British crooner James Blunt has proved the most popular performer of Dubai Jazz Festival’s nine-year history, with 8,000 people turning out to see him play in 2010. A multi-award winner on multiple continents, his
first album, Back to Bedlam, has been declared the UK’s best-selling album of the 2000s, and you couldn’t turn on a radio in 2005 without hearing the strains of ‘Goodbye My lover’ or ‘You’re Beautiful’. Ahead of his headline slot on this year’s festival opening night (Thursday February 16), we asked the 37-year-old about recording in Carrie Fisher’s bathroom, and if he secretly hates his hits.
You have such a unique sound. How do you manage that?
I sing like a girl. I blame my parents.
How did you get started?
Belief is everything, and naivety helps! I wrote songs and I told people I was going to become a professional musician.
You’ve opened for some incredible performers during your career. Who was your favourite?
I loved touring with Elton John. It was a huge honour to do so. He’s an incredible musician and a hugely generous human being.
Speaking of famous people you have met: you recorded bits of your first album in Carrie Fisher’s bathroom. We’re intrigued: what’s Carrie Fisher like? And what’s her bathroom like?
She’s clinically insane. Her bathroom is like a Mexican bordello and it happened because we were short of cash.
Has your sound changed at all as you’ve got bigger? Other than getting out of bathrooms, that is?
I used to be a troubadour, now I’m the frontman of a band. You can see that from the live show.
You’re known for having thoughtful, interesting lyrics. How do you write your songs?
I’m just trying to be honest with myself in songs. It’s not worth lying to myself.
So, what inspires you?
Death and everything that comes before it. Well that’s nice and cheery. Speaking of which, you’re known for some pretty dark videos. If the song is dark, it makes sense to have a dark video to go with it.
Do you think you’re more popular at home or abroad?
The British traditionally eat their own. Look at our football team.
Do fans’ reactions differ depending where in the world you are?
Hugely! City to city, the audiences are different and it’s why I love touring. It’s like meeting a different person each concert.
Still, some of your tracks have been massive hits all over the world. What about ‘You’re Beautiful’? How did that one happen?
I saw someone on the underground. We didn’t speak, but I wished we had. Except if we had, I wouldn’t have written the song. [It was so popular] perhaps because we can all relate to it.
It got a huge amount of airplay, and still does. Be honest: do you still like the song, or do you groan when you hear it or are asked to play it?
I groan at being asked that question by every journalist. Everyone in my concert wants me to play it. Don’t be so negative!
So, after your concert in the sand, what’s next?
I’ve been on tour for more than a year now. I’m going to go home and do my washing next.