Some aging rockstar once said that what he feared most, in a musical sense, was the songwriting well running dry. That's something that's unlikely ever to worry James Blunt. He has, it can be said without exaggeration, lived a life that should provide enough material for a dozen albums, with sufficient left over for a couple of screenplays. Sure - that's what all the singer-songwriters say. But this is a definitively different singer-songwriter.
Take "No Bravery", the song that closes his debut album, "Back to Bedlam", for instance: It was written in Kosovo in 1999, while James was a reconnaissance officer in the British army. On patrol around Pristina, he kept his guitar bolted to the outside of his tank. But in quieter moments, it came out, as he wrote about life as a 22-year-old peacekeeper in the aftermath of one of the decade's bloodiest civil wars. The rest of his unit ordered him to keep the noise down as he wrote and sang in the post-midnight stillness. He didn't keep the noise down. "'No Bravery' is the only complete song I wrote in Kosovo. I wrote it lying by my tank in my sleeping bag with my boots on. You had to sleep with your boots on. The song is pretty fatalistic. The rest of the album is fatalistic," he says wryly.
He went to California in September, 2003, to record his album, and discovered that being a slightly scruffy English boy in Los Angeles could be very pleasant. Staying at the home of an actress, he spent his days recording with Rothrock, and his nights...well...researching LA's club scene. "With my naive background, it was like stepping into a devil's cauldron," he says, in happy reminiscence. He recorded the painfully poignant track "Goodbye, My Lover" in the actresses' bathroom, where she kept an old piano.
His current favourite listening is Cat Power and Lou Reed's "Transformer" album, and "Back to Bedlam" has a similarly enigmatic quality. He won't explain what most of the songs are about, though he does admit that the deceptively bubbly "So Long, Jimmy" was inspired by Messrs Hendrix and Morrison. As for the rest, he says only, "You can get away with murder in a song".