In Does Rock 'N' Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the years in the rock/pop trenches has affected the ol’ grey matter. This week: singer-songwriter and Twitter troll slayer James Blunt.
1: Who once said of you: ‘If she’s so beautiful, stop standing there in your T-shirt and floppy fringe, and hush your hopeless falsetto crooning. Go out and get her.’?
“Now let me think. Jarvis Cocker?”
“Was it my mother?”
..NG. It was Boris Johnson in 2005.
“Brilliant! My mum wrote to him after that telling him to stop jumping on the bandwagon. (Laughs) He wrote an apology back to her. I bumped into him in Kosovo [where, as a soldier in 1999, James Blunt “prevented World War III”] when he was a journalist. It was a tight situation: there was a T-55 tank pointing at us and we were trying to beat the Russians who were trying to get to Pristina airport before us. There were 30,000 people behind us, we were the lead vehicle, and it was quite an intense moment, we need to get a move on. Boris Johnson wandered up to us, asking: ‘Hey what’s going on?’. Rather than explaining – because it was the worst possible time – my gunner just said: ‘Ah, we’re winning – seven wickets to however many runs in the test!’ (Laughs) Which I thought was a great response! The second time we met, he wandered up to me and apologised for having said those remarks. He added: ‘Do apologise to your mother for me as well!’.
What advice would you give Boris?
“Probably something similar! Just go out and… get this shit over with please! (Laughs)”
2: Complete the following lyrics: ‘My triangle/My triangle/So beautiful it’s true…’
“(Hums the tune) Nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah – especially the hypotenuse. I saw three sides – and angles – oh! I’m so close! It basically describes my beautiful triangle, doesn’t it? My favourite bit being the hypotenuse. I’m not quite there on the wording, but I definitely know the meaning.”
WRONG. But close. The rest of the lyrics are: ‘It must be those angles/That put a smile on your face/Not to mention the hypotenuse’. From ‘My Triangle’, which you sung on Sesame Street in 2006.
“Classic song! It was the highlight of my career. I got to duet with Telly Monster – his voice was an octave lower than mine. Elmo was in the audience. After that, what else is there to do in life? I can’t think of anything else to aim for! The strangest but most amazing thing was I turned up and was greeted, met and spoke to the Muppets and the human beings were just these dead bodies being dragged behind them.”
Ever turned down anything more unusual than that?
“There were offers to sing at the inauguration of the 45th President, but I think my label said no. Would I have done that? It would depend what you’d be allowed to get away with on the day! It never reached me at the time because my manager knows I’d probably say yes just to fuck it up!”
3: After being given a birthday gift to unwrap on Soccer AM in 2007, who joked: ‘It’s not James Blunt’s head is it? I hope it is’?
“Soccer AM? I mean, I’m not a morning person so I don’t know.”
WRONG. It was Noel Gallagher.
“Oh! He’s the guy who says unpleasant things about other people in order to keep himself in the news and relevant? (Laughs) I have heard of him.”
Ever run into him?
“I have a house in Ibiza and he used to have a house there, but then the whole island went through a bit of gentrification and he moved on – he didn’t move because of me! (Laughs) To tell the truth, I do know Noel Gallagher – we end up going to lots of the same events, parties and dinners. What I will say, embarrassingly for him, he’s actually a really nice man. I know he tries not to be perceived as that but he is. He just enjoys saying those things because he knows how to get a reaction.”
4: In 2013, which artist was mistakenly introduced as James Blunt at the Mercury Music Prize?
“I feel very sorry for him – he’s continually having this mistake.”
Ever met him?
“We’ve never been seen in the same room at the same time so the question is: are we actually one and the same person?”
Have you ever been mistaken for anybody else?
“Yeah – Alan Partridge. And whose catchphrase is ‘Ooh Betty’? Frank Spencer!”
5: Which Ed Sheeran song was inspired by a night at your ‘Blunty’s nightclub’ at your Ibiza house?
“I was there that night so I’m assuming it was written about me! It’s at the end of my garden. It’s certainly not cool – it’s more like a teenager’s disco. My band gave me a neon sign saying: ‘BLUNTY’S NIGHTCLUB WHERE EVERYONE’S BEAUTIFUL’. I’ve got a smoke machine, disco ball, and old Ritzy’s-nightclub-in-Swindon style lights. I’ve got a mannequin on the door with a clipboard with my mates’ names on it behind a red rope. She controls the door – her name is Svetlana. There was Nadia before her, but she’s no more. The first summer, I got sponsorship from Oval who sent over 500 bottles of vodka. I drank 50 which means I’ve nine years’ worth left. Cîroc then sponsored – another 400 bottles. I’ve basically started swimming in vodka! Who’s been there? I couldn’t possibly say, but the coolest names have been horrified and hoped their car is still around to take them home.”
Ed Sheeran is the godfather to your child…
“He’s a great godfather – a very down to earth human as well as a formidably talented musician.”
6: Which rapper once asked you to introduce him to ‘lots of beautiful women’ when came to London?
“Was that Kanye?”
WRONG. It was Puff Daddy.
“Oh yes, of course! I can’t remember if I helped out or not. I see him a lot in Ibiza – he’s up for having fun and definitely knows how to have a good time! Kanye did call but that was a different conversation. I remember getting off the phone and saying: (Perplexed) ‘I think that was just Kanye calling?! (Laughs) I couldn’t believe it. It was just after the 2006 Brits – where we’d both performed – and he was just talking about music and stuff like that.”
