A thoughtful performer with a distinctive voice and a knack for crafting melodic contemporary soft rock tunes, James Blunt is best known for his international chart-topping single "You're Beautiful," a mournful ode to unrequited love. It was the second single from his debut album, 2004's Back to Bedlam, which became the U.K.'s top-selling album for the year 2005. Success soon followed in the U.S., where the song hit number one and the album went to number two early the next year. A former British Army officer, Blunt remained an international Top Ten artist through releases such as his optimistic third long-player, 2010's Some Kind of Trouble and 2017's The Afterlove, a more polished fifth full-length that saw him join forces with songwriter/producers including Ed Sheeran.
Born in Tidworth, Wiltshire, England, in 1974 to a family with a long military history, Blunt learned piano, violin, and guitar in his youth and, with ambitions to pursue a career as a pop singer already well-ingrained, wrote an undergraduate thesis at the University of Bristol titled The Commodification of Image -- Production of a Pop Idol. Having enrolled at university on an Army scholarship, he next attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on his way to six years of service. Ultimately achieving the rank of captain, Blunt served with the NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo and finished out his time in the military as a member of the Life Guard Regiment in the British Household Cavalry. He wasted no time in pursuing a pop career upon leaving the Army in October 2002.
A subsequent performance at the 2004 South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, brought Blunt to the attention of 4 Non Blondes singer/producer Linda Perry, who signed Blunt to her Custard Records label. Released by Custard and Atlantic in 2005, Blunt's debut album, Back to Bedlam, and its hit single, "You're Beautiful," were hugely successful -- the single hit number one in over a dozen countries and the album has sold over ten million copies worldwide.
Blunt toured for much of 2005 and 2006, then issued the two-disc odds-and-sods audio-video release Chasing Time: The Bedlam Sessions in 2006. He had been writing songs while on the road, and invited Back to Bedlam's Tom Rothrock to produce them. Recorded with Blunt's live backing band, the set included writing collaborations with Mark Batson, Jimmy Hogarth, Steve McEwan, and Max Martin. The resulting All the Lost Souls arrived in September 2007. Featuring the U.K. number one single "1973," it saw him top the album charts again in places such as the U.K., Canada, Australia, and parts of Western Europe, and went to number seven in the States.
Disillusioned by success and a perceived loss of artistic credibility that came with a certain amount of ridicule for his earnest style, Blunt took a break from music before coming back in 2010 with his third full-length effort, Some Kind of Trouble. A more uplifting, spontaneous album influenced by '70s American pop/rock, it sold well, reaching the Top Five in his international strong holds. In 2012, he brought back Tom Rothrock to track his fourth album, Moon Landing. Featuring the country-folk-influenced U.K. number one "Bonfire Heart," the record saw release in October 2013.
Increasingly self-depreciating in public statements, Blunt let roughly three-and-a-half years pass before putting out another album. Released in early 2017, The Afterlove featured songwriting collaborations with, among others, his friend Ed Sheeran and OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder. While it became his first album to miss the Top 20 in the U.S. (it peaked at 177), it returned him to the Top Ten elsewhere, including the U.K., where it reached number six. Still with Atlantic Records, he returned with his sixth full-length, Once Upon a Mind, in the second half of 2019. The album extended The Afterlove's polished pop sound, balancing that with plaintive moments dedicated to his father and children.
© Matt Collar & Marcy Donelson /TiVo