“I had written songs for my live shows to fill large arenas, 10-20,000 people. And doing that is very fun, but I think to do something more personal is more rewarding, perhaps, to write and do something for yourself,” British singer/songwriter James Blunt told me during a recent phone interview. “So rather than this album being about a pop star, it’s about being a musician.”
The album we’re discussing is his latest offering, Moon Landing, which was released this past fall. Blunt decided to return to his indie roots and created a more personal and intimate album that he described as sounding “old school and nostalgic.”
“I wanted to strip [the music] as far back as I could and be really selective about who came in the studio and enjoy silence as much as sound. And just to let the songs shine through themselves, as best I could,” Blunt said.
“The album, itself, has been a journey,” he said. “A journey to go and find where it all started for me … when I was an indie-signed artist on Custard Records, before there was an audience there.”
His journey led him to reteam with music producer Tom Rothrock, whom he had worked with on his 2004 debut album, Back to Bedlam. The album spawned the smash number one hit, “You’re Beautiful,” was certified 2x platinum in the U.S. and garnered five Grammy nominations. In 2007, he released his sophomore album, All the Lost Souls and in 2010, he released Some Kind of Trouble.
Reuniting with Rothrock was exciting for Blunt, who praised the producer for his patience. “He really understands where I’m coming from,” Blunt said. “He doesn’t mind me taking a long time to experiment as much as I can and find an honest and genuine recording.”
Blunt co-wrote the album’s lead single, “Bonfire Heart,” with music producer, modern day hitmaker and frontman for OneRepublic, Ryan Tedder.
“I’ve recorded with him before on my third album. When my tour finished, I gave him a shout and said, ‘Hey Ryan, where are you? I’m coming to write,’” Blunt shared. “He was touring with OneRepublic, so I jumped on his bus and was like a groupie without having to put out.”
The duo wrote “Bonfire Heart” in Amsterdam and Luxembourg. Blunt described the single as “a sweet song about the human condition, whatever we need to connect with someone.”
He continued, “And so the lyrics are simple. They just say, ‘People like us, we don’t need that much, just someone to light the spark in our bonfire heart.’”
For the song’s music video, the singer traveled through Wyoming and Idaho and asked people he met along the way to be in the video, including a wedding that he accidentally crashed.
“And that final scene, I pulled into a car park, and in the bar at this car park, unbeknownst to me, was a wedding taking place. The wedding party strolled out and said, ‘Who are you and what are you doing here?’ And so I pulled out my acoustic guitar, and I played ‘Bonfire Heart’ for the bride and groom,” Blunt said. “And spontaneously, there in that car park, surrounded by their friends and family, they had their first dance. That’s what we filmed and that’s now what is the final scene of my video.”
Almost 10 years after the release of Back to Bedlam with now four studio albums under his belt and nearly 17 million albums sold worldwide, Blunt revealed that he doesn’t feel any pressure to attempt to replicate the success of “You’re Beautiful.”
“I’m in sort of a lucky position where I can enjoy myself,” he said. “That was a great radio song. It wasn’t the best song I’ve ever made. It was just the best at radio. And lots of people heard it. It’s like a commercial for an album; it got played on the radio a lot.
“With this album, specifically, I’m not looking at radio charts and sales and competing in that way. I’m not doing anything computer-generated, I’m doing something not for the audience; I’m just, sort of, doing it for me.”
For additional news and tour dates from James Blunt, visit JamesBlunt.com.
Photo credit: Scarlet Page