemen," was released.
Blunt's third single "You're Beautiful" was his breakout hit. The song debuted at number 12 in the UK, and rose all the way to the number one position six weeks after its debut. The song also received massive airplay in the UK, which helped propel Back to Bedlam to number one on the UK Albums Chart. The extensive airplay ultimately led to Blunt and his co-writers being awarded the Ivor Novello Award for Most Performed Work. After the success of "You're Beautiful" in the UK, the song crossed over to mainland Europe, becoming one of the biggest hits of summer 2005 across the continent. In the U.S., "You're Beautiful" made its debut in the summer of 2005 on WPLJ, a prominent radio station in New York City, despite not having been released to radio yet. Once the song was released to radio stations in the fall of 2005, the song climbed into the Top 10 at three radio formats: Adult Contemporary, Adult Top 40, and Adult Alternative. Blunt became the first British artist to top the American singles chart in nearly a decade when his song "You're Beautiful" reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2006; the last British artist to do so had been Elton John in 1997 with the song "Candle in the Wind 1997". "Goodbye My Lover" was released as the fourth UK single from the album in December 2005, and was later the second US single. The songs "High" and "Wisemen" were subsequently re-released in 2006. Blunt started off 2006 celebrating five BRIT Award nominations, going on to win Best British male solo artist and Best pop act categories, having already started an 11-month tour that would take him around the world.
There was extensive promotion in the United States starting in the fall of 2005, with Blunt making appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live. Eight of the songs on the album were featured in television shows (The O.C., Grey's Anatomy and many more), films (Undiscovered), and advertising campaigns (Hilton Hotels, Sprint telecommunications) throughout 2005 and 2006. Blunt performed "You're Beautiful" at the 49th Grammy Awards in February 2007, dedicating the song to the late Ahmet Erteg?n of Atlantic Records, but he did not win in any of the five categories for which he had received nominations.
The album eventually sold 11 million copies and topped the album charts in 16 territories worldwide. It sold 2.6 million in the U.S. and was certified 2x platinum. In Britain the album was certified 10x platinum, sold over three million copies, and entered the Guinness Book of Records for the fastest selling album in one year. In 2005, Blunt performed in 90 live shows, mainly across the UK and Europe, ending the year supporting Jason Mraz in a North American tour. The "Back to Bedlam World Tour" started off in January 2006, covering cities in Europe, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, as well as three separate headline tours in North America, ending in November of that year. Not including promotional appearances, Blunt performed over 140 live shows in 2006. He enjoys the touring experience, saying in July 2006 that he and his band were having the time of their lives going to new places every day.
"You're Beautiful," Blunt's breakout hit was the third UK single and first U.S. single from Back to Bedlam.
The videos for all of Blunt's singles released from Back To Bedlam feature symbolism and dark imagery. In the first video for "High", he is buried in a desert. In the first video for "Wisemen", he is kidnapped and taken hostage. In the video for "You're Beautiful", he alludes to suicide by jumping off a cliff into the sea. In the "Goodbye My Lover" video, he is the outsider in a love triangle, imagining the couple, a man and woman (played by Matt Dallas of Kyle XY and Mischa Barton of The O.C.) together. The re-release video for "High" features Blunt running in a forest. The re-release video for "Wisemen" has Blunt burning identification papers, and then walking through a forest while he is on fire.
Blunt appeared on an episode of Sesame Street which aired 14 November 2007, singing about triangles to the tune of "You're Beautiful".
A parody of You're Beautiful titled "You're Pitiful" was recorded by Weird Al Yankovic. James Blunt gave personal permission for this parody to be included on a Weird Al album, but Atlantic Records, Blunt's record company, stepped in to forbid the commercial release of the song. Weird Al has since made the song available as a free MP3 download on his website. In a request by Yankovic to include the song on an upcoming compilation CD, Blunt's manager replied via email, "Thanks for your email, but both James and I will never approve this parody to be released on any label.".
All the Lost Souls
Blunt's second studio album, All the Lost Souls, was released on 17 September 2007 in the United Kingdom and one day later in North America. It sold 65,000 units in its first week, and was certified gold in the UK after only four days. By the end of January 2008, the album had sold 600,000 copies in the UK, and 3.5 million copies internationally. Blunt completed the album's songs at his home in Ibiza in the winter of 2006?2007. He performed five of the ten album tracks during his 2005?2006 tours; lyrics, melodies, and harmonies were refined for the studio recording, on which his touring band played and Tom Rothrock worked as producer.
