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James Blunt on opening for Ed Sheeran, and that ‘pretty miserable song’ we all know

British singer/songwriter James Blunt will open all 48 shows of Ed Sheeran’s 2017 North American tour, which begins Thursday in Kansas City.
British singer/songwriter James Blunt will open all 48 shows of Ed Sheeran’s 2017 North American tour, which begins Thursday in Kansas City.

James Blunt’s biggest splash in the United States was also his first: back in 2005, when the single “You’re Beautiful” from his debut album “Back to Bedlam” became a worldwide hit.

Blunt has issued four albums since “Bedlam”; the latest, “The Afterlove,” was released in March. It includes a collaboration with pop superstar Ed Sheeran, who performs Thursday at the Sprint Center, the inaugural show of his 2017 North American tour. Sheeran selected Blunt to open this 48-stop leg of the tour, which goes into early October.

Monday evening, from his record label’s offices in New York, Blunt spoke to The Star about the Sheeran tour and what has been going on in his career since 2005.

Q: The Ed Sheeran tour opens here in Kansas City on Thursday. How are you feeling about it?

A: It’s going to be an amazing experience coming to America to go on tour for three months with the biggest male solo artist in the world today. It will be a great thrill. It’s his audience, and I’ll try to win them over with some songs.

Q: What can your audiences expect from your show?

A: Firstly, I’m more inefficient than him and more foolish than him. He does it only with a pedal station, and I’ll have a five-piece band, me and four others. Mine costs more to set up, but we have great fun. It’s the same band I’ve had for many, many years. So you’ll be able to spot that we’re having lots of fun on stage.

Q: You released “The Afterlove” in March. It had been four years since you released your previous album, “Moon Landing.” What transpired in those four years?

A: It takes me a bit of time to put out another record because I go on tour for 18 months each time. So I toured for 18 months, then I got a day job in Australia for six months, then it took about two years to make “The Afterlove.”

Q: What was your day job?

A: I was working on a TV show in Australia (as a judge on “The X Factor”). It was interesting. Living in Sydney on the beach was awesome, but TV is a different thing from music, so I was happy to get back into the studio.

Q: What’s your perspective now on the new album?

A: People in the States know me for one song. And it’s a pretty miserable song. I suppose this album has some of that on it, too, but it’s not limited to that. It’s quite diverse and confident and bold.

I wrote and recorded a lot of it in Los Angeles with some amazing people. I worked with MoZella, who wrote “Wrecking Ball” with Miley Cyrus. We got together and wrote this awesome song called “Don’t Give Me Those Eyes,” which is my “Wrecking Ball.”

Q: You have collaborated with lots of other artists. Who have been some of your favorites?

A: Ed and I have an awesome song on this album called “Make Me Better” and it’s a really beautiful song. Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic and I write a lot together. We have three songs on the new album that we’ve done together and they’re fantastic.

I have a song out at the moment that is only out because it was taken on by a DJ in Germany called Robin Schulz. It’s a song called “OK.” I didn’t quite enjoy the recording of it so I didn’t put it on the album. He heard it and made a remix and we put it out that way. That’s the song that I’ll now be performing as my lead single here in the States.

Q: Anyone you haven’t worked with that you’d really like to?

A: Jay-Z would be pretty cool, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for that call.

Q: Who are some songwriters who inspired you?

A: I loved Bowie, Elton John, Paul Simon and bands like Fleetwood Mac. I suppose a lot of my music when I recorded it was influenced in that way. As I’ve gone on, though, I’ve found my own sound.

Q: You’ve been part of the music business for about 13 years now. What are you proudest of?

A: Throughout most of it I’ve worked with an amazing producer, Tom Rothrock, who has worked with Beck, Foo Fighters, Elliott Smith, Badly Drawn Boy. He and I have a close working relationship and we’re also very close friends. For me, he’s the guy who has helped me record so much and it’s been a pleasure to have his guidance throughout. Also along the way, I’ve had some fantastic gigs, like the Glastonbury Festival, Coachella. I’ll always remember those.

But you know what? I kind of think that perhaps three and a half months as the opening act for the world’s biggest male solo artist could end up being one of the most fun things I’ll do because there’s not much pressure, really, only real pleasure to play songs for someone else’s audience and then watch him do his thing afterwards.

Q: What are your plans after the Sheeran tour?

A: I start my own world tour that will take me probably till October 2018. I’ll leave the U.S. and head to Europe, Germany to start off with. We’ll go to South America, Australia, South Africa, Asia and beyond.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone getting started in the music business?

A: What I think is fundamentally true for most things in life is that success shouldn’t be measured by fame or fortune. Success should be measured by your satisfaction, by the smile on your face and how much you enjoy what you do. So if you’re doing music and enjoying it and it’s giving you pleasure, that’s success. And anything else that comes with it would be a bonus.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain


James Blunt opens for Ed Sheeran at the Sprint Center on Thursday night, the opening show of Sheeran’s North American tour. The show is sold out.