James Blunt comes to the Center Stage in Atlanta on May 8 for his first show in town for more than seven years. He is back as part of a world tour promoting his latest studio album, Moon Landing. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to chat with him in advance of his upcoming show to learn a little more about his personal musical journey.
When James Blunt last performed here in Atlanta, in 2006, he was part of a local radio station promoted concert series touting the “Next Big Thing”. He shared that spotlight and stage with K.T. Tunstall and Bo Bice.
At that time James Blunt was riding the crest of a commercial wave that was fueled by his massive hit “You’re Beautiful” off his first studio album “Back to Bedlam”. The album was a huge commercial success, garnering considerable critical and commercial attention. Five grammy nominations, number one in 14 countries and more than 20 million albums sold certainly suggested that Blunt was poised for super stardom.
Seven years on and whether he has found that success is a matter of perspective but to James Blunt I’m not sure that the destination is as important as the journey has been. His creative musical journey has brought him to a place where he is writing and performing music that satisfies him and that is more important than anything else.
The success of the album that initiated this journey was as surprising as anything else. Produced on a small label, Blunt suggests the album was “…made without thinking about it…so it’s got a kind of naivety”. When the album’s third single, “You’re Beautiful” was released sales took off and Blunt became an overnight sensation.
The impact of that one song and album was huge but wasn’t entirely positive. Blunt didn’t enjoy “…being in the public eye and didn’t agree with the notion of celebrity.” Consequently his next album was darker; “All The Lost Souls” suited his outlook on life at that time.
“Some Kind of Trouble” followed and that too was a “considered” album. Written to satisfy larger audiences in bigger arenas, Blunt wrote songs with electric arrangements to fill those larger places and moved away from the acoustic guitar and simple arrangements that had made Back to Bedlam so popular.
His latest album, Moon Landing, is another change in musical direction and he feels is possibly his most honest, most open and forthright. Having written albums for others Blunt wrote Moon Landing for himself “…as a musician not a pop star.”
As a result Blunt believes the album is his most personal offering. He also feels it contains many tracks that reflect his current personal outlook on life. He, himself, used adjectives like “happy”, “light”, “elated”, “a celebration” to describe much of the album and the way he feels about his own personal life and pointed to “Postcards” as being a metaphor for the album and his life in general.
Blunt appreciates the benefits that have come from “You’re Beautiful” the song from “Back to Bedlam” that caused his popularity to soar in 2006 but also points to the double-edged sword it created. “I had a massive hit here in the States, a number 1, with “You’re Beautiful” and I suffered as a result as it got played to death on the radio and people got annoyed with the song. The States is a harder nut to crack particularly if you’ve got a big negative hanging over you which is an overplayed song.”
Because he hasn’t enjoyed the same popular success here in the States as elsewhere around the world he will be playing smaller shows like the one at Center Stage on Thursday which, he believes, makes the concert experience very intense for both him and the audience, relying less on the show and more on the music!
The show at Center Stage promises to be a great opportunity for Atlanta fans to witness the continuing musical journey of James Blunt. He might not have yet become the “Next Big Thing” but that’s not as important as writing, playing and enjoying some of the best music he has written so far.
Some great tickets still remain for the show on May 8 at Center Stage in Atlanta.