James Blunt - the singer-songwriter you can thank (and blame) for “You’re Beautiful,” Twitter comeback king, and former reconnaissance officer in the British army - has returned with a new album, The Afterlove, which features a pair of tracks co-written with his pal Ed Sheeran. Can the 43-year-old musician hit all the right notes in his answers to a few Stupid Questions? Do not underestimate the Blunt force of this man.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can I be Blunt for a second?
I see what you’ve done there. I think I was more excited to find out when I first came to the States that blunt is actually something you smoke to get high. So, taking on that theme, for this album, I seriously considered changing my name to J. Blo.
I can’t see you right now as we’re on the phone, but is there any chance you are singing wistfully in the rain whilst slowly removing your clothes and making lots of numbed-out eye contact?
I’m so over that. Nowadays, it’s more like: In my bedroom, wearing women’s underwear, looking at myself in the mirror. That’s generally how I entertain myself. You can pick out some of that in the lyrics of the new songs.
Do you really think I’m beautiful or were you just saying that to sell 12 million copies of Back to Bedlam?
I was drunk at the time. I’m really sorry to tell you, but I had my beer goggles on. It was three in the morning, and at that time of night, I didn’t really care. I just thought you’d do.
When you slo-mo-jumped off that platform in the video for “You’re Beautiful,” you probably had a lot of extra time in the air to reflect before hitting the water. What were you thinking about?
I was extremely concerned about how painful it would be on my balls. As you can tell how high-pitched my voice is as a result, it really hurt.
You did an educational version of “I’m Beautiful” on Sesame Street called “My Triangle.” Which corporation dangled a ton of cash in front of you to contort this song into a painful pun? Was there perhaps a children’s multivitamin version of the song called “You’re Chewable?”
Is that a thing? I must speak to my manager. That would be amazing if I could. I would definitely do that. I’m the first one to say that I sold out years ago. I was the face of a perfume, which we insisted wouldn’t be in any English-speaking countries, so my friends didn’t see it.
What was the single worst pun you heard off that song title?
There was a whole lot of press about Al Yankovich’s parody [“You’re Pitiful]. And no one really touched on the point that actually at the end of the day not all parodies are good. So I think that maybe we missed the point. There was a great parody by Tom Gleeson from Australia, and his parody was that he was the boyfriend of the girl on the subway. So when I would say, “My life is brilliant,” he would go, “Oh, yeah. okay, cool, whatever.” And I’d go, repeat it, “My life is brilliant,” and he’d go, “You said that.” And he’d just cut in through the song and it was the most amazing parody. And I think what he really understood - which is what many people haven’t understood fully - is that “You’re Beautiful” is not a romantic song.
It’s very stalker-y.
People play it at their weddings, but I think that’s f-ed up. Because at the end of the day, I was high on the subway stalking someone else’s girlfriend, and the boyfriend was there, who by the way was much bigger than me, and I should have really have been at that stage probably arrested and locked up, and yet some people go, “Oh, that’s so romantic!” And I think those people are weird.
You’ve sold 20 million albums. How many of those were bought by parents for their teenager because they mistook you for James Blake?
Sweet of you to say! Actually, most of them were just bought by my mother. We have a very large warehouse in our garden, so if you ever can’t find one in the shop, call her.
In your new song “Someone Singing Along,” there’s a lyric about Donald Trump: “Some people going to build a wall/Then smash it with a cannonball.” What would be the best tweet to get from him? Would it make your day if he called you “FAKE MUSIC!”?
So many people have said that before, I’m not sure that would be entirely original.
What’s the meanest review you ever received? Has any critic ever claimed to “suffer Blunt trauma to the head”?
There are so many bad reviews that if what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, then I’m Mr. Universe.
Ed Sheeran, whom you’re about to tour with, co-wrote two songs on The Afterlove. When you asked Princess Beatrice to knight you as Sir James at a party, she swung back and accidentally cut Ed on the cheek with the sword-
Well, primarily I need to say that Ed Sheeran has made up that story because he is obviously desperate to sell records. And I can prove it’s not true. Firstly, Princess Beatrice is fifth in line for the throne. These are professionals. They know exactly how to handle a sword. It’s basically their only job. So for him to accuse her of misjudging that is desperation. And also, he said he went to the hospital and he was stitched up and he came back within an hour, but everyone in England knows that our waiting queues are way longer than that.
Can you think of a cooler/dumber rock-star demise than death by mock-knighting?
Yes, I can. Death by lighting your own farts.
If you had to write a song about that experience, what was it be titled?
We need it to be shorter than “If Ed Sheeran Hadn’t Gotten In the Way, I’d Be a F-ing Knight By Now.” [considers several options, then] “Slash Me ToKnight.”
How often do you tap Ed on the shoulder and when he turns around, it’s Rupert Grint?
Aw, sweet! I think he used him in a video once. You know what? They do look different. Ed has a different sized head, with more brains. I would describe him as a 90-percentile head, whereas Rupert I would say is probably a 40-percentile head.
And where do you fall, by the way?
Well, I’m not sure about my head size, but I think a 2-percentile body.
The Afterlove has a song titled “Don’t Give Me Those Eyes.” Were you worried that it might be co-opted by the anti-organ donor movement?
I haven’t thought about the song that way! I’m tickled. It’s because I wanted her just simply to give me something more interesting. There was another part of her body that I was hoping she was going to put on my hand.
In the new song “Heartbeat,” you sing, “I would go back in a heartbeat/Just to make your heart beat.” Did you consider rhyming anything else with “heartbeat” besides, you know, “heart beat”?
I’ve done one better than that. A more inspiring lyric which is in the first single, called “Love Me Better,” I’ve actually rhymed the word “things” with “things.” Which I don’t believe you will find anyone else has ever done.
So, how does this work - do we just back up the Grammy truck now into your driveway, or do you still have to wait?
I was just actually starting to write my thank-you speech, but I should hold back. I should make it sound more spontaneous.
You were posted to the Household Cavalry Regiment in London and even guarded the Queen. What was the coolest thing you ever stole from Buckingham Palace? I’m sure the statute of limitations has passed.
They do complain about that, genuinely. They say that every time anyone’s there for tea that all their silver teaspoons get nicked. My job was to keep them there... Ooh! I have got a uniform I was supposed to give back. It looks like a Jimi Hendrix outfit. It costs tens of thousands of dollars. But I do really only wear that in my bedroom.
Do you ever worry that women don’t really care about your fame and money and music, and they only want to sleep with you because you studied aerospace manufacturing engineering in college?
This is something I lose sleep over. I try not to tell them too much about it. But recently, my university asked me to come back and made me a doctor, so now more than ever it’s become a nightmare that people are really just after my engineering skills.
A lot of stories out there say that you’ve won the Internet with your Twitter comebacks. Where do you keep it?
In my downstairs loo with a letter from the Queen and the pictures of me being made Dr. Blunt. And various awards from small island nations that are of insignificance to the United States.
In 1999, we were headed toward global crisis during a NATO/Russian standoff in Kosovo. You were there, serving in the British army under NATO. Did the standoff finally end when you said, “I have a crazy idea,” and you played your guitar and sang gently, which was met with silence, before one Russian soldier began nodding along, and then suddenly, everyone there was arm in arm, singing in perfect “We Are the World” harmony? Or do I maybe not have a good handle on how military conflicts are resolved?
Well, I think anyone who has worked in the military will be able to tell you that I’ve been a very useful weapon in singing people into surrender-and I would like to offer my services now. If you guys feel the need, you should probably send me out to Iraq and Syria to try to sing ISIS into submission. I’m this kind of Blunt weapon that you’ve got to use.