Did he want to work with you?
“Um…ah…ay…I’m going to say I can’t remember exactly! (Laughs) But it was amazing for me to get that phone call.”
7: You have a chairlift named after you in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier. How high does it go?
“Fucking high! But the radio version is ‘Flying High’ (Laughs). It goes all the way up to a restaurant called La Vache which I opened with ex-England rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio and motorcycle world champion Carl Fogarty. The three amigos! I don’t know the actual distance it travels though.”
WRONG. It’s 8,858 feet.
“Next I’m installing a sound system on the chairlift to only play my music – just to keep the queues down! It’s the most ridden chairlift in Verbier. I had to open it, cut the ribbon, smash a bottle of champagne over the first pillar and say: ‘I name this chairlift James Blunt. God bless her and all who ride in me.’”
When did you last receive a text from someone saying….
“(Interrupting) I’m riding you now?!’ I’ve been on the chairlift when a stranger’s been talking to a girl next to him saying: ‘This is James Blunt’s chairlift. Apparently he’s installing a sound system next year to only play his own music – that’ll keep the queues down!’. At which point I lifted up my goggles and said: ‘That’s my fucking joke!’ (Laughs) He didn’t know what the fuck to do because that’s like You’ve Been Framed. There’s no escape, he can’t get off the chair and had to ride it out. He sat in silence thinking: ‘What the fuck is going on?!’
8: In 2012, you claimed you were starring in a posh music business sitcom written by who?
“(Sighs) The problem with all these stories is I’ve never knowingly told the truth – so I find it hard to remember the lies! (Laughs) Who writes Four Weddings and a Funeral? Richard Curtis, surely?”
WRONG. You said it was comedian Jack Whitehall and Made In Chelsea’s Hugo Taylor.
“Ahhh! Well, I’m still holding out for that phone call! Mr Whitehall is my most avid fan – he’s permanently sending me messages, so I thought he would jump at the chance!”
Have you got a favourite interview story you’ve made up?
“Around Europe, I was asked a lot: ‘Are you going to sing at the Royal Wedding?’. I’d respond: ‘No, but I’m a classically trained church organist and I’ve been asked to play the church organ’. I went onto my Wikipedia page and added ‘church organ’ to the list of instruments I play, and it got picked up around mainland Europe that I was the guy who played the organ during the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Which I’m proud I can tell my children! Even though I actually didn’t.”
Do you regularly amend your Wikipedia?
“Only to change my own age – it’s worth taking off a couple of years now and again. I’m 25 at the moment on there!”
9: In 2006, you were named fourth on a poll of Britain’s pet hates. Name any of the things you were beaten by.
WRONG. You were deemed more irritating than traffic wardens…
“Bullshit! Quit fucking with me! (Laughs) I should be proud of that! If it was me answering, I’d say mosquitoes and the scratching sound of chalk on blackboards.”
You were only beaten by cold callers, caravans and queue-jumpers. But you ranked more annoying than traffic wardens (number five) and stepping in dog poo (25).
“Was this survey just done in your office this morning? (Laughs)”
You hilariously turn criticisms to your strength when on Twitter (For example, to the baiting tweet ‘James Blunt’s face fully aggravates me’, you replied: ‘Then sit on something else’). Did you feel your image change after you joined?
“Definitely! My record label asked me to promote myself on Twitter. I set up an account calling myself DirtyLilBlunt and was posting away different obscenities. They changed my name to the much more original and interestingly called JamesBlunt – they’re that creative! When they saw my tweets, they phoned and said: ‘Please don’t do that because that’s obscene and not conducive to what we’re trying to do’. But the way they’d portrayed me – in an earnest, serious way – is not me. I wanted people to see the idiot I really am!”
Do you wish you’d had that outlet from the beginning?
“No. The label were trying to protect me from myself. If they can convince people that this guy who is on the underground as high as a kite stalking someone else’s girlfriend and going up to them and singing the words to ‘You’re Beautiful’ is romantic, then they’ve done a fucking amazing job! (Laughs)”
10: Paul Weller once said: ‘I’d rather eat my own shit than duet with James Blunt’. What is the name of the fetish for people who enjoy eating their own shit?
“Ah I know this because I went through a stage. (Laughs) It’s coprophilia.”
“It’s been a long time! Poor old Paul – I moved on from that but he obviously carried on. (Laughs) Have I met him? No.”
He said that comment in response to reports that you’d duet together at the 2006 Brits. Any collaborations that have been on the cards that haven’t worked out?
“Well, Kanye!” (Laughs)
Bonus question! How much does the venison, hasselback potato beetroot and port roasted fig cost at your Chelsea-based The Fox & Pheasant pub?
“I’m going to go for £18? Let’s chuck that in as a price.”
WRONG. It’s £24.
“It’s worth every penny! (Laughs) It was my local. It’s a 170 year old pub that was going to be turned into flats so I chucked in a bid. Occasionally I try to pull a pint – but the staff seem keener for me to be employed in the pot wash, because they know that’s the limitations of my skills!”
The verdict: 3/10
“Not good! Though I think three out of 10 is probably the best score I’ve had for anything in NME in my lifetime! (Laughs) Thank you very much – I’ll take that!”
James Blunt’s new album ‘Once Upon A Mind’, is released on October 25. His UK tour begins in Arena Birmingham on February 14 2020.