“Some lyrics come in a flash,” says British singer/songwriter James
Blunt. “They almost come faster than you can get them down, and you
look skywards and think, ‘Wow, thank God that arrived for me.’” Blunt’s
hit single, “You’re Beautiful”—which reportedly arrived from the ether
in about 20 seconds—spent eight weeks at number one on the U.K. singles
chart, and Sir Elton John compared it to his own “Your Song.” “That was a huge compliment,” says Blunt. “Of course, I paid him to say that [laughs].”Blunt picked up the guitar at age 14, and drew great inspiration from Neil Young, Cat Stevens, Lou Reed, Elton John, and Paul Simon. His favorite contemporary songwriters include Elliot Smith and Cat Power, and he was so inspired by Smith that he sought out Smith’s producer, Tom Rothrock, for the recording of his major-label debut, Back to Bedlam [Custard/Atlantic]. Writing the material for that album spanned several years—including throughout his four-year tour of duty in the British Army. From his barracks in Kosovo, he wrote “No Bravery” on his Gibson acoustic, which he would sometimes hang off the back of a tank.
“The song just flowed,” he says. “In that environment, it’s very obvious what you need to say, and you try to express some form of emotion.”
Though that guitar made it back from the war, it met a tragic end in a minor motorbike accident. However, Blunt soon acquired the one guitar he now does everything on—a 1966 Gibson J45.
“It’s beaten up, but it sounds great,” he says.
Blunt’s songwriting process is free from rules. “Often, it’s just messing around on the guitar until I hear something that sounds interesting or that has a good feel to it,” he says. “It might be just one musical phrase that creates a melody, and a bit of a lyric that sets a mood. From there, you start building a song. I never record my melodies or chords—I just have my lyric sheets—because if a song is good, and if it evokes an emotion, you’ll remember it.”
While some of his songs come in a flash of inspiration, others require a bit more time and attention.
“The song ‘Wisemen’ took about a decade from the initial idea until the day I made it into something interesting by reworking it,” he recalls. “It’s hard to know when a song is finished, and I often don’t know. I take it to a certain point, but the first time you play it live is the only time you can feel whether it really works or not.”
Watch Matt McJunkins Perform With Eagles of Death Metal on Jimmy Kimmel Live (VIDEO)
Watch Pino Palladino Tell The Story Behind His Famous Playing On "Wherever I Lay My Hat" (VIDEO)
Jeff Berlin Launches Pledge Music Campaign For New Tribute Album To Legendary Jack Bruce
Kenton Announces THRU-25
TRENDING: HBO Releases New ‘Vinyl’ Trailer
Black Label Society Announce Winter Tour Dates
Duncan Sheik Returns with New Album 'Legerdemain'
Roland Boutique Series Announced
Moog Introduces Mother-32 Synthesizer
The Who Perform “Baba O’Riley” and “You Better You Bet” in ‘Live in Hyde Park’
Rare 1960’s Photos of the Beatles and Rolling Stones Found
10 Surprising Guitarist Guest-Star Spots
Exclusive: Watch Rammstein Perform “Benzin” at Madison Square Garden
Audiotopsy Premiere Video for “The Calling”
Black Fast Release Video for “The Coming Swarm”
Guitar World Magazine Ads from the 1980s, Part 1
"10 Awesome Guitar Prodigies" — Video
Essential Listening: 10 Stellar Heavy Metal Concept Albums
Copyright ©2015 by NewBay Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. 28 East 28th Street, 12th floor, New York, NY 10016 T (212) 378-0400 F (212) 378-0470