It’s no secret that James Blunt is one of the most self-deprecating men in pop music. Always quick with a joke – and more than a hint of self-mockery – Blunt’s hilariously vicious replies to Twitter trolls have seen him win praise as a social-media sensation. What tends to get overlooked, however, is how the pop-rock songwriter has been quietly amassing an impressive body of work throughout his career.
From his debut album, 2004’s Back To Bedlam, to 2019’s Once Upon A Mind, Blunt’s songs have moved beyond the chart-topping smash hit You’re Beautiful to encompass folk, pop and even dance music, but they are always underpinned with his knack for emotionally raw lyrics and candid honesty.
Listen to the best of James Blunt here.
Though Blunt is modest enough to admit that some people don’t like his music, his likeable personality and cutting sense of humour have won over even his harshest critics. In fact, James Blunt’s self-effacing wit is arguably his secret weapon; luckily, however, he is always able to back this up with charmingly well-crafted pop songs and engaging melodies that speak louder than any Twitter troll.
Perhaps it’s time we reassessed James Blunt’s status as “guilty pleasure” and embraced him for what he truly is: a national treasure.
Waiting for the day: a military upbringing
Born in an Army hospital in Tidworth, Hampshire, on 22 February 1974, James Hillier Blount grew up with military service practically in his blood. He can trace his lineage back to Danish ancestors in the tenth century, and proudly claims that each of his forefathers has willingly served in wars and battles across the ages.
Since his father was a colonel in the British Army, Blunt – who dropped the “o” from his surname in 2002, at the start of his musical career, because people found it easier to spell – honoured the family tradition by training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and he ended up joining the Life Guards regiment in the late 90s. When the Kosovo War broke out, in February 1998, Blunt found himself deployed to serve his duty as an armoured reconnaissance officer as part of NATO’s military operations, eventually rising to the rank of captain.
Music, however, was always Blunt’s true calling. His parents weren’t particularly musical, though he does remember them owning cassette tapes of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Don McLean and Pink Floyd, which he avidly devoured. Having originally learned to play guitar as a teenager (he started writing his own songs at the age of 14), Blunt took his instrument to Kosovo and strapped it to a tank as his battalion trundled ahead of the front lines to survey the Macedonia-Yugoslavia border.
It was during downtime while lunching with locals that Blunt wrote the song No Bravery, an intensely vivid eyewitness account of the devastating impact of the war, which he would later record for his debut album, Back To Bedlam.