While Blunt?s first album received very little critical attention, critics from every major music publication, and newspapers around the world, weighed in on All the Lost Souls. The album maintains a 53/100 rating at Metacritic, which the website describes as "mixed or average reviews." Eric Danton, of The Hartford Courant wrote that the album is "a collection so bland, it makes hardtack seem sumptuous", while Rolling Stone said that the album contains "forgettable ballads that make Coldplay seem like the Arctic Monkeys." Yet, in her review of the album, Kerri Mason of Billboard said Blunt "shows the abandon and confidence of a long-term artist, not just a one-hit wonder". And of the album, Mason wrote, "there is not a misstep throughout". Equally effusive, Liz Hoggard of The Observer wrote that "it?s impossible to resist Blunt?s troubadour yearning.?
The first single from All the Lost Souls, "1973", was inspired by Blunt's nights out at Pacha, an Ibiza club, which opened in that year. The song became another hit for Blunt reaching number one the Billboard European Hot 100 Singles chart. D.J. Pete Tong remixed "1973" and played the track during his set at Pacha over the summer of 2007. The second single, "Same Mistake", was released in early December 2007 but did not fare well in the UK charts, peaking at number 57. It was Number 1 in Brazil and a hit in many South American countries. The third single from the album was "Carry You Home", released in March 2008, peaking at number 20 in the U.K charts and bringing the album back into the Top 10, six months after its release.
In the end of 2007, Blunt worked with French rapper Sinik. They released "Je R?alise", which took elements of Blunt's song "I'll Take Everything", in France the same year and became a top 3 hit.
Throughout 2008, Blunt toured the world to promote the album. After the successful spring leg of the tour in smaller venues in the UK, Blunt also announced several arena concerts in the UK to be performed during the first two weeks of October.
Blunt's latest single from the album is 'I Really Want You'.
On November 14, 2008, "Primavera in anticipo", Laura Pausini new album, was released. The title track is a duet with Blunt. The album reached the Number 1 in Italy.
On November 24, 2008, James Blunt re-released his newest album All The Lost Souls in the United Kingdom as a deluxe edition, with new album artwork and the new single "Love, Love, Love" and the documentary "Return To Kosovo". It was released November 17 elsewhere, but there is not a release date for the U.S. version yet. The single EP for "Love, Love, Love" was released on US iTunes on November 18.
Blunt says that he has become closer to his family since his musical success; his father manages his finances, and his mother arranged for the purchase of his principal residence in Ibiza, where Blunt has holidayed since he was a teenager. Blunt also owns a ch?let in the Swiss town of Verbier, which he purchased in February 2007, and he was named "godfather" of one of the town's new ski lifts.
Blunt was instrumental in introducing his sister to her eventual husband after offering her for "sale" on Ebay. She was having difficulty obtaining transport to a funeral in Ireland, and Blunt listed her as a "damsel in distress." The winner provided helicopter transportation. Blunt's sister and the winner subsequently began a relationship and eventually married.
The musician's social life has been the subject of significant commentary, particularly in the tabloid press; he is well known to enjoy nightclubbing and socialising with other celebrities. Blunt has, in the past, been romantically linked to Dixie Chassay, casting director for the Harry Potter films; Camilla Boler, musician and daughter of the late Stephen Boler; and supermodel Petra Nemcova. Blunt himself has found the degree of interest in his personal life to be bizarre, stating that "fame and celebrity is something that other people have constructed that I'm not really party to."
Blunt has raised funds for M?decins Sans Fronti?res (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, through benefit concerts and by auctioning meet and greet opportunities at his own shows. He first encountered MSF medical care workers during his tour of duty in Kosovo, and was impressed with their work despite minimal support and limited security.
He also supports environmental causes, screening the trailer for An Inconvenient Truth at his concerts, and planting a tree for each advance sales concert ticket purchased through his designated website. On 7 July 2007, Blunt performed at the Live Earth concert at Wembley Stadium, London, and is the owner of one of two prototype electric cars made by Hybrid Technologies under a Space Act partnership with NASA.
Blunt, a former soldier, is also a patron of Help for Heroes, a charity aiming to raise money to provide better facilities to wounded British servicemen, and has also held benefit concerts for this charity.
All James Blunt lyrics
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