(born James Hillier Blount
, 22 February 1974) is
an English acoustic folk pop singer-songwriter whose debut album, Back to
, and single releases, especially "You're Beautiful", brought him
to fame in 2005. His style is a mix of pop, rock and folk. He is signed to
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. Blunt subsequently released his second album, All The Lost Souls
in 2007; this album was certified gold within its first week of release.
Prior to embarking on a career in music, Blunt was an officer in the Life
Guards, a reconnaissance 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 Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) (Doctors Without
Borders), a humanitarian aid group best known for its emergency medical care
in conflict-torn regions. Since then, Blunt has supported MSF by holding
meet-and-greet auctions at many of his concerts.
James Blunt at Live Earth Concert
Blunt's primary residence is now on the Spanish island of Ibiza, where he
wrote many of the songs on his second album.
Blunt was born at an army hospital in Tidworth, Hampshire, 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 Priština, and was the
first British officer to enter the Kosovo capital. His unit was given the
assignment of securing the Priština 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
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
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
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
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 [sic]
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
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 Ertegün of Atlantic Records, but
he did not win in any of the five categories for which he had received
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.
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.
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
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 Réalise", 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 18th.
In several respects, Blunt has a very distinct and individual sound and
Phil Collins in an interview in 2005 said: "James Blunt's music is like
nothing I've heard before... it's acoustic, slow, soft ballads. It's not
rock, nor really pop. I don't know what it is, really."
When asked to describe the sound and style of his music, Blunt said:
"Essentially, it's kind of acoustic-soul-pop-guitar-folk thing. I would say
it's like my own mini-genre: the James Blunt genre."
When appearing on BBC's Top Gear, as a joke, Jeremy Clarkson asked Blunt,
"Do you just take in loads of helium before you sing?"
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 châlet 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
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 Médecins Sans Frontières (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.
Albums & EPs
- 2004: Back to Bedlam
- 2005: Live From London EP
- 2006: Chasing Time: The Bedlam Sessions (DVD/CD)
- 2006: Monkey On My Shoulder EP
- 2007: All the Lost Souls
- 2008: All the Lost Souls: Deluxe Edition (DVD/CD)
- MTV Europe Music Awards - Best New Act
- Q Awards - Best New Act
- Digital Music Awards - Best Pop Act
- NRJ Music Awards (France) - Best International Newcomer
- BRIT Awards - Best pop act and Best Male Vocalist
- ECHO Awards (Germany) - Best International Newcomer
- NME Awards - Worst Album
- MTV Australia Video Music Awards - Song of the Year for You're
- Ivor Novello Awards - Most Performed Work and International Hit of
- MTV Video Music Awards - Best Male Video and Best Cinematography
- World Music Awards - Best New Artist in the World and Biggest
Selling British Artist in the World
- Teen Choice Awards (United States) - Choice Music Male Artist
- ECHO Awards (Germany) - Best International Male Artist