James Blunt set to perform in Dubai
James Blunt has toured the world as well as the contours of his soul. And ours. A few times over.
If I had a dirham for every time "depressing" was the chosen adjective in a Blunt-related sentence I'd, well, be an awful lot richer than I am today.
A man who can write music/songs, which search so deep, is only capable of telling the truth. No pop star loves songs with over-used and predictable lyrics, and Blunt's tunes tell real-life tales with truth and honesty.
Having spent a conversation avoiding the giant white elephant of a topic namely his hugely wrist-slashing-inspired music like the plague, it's always a challenge to sound genuinely surprised when the subject then comes up.
"It's more than me and an acoustic guitar playing miserable songs," he said, laughing as I stumbled for words. "We get up on stage and really rock out."
In style, life and demeanour Blunt is far from what most would ever consider a modern rockstar. But it's never too late for a change.
Blasting onto the music scene behind the massive success of You're Beautiful, a song he wrote as an un-signed musician, British-born Blunt gave us wide-ranging music on his first two albums, Back to Bedlam and All the Lost Souls.
The titles alone represent the internal and external influences and struggles which shaped his personal and professional lives during the '90s.
A perfectly-timed Some Kind of Trouble however, represents a bright, new chapter. I'm happy to report though, while the tempo may have picked up, Blunt's honesty remains intact.
Truth may bring honesty but honesty inspires a well-handled grip on reality.
With international sales of 18 million records, and Back to Bedlam, the UK's biggest-selling record of the noughties, the singer-songwriter really couldn't care less.
"You know, those things just become figures," he said. "I don't know what they mean or if they have any great relevance. I know I have one copy of each album so that I can believe it's all real, but all the other numbers are probably worth ignoring."
From living room to stage, almost overnight, is something which could have easily swept most away in a sea of fame and fortune. Not Blunt. The singer claims life is basic and not at all as people imagine. "I get in my tour bus with 11 other, smelly, hairy men. It's a kind of glorified camping holiday,"he said.
"I try and keep things simple still. Not much has really changed. The work load is bigger. I'm doing what I love. I'm a musician at heart, a travelling one. We're all musicians. We know the real stars of the world are people with proper jobs, like doctors and teachers and firemen."
Blunt achieved the impossible and provided a seamless link from sweaty males to successful career men and women, something he too knows a bit about having served as an officer in the British Armed Forces.
"You reportedly stopped the Third World War" a brave opener. "It's true, and all I'm after is a small thank you," he quickly retorted, British sarcasm fully fledged. "No, the headline is probably a bit misleading," he said. "But yeah, I was in the army for six years and I was in the Kosovo conflict in '99 as a reconnaissance officer."
The singer made the claim in a BBC interview about his military career. "I was given the direct command to overpower 200 or so Russians," he said. "And the practical consequences of that political reason would be then aggression against the Russians." The year was 1999, and Blunt was at the head of a column ordered to seize Pristina airfield. "I was the lead officer with a troop of men behind," he told tabloid!.
"After the bombing campaign I was on the Macedonia border and they used me as their lead soldier to lead Nato up through the border, to the capital Pristina."
Blunt was leading more than 30,000 troops to an airfield. "It was quite a lot of pressure obviously, to make sure you go left instead of right when you need to because it's embarrassing telling 30,000 people to turn around. When we got to the capital, Pristina, to the airport, there were about 200 Russians who wouldn't let us carry on, they were supposed to be on our side but they wouldn't let us go on the airfield."
Although US General Wesley Clark had issued a command to "reach the airfield and take a hold of it", the Russians had arrived there first. "Clark gave me the order to overrun and overpower them which I understood could have quite serious consequences. So we had a little debate over the radio about it but a man of great sense, General Mike Jackson, eventually said no, no, no General Wesley Clark, I'm not having my soldiers being held responsible for starting Third World War, let's do something different,' so instead we surrounded the airport and after two days the Russians came and said they had no food and water and asked if we could share. We said, If you share your airport with us, we'll share our food' and that was that."
It was situations like this which helped inspire a back catalogue of songs Blunt is now famous for including international hit You're Beautiful.
The song won an Ivor Novello Award for airplay, sold more than 625,000 copies in the UK and remains Blunt's biggest hit single in the US to date. At the 2007 Grammy Awards the song received three nominations Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and the video won the MTV awards for Best Male Video and Best Cinematography.
"I was counting the money already," he laughed when asked whether he knew he'd "cracked it" when finished. "No, not at all," he added. "At the time I guess all I was thinking is that it was a really sweet song and it just really made sense to me. If that's what I was trying to get the song to capture then I guess that was that nailed. It was before I'd had a record deal, or label or anything so I didn't have any pressures to be honest. I was just kind of writing little songs and enjoying that. It was perhaps a bit more innocent at that stage."
By January next year Blunt and his band would have played 200 cities for a wide range of audiences.
"The most interesting city for me so far has been Beirut, Lebanon," he said. "Because it's such a mixture of cultures. What an incredible place," he added before slipping in his recent No 1 in Armenia. "Where else do you need to be?" he asked. "Than in a former Soviet Republic? It's kind of weird to have written quite personal songs and then you whack them out and for them to be heard all over the world by people who don't even understand my language yet still relate to them. I think it shows the kind of magic of music in the first place."