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Best known for his single, “You’re Beautiful”, James Blunt (born February 22, 1974) began his music career after serving in the British Army. James was born into a family who held a tradition of military service dating back to the 10th Century. His father was a Colonel in the British Army Air Corps and James’s family lived in England, Cyprus, and Germany as his father’s military posts changed. After earning his pilot’s license at age sixteen, James rounded out his education at the University of Bristol where he studied Sociology. Upon graduation in 1996, Blunt was expected to enlist in the British Army. Not only did the British Army sponsor his education, but his father “was pushing for it, so that Blunt could obtain a secure work placement and income”. James Blunt trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and quickly rose to the rank of captain.
Blunt served as part of the NATO deployment in Kosovo. He brought his guitar, which was strapped to the outside of his tank. During the peaceful times, James would perform while sharing a meal with the locals. Blunt’s unit was assigned to help target Serb positions for the NATO bombing campaign. Part of the detail was to secure the Pristina International Airport prior to the arrival of the peacekeeping force, which had been taken over by the Russian army. During this standoff, Blunt refused to follow NATO orders to attack the Russians. He wrote song, “No Bravery” while serving in Kosovo.
After his service in Kosovo, Blunt was stationed in Switzerland, as part of the British Army’s Ski Team. In November of 2000, he extended his military service, and was posted to the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment in London, after an extensive riding course. One of his last assignments was guarding the Queen Mother’s coffin during her days lying in State and her funeral on April 9, 2002. James Blunt served in the military until October, 2002 after serving six years.
Music had been a major theme in James’s life. As a child, James learned the piano and violin. When he was 14, a fellow student introduced James to the guitar. It was then that James began writing his own songs. James wrote his undergraduate thesis on The Commodification of Image- Production of a Pop Idol, and referenced Simon Frith, a noted rock critic and chair of the Mercury Music Prize.
After serving the army, James followed his muse into music. James used the stage name Blunt, because it was easier to spell than his surname, Blount, and was pronounced the same. Finding representation was fairly easy, signing with an EMI and Twenty First Artists Management shortly after his discharge from the army. However, signing with a record label proved to be more of a challenge. Record label executives were hesitant to sign Blunt because they believed his “posh” speaking voice would alienate fans in class-divided Britain. In 2003, James Blunt performed at the South by Southwest Music Festival. Linda Perry, who just launched Custard Records, was in the audience and immediately made him an offer to sign with her label. Within a month, Blunt was in LA working on his first album, Back to Bedlam.
During his time in LA, Blunt worked with producer, Tom Rothrock in his home studio. Blunt stayed with actress Carrie Fisher, who he met through the family of a former girlfriend. Fisher was supportive of Blunt, even suggesting the name of the album, Back to Bedlam, and the use of her bathroom to record the song, “Goodbye My Lover”. Back to Bedlam was released in October 2004.
Back to Bedlam attracted little attention, at first. There were no published UK reviews of the album. The first single off the album, “High”, barely made it into the Top 100 of the UK Singles Chart. Blunt opened for Elton John and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions in 2004 and 2005. In March 2005, “Wisemen”, the second single off Back to Bedlam was released to little fanfare.
“You’re Beautiful”, Blunt’s third single, was released in May 2005 and debuted at number 12 in the UK. Within six weeks, the song rose to number one and thrust Back to Bedlam to number one on the UK Albums Chart. “You’re Beautiful” was welcomed in the US to immediate accolades, and hit number on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2006. After the success of “You’re Beautiful”, the album’s fourth song, “Goodbye My Lover” was released and the songs “High” and “Wisemen” were re-released. The success of “You’re Beautiful” resulted in James Blunt being nominated for five Grammy’s and awarded several awards including the BRIT Award, ECHO Award, and MTV Music Awards.
Back to Bedlam was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the fastest selling album in one year, eventually selling 11 million copies. In the US, the album was certified double platinum, and in Britain the album was certified as 10x platinum. The next two years, Blunt spent on tour performing 90 live shows in 2005 and 140 live shows in 2006.
Blunt’s second album, All the Lost Souls, was released on September 2007 in both the UK and the US. The album received immediate attention from the critics and Blunt received attention as being an artist with long-term appeal. Some Kind of Trouble was released in November 2010. Singles “Stay the Night” and “So Far Gone” catapulted the record to commercial success.
James lives in Ibiza, Spain, where he vacationed as a teenager. He also owns a chalet in Switzerland. Blunt is a supporter of Médecins Sans Frontières, a medical charity that he became acquainted with in Kosovo. Despite limited funding and security, MSF remained undaunted in their mission to provide medical care to the wounded. Blunt is also known for supporting environmental causes, planting trees for his concert patrons and creating awareness at his concerts. Help for Heroes, is another charity that is close to Blunt’s heart, providing better medical facilities for wounded British soldiers.