Time Out caught up with James Blunt backstage at the Dubai Jazz Festival at the Media City Amphitheater and soon learned the English crooner is no stranger to the emirate.
As the 41-year-old from Tidworth, England prepared to follow American singer Christina Perri on stage for a set at the three-day extravaganza, he told us he has catered his set for the Dubai crowd rallying to see him on a week night.
“I suppose really this is the last show of my world tour so everything else was just a practice for here. I’ve played here a couple of times before so we’re going to try to keep it as fun and upbeat and as short and sweet as I can make it.”
James has gained plenty of attention aside from his music recently after taking on a mock agony aunt persona in the press in Britain. However he takes his advice from those closest to him.
“I’ve done a couple of silly agony aunt things for newspapers, obviously meant as a joke and I hope nobody ever follows my advice, or else I might end up being sued. But I think rather than advice columns I just talk to family or friends.”
While you might think those pals are on a completely different time zone to him at the moment, the singer revealed that in fact many of his friends are based right here in the UAE.
“I’ve got loads of mates here actually. I’ve got a cousin who lives out here,” he added.
James has wasted no time in absorbing the great Dubai culture scene though and despite having visited before channeled his inner tourist.
“Yesterday I saw various sites. I went to the Dubai Museum and had a look around the old part of Dubai which is sweet. When I can, I enjoy seeing the city. Last night I went to go see the place otherwise it would be a wasted journey.
“But then again the spirit of any city really is the people who live in it and the audience is really when I’ll get a feel of the character so I can’t wait for tonight…”
And he confessed he loves his job, mainly because it means he gets to be a full-time tourist. James shared that visiting exotic locations make it much easier to turn up to work at special times of the year. Like his birthday earlier this week for instance.
“I was in Mauritius for my birthday and what a special place. It’s supposed to be a job but really it’s an excuse to go to nice places and do my hobby.”
Speaking of incredible locations, James thinks Dubai is definitely a place where the music scene is booming. Perhaps too much. He cheekily hinted that he was not a fan of big names like a certain Canadian singer stealing his thunder and taking to the stage in March.
“There’s a socking great poster of Michael Buble over the stage. I’ve asked if they’ll cover it up for the show,” he joked. Adding about Dubai: “I think it’s a great spot for many things. People are coming here for so many things, and when you’ve got an audience who are in love with the music, it’s great.”
Approximately 5,000 people are expected at the gig and James joked that although he loves some of the benefits of belting out tracks in front a massive crowds, the smaller shows have positive aspects too.
“A large audience is great because then you know you’re earning a load of money. But then I suppose a small audience is intense on the musical front and is more rewarding.”
He’s especially grateful for all the fans turning up at his shows since he started getting a negative focus on his Twitter conversations. James shared that he would like more people to be talking about the majority of music consumers who display love for his music as opposed to the handful of those who hate his work.
“About 5,000 people will turn up to the show and I do this every single night. Thousands of people have bought tickets, train tickets, hotels, queued up for hours outside a gig,” he said. Adding about how he doesn’t take seriously the small amount of social media users who send verbal abuse online: “They’ll focus on five individuals at home on Twitter probably alone, tweeting five nasty words. Is it worth taking those people into consideration? No, it’s probably worth laughing at them and at yourself.”