Soundtrack Of My Life: James Blunt

Soundtrack Of My Life: James Blunt

The first song I remember hearing

The Beach Boys – ‘Barbara Ann’

“My dad was in the army so we were based in places like Germany and Cyprus. We’d have these long, long car journeys with all our possessions in the trailer, moving between houses. As far as I remember, my parents really only had three tapes, The Beach Boys‘ ‘Greatest Hits’, The Beatles‘ ‘Greatest Hits’ and a Don McLean album. This song stuck out as a child because it’s as close to a nursery rhyme as you can get.”

The first song I fell in love with

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Alice Cooper – ‘Poison’

“I remember that moment of hearing ‘Poison’ when I just started having my own sense of freedom. Someone was driving us and we were on holiday in the south of England, probably Cornwall. We were on the sand dunes and there were no adults and there was that great sense of excitement. American guitar bands from the ’80s were very much an influence. When I first started out trying to be a professional musician, the instrument I picked up was the electric guitar. My father’s first question was: ‘Why does it have to be the electric guitar – can’t it be acoustic or classical?’”

The first album I owned

Pink Floyd – ‘Wish You Were Here’

“I found it in a drawer belonging to my parents. They didn’t listen to it and didn’t seem to enjoy it, but I was immediately taken by it. As a child, when you pick that up and look at the cover, it’s just mind blowing – the guy shaking that other guy’s hand and one of them’s on fire. It’s incredible. And sonically it was just completely different from what my parents were forcing us to listen to in these long car journeys. It was beautiful and reflective and wholly different.”

The first gig I went to

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James Blunt at The Water Rats, London

“It’s a bit embarrassing, isn’t it? Again, I can blame my parents for this. My father definitely thought that music was just unnecessary noise and I was at boarding school so we were stuck in a school in the evenings. I couldn’t escape to go and see any gigs. But I had a dream to become a musician. When I was based up in London with the army I started doing my own concerts. Water Rats was my first ever one. I was wearing some ceremonial army trousers and all these girls were sitting on pashminas and passing round joints. Now I’ve got a Union Jack blow-up rubber dinghy and I crowd surf in one of those. The first time I tried to crowd surf I just ran at the audience and jumped and they didn’t know what the hell I was doing and just parted like Moses and the Red Sea.”

The song I wish I’d written

Pixies – ‘Where is My Mind?’

“It just sounds really fucking cool. What more can you say about it? I didn’t know the band especially well or their songs, but I heard that and thought: ‘Oh my god, that’s just the coolest thing in the world.’ Embarrassingly I have covered it and even included it on my greatest hits album [‘The Stars Beneath My Feet’] because they are the rock stars that I always wanted to be. It starts on an acoustic guitar, which is what I do, but it just sounds way cooler than I can ever dream of. Have the Pixies heard my version? I think the feedback’s not overly positive. I’ve heard that for sure.”

The song I do at karaoke

 Gloria Gaynor – ‘I Will Survive’

“I don’t go to karaoke that often, but once I found myself in Australia in a karaoke private room. I was there at 2am, fairly drunk with a couple of mates and we heard in the next door booth some English girls singing ‘Goodbye My Lover’. So I literally kicked in the door, jumped on the table and grabbed the microphone. I think they were taken with such surprise that they were just screaming their heads off, probably with fear.”

The song I can’t get out of my head

Hot Chip – ‘Over and Over’

“I love it. I live in Ibiza and when I first moved out here it felt like it was being played by every DJ at every club and at every party.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Cat Power – ‘Maybe Not’

“There’s just something so beautifully sad about this song and Cat Power songs in general. I was signed by Linda Perry at South by Southwest [music festival] after playing a gig to 20 people, but literally two hours before I played I had been to a Cat Power concert and was so moved by her. She’s so fragile in so many ways and so beautiful in her delivery and I think it really set me up in the right kind of mindset before my own concert. I really feel a debt of gratitude to her for signing the contract I’d been waiting for since I was 14 years old.”

The song that makes me want to dance

Bodyrox (Feat. Luciana) – ‘Yeah Yeah’

“Being an English white man from public school, I have very little sense of style and rhythm, so my dancing is pretty shocking, but certainly enthusiastic. I’m on the dance floor giving it some – I can stack shelves all night long and feed the chickens and whatever other moves come to mind. I have a nightclub at the end of my garden, it was the only one that was open in Ibiza throughout the pandemic. Mine’s the place to come to! And Bodyrox is a song you’ll hear every night.”

James Blunt’s new greatest hits album, ‘The Stars Beneath My Feet (2004- 2021)’, is out on November 19 via Atlantic Records

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