The New Cue #79 October 18: James Blunt, Hot Chip

18 October, 2021


It’s Monday, it’s 10:00 am sharp and that can only mean one thing: a painful all-hands Zoom meeting outlining the looming staff restructuring of your business (don’t worry, it wasn't your fault: it was the supply chain). Luckily, you can take your mind off everything with today’s rib-tickling chat with smooth-skinned, cheeky chart-topping heartthrob James Blunt. Look how handsome he looks in that selfie! And look how roomy his bathroom is, too.  

We’ll see some of you on Wednesday, and again on Friday, then everyone again next Monday, then subscribers next Wednesday, and again Friday…

We won’t stop. We can’t stop. We don’t want to stop. You can trust us with your music email delivery. Enjoy the chit-chat and the mindblower.

Ted, Niall, Chris

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Start The Week With…James Blunt

Army officer turned acoustic balladeering hit machine James Blunt releases a new Best Of next month, The Stars Beneath My Feet. He is a reliably entertaining and self-deprecating chap to talk to, so Chris called him live and direct from his toilet a few weeks ago to find out how he’d been getting on through the pandemic. [Editor’s note: the three of us had been out the night before raising a belated glass to the closure of Q Magazine, so Chris was feeling extremely fragile at the start of this interview. Fortunately, the officer and the gentleman that he is, James had just the tonic...]

Hello James, where are you?
I’m in London. I've got people at work in the house and my wife's downstairs so me and you are in the bathroom together.

Lucky me. I thought I could hear some reverberations bouncing around. How are you? You’re looking well.
I’m really well, thank you.It's kind of exciting. I feel like, fingers crossed, we're able to work again. My pub is open, which is great. People are in there en masse. We’ve been super busy. I suppose people are just excited to be out and able to socialise with each other. And then I've been playing live shows and that's been amazing too because again, people are thrilled that there’s any live music. I can play them Baa Baa Black Sheep and they’d still probably turn up. They might be expecting some other singer, but they'll take what they can get.

You did the first full capacity gig in the UK last year, how was that?
Yeah, at The Royal Albert Hall. It was amazing but I caughtCOVID three weeks beforehand. It was really bad in my lungs and I literally couldn't speak before the show, I was just coughing. So I walked on stage having not said anything for two or three weeks. I didn't know what was going to happen, but the doctors pumped me so full of steroids that it actually worked. It was amazing. Like I say, the audience were just thrilled to be out.

You’ll have to forgive me James, but I am currently extremely hungover. I was wondering whether, as a publican, you could recommend any good hangover cures?It’s got to be hair the dog, really, hasn’t it? You need to pop down to my pub. We do a mean Bloody Mary. That’s what I’d recommend.

I might take you up on that. What's the worst hangover you've ever had?
Too many to mention. As a touring musician on a bus with a band, and a fridge full of beer, and a cabinet full of vodka, it's been pretty much every day for a long period of time. But I've been lucky. I'm sturdy.

I’m not.
I've had some other ones which have been killer as well. In the army you'll arrive having had an all-night bender and not slept and then they'll say we’re going to put a burden on your back and it's 22 kilos and you're going to run for the next 12 kilometers or something. I think that's probably the closest to death I’ve been from a hangover.

That puts my hangover in perspective. You’ve got a Greatest Hits coming out soon, one of the new songs on it was written over Zoom with Jack Savoretti. Were you managing to keep busy through the pandemic? How did you find it all?
Well, I know that Madonna said we were all in it together, but I happen to have been in Ibiza for lockdown, so I'm not sure if we were. I was very, very lucky with the whole thing. I had a garden and we've got space and we've got a forest behind our house so we could run around in the forest and play with my kids. It’s a different ball game to living in a flat if you weren't allowed out. That would have been incredibly tough in comparison. It was a moment of reflection for me, really. I've been on the road for 17 years and I was forced to go home. I discovered all kinds of things. I discovered I had children, I didn't know that…

Who are all these small people living in my house?
Exactly - where the hell did these come from?!?It meant I could reflect on the journey of the last 17 years and then my record label said it seems like a really appropriate time to put together all your favorite songs. I've really loved it because you put out all these songs and the record label chooses the single which you obviously fucking hate and wish they'd gone for something else and so this was a moment where I got to put together an album of the songs that I really like. If you'd wished that James Blunt had only ever put out one album out - well, this is that album!

You're very adept at turning criticism around and making it funny, but sometimes all the mean things that people say about you on Twitter must hurt a bit...
I have no emotion. I was sent to boarding school when I was seven years old. I'm totally emotionally stunted. Really. My parents literally left me, they lived in Germany and sent me to boarding school in the UK. I think they only called me after I got famous, that was the next time I heard from them.

Are you superstitious? Do you have any pre-gig rituals?
Definitely. We all have a little huddle before we go on stage and then I like to check that my flies are done up.

That’s not really superstitious. That’s just common sense, surely?
Well, it's like not walking under a ladder. That’s meant to be superstitious but it's just common sense. I just like to check my flies.

Do you have a pair of lucky pants?
I've never really gone into this with anyone, but I like to go commando.

OK well that means you should definitelybe checking your flies regularly. Thanks for talking to us James.
Definitely. I'm glad you got through it and you survived the hangover. You must head down my pub. It’s in Chelsea, The Fox And Pheasant.

I’ll take you up on that. I’ll try the Bloody Mary.
Quite right. It would be lovely to see you.

An Album To Blow Your Mind

As selected by Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor: 1960s beatnik exotica from forest-dwelling nomad.

Eden Ahbez
Eden’s Island (1960)

“This is something I discovered recently and I'd never heard it before. It came out in 1960, but musically it sounds like it's a massive influence on Pet Sounds, which was six years later.
It’s hard to describe this album. It’s by this person who I believe was a sort of a hippie. He was an orphan and then he was adopted, given a name, but he changed his name and became a hippie. He mainly lived in the woods and travelled throughout different parts of the states on his own, just wandering and living the life in the sort of nomad, but he happened to write this very famous song, Nature Boy, that Nat King Cole did and which Big Star covered on Big Star Third. Even though I loved that Big Star cover, I never knew anything about the author of it.
Then this Beach Boys fanatic who I follow on Instagram posted about this album so I came across it through that. I was just really impressed by the sound of it. It's very eclectic and adventurous with its instruments and percussion. I guess it's a little bit of its time. It's kind of hippie and Tropicalia as well, but it's its own thing, too. It's got a brilliant sound, you could imagine Tom Waits being influenced by it as well as The Beach Boys. The way it it’s recorded as well, the sound of his voice on the spoken word tracks is really deep and effective and his singing on the songs is really good, too. It was something old, but it was new to me and I loved it.”

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