WHEN one of James Blunt’s trolls wrote on Twitter, “I’ve never fully understood why he needed to strip off in his music video”, the You’re Beautiful singer replied, “You would if yours was this big.”
After reading another member of the public tweet, “Has James Blunt done anything other than that one song his whole career?’ he answered, “Just that and few supermodels.”
“I only ever speak the truth, that’s worth remembering,” he laughs, as I reel off a list of his Twitter greatest hits.
But there’s a serious message behind the 45-year-old pop superstar’s unique method of dealing with his army of online haters which has seen his Twitter following swell to over 1.8 million.
"For me, I found a perverse way of enjoying it,” he explains. “I go on once a month, write something silly and get back to the more positive business of being a musician.”
With the impact constant social media abuse has had on so many other celebrities, James has become an unlikely troll-beating pin-up.
But I wonder if he is simply using humour to deflect from the real pain such vitriol might cause. Speaking on the new episode of my podcast The Dan Wootton Interview – which is available to download now – he says adamantly: "No, not at all.
“These people are pretty ineffectual in my life. They haven’t queued up and paid good money to shout in the audience, 'I hate your music' They just did it from the privacy of their bedrooms.
“I think we as humans should recognise that the real world out there is full of great positive reaction to the things that we create.”
One of James’ closest friends is Ed Sheeran – the world’s biggest pop superstar whose experience with social media has been in stark contrast.
In fact, it was a massive blow for Twitter bosses when he revealed to me two years ago he was quitting their platform altogether because of how bad the constant abuse made him feel.
James says of Ed’s decision: “I think quite rightly for him because it was gnawing at him, so throw it away. Humans can’t help themselves but always be affected by the negative.”
But he adds, it’s “madness” Ed feels that way “because this is a guy who is bigger than any other touring act in the history of mankind – that he can feel that insecurity is a weird notion.”
James concedes Little Mix star Jesy Nelson’s recent admission that constant abuse on Twitter drove her to a suicide attempt shows there are “actual proper consequences” of the actions of keyboard warriors.
“The things that we read online have huge and very real impact on people’s lives and their general happiness,” he says.
So where on earth did the insane level of negativity towards James come from in the first place?
He was a member of the army who found incredible international success aged 30 off the back of the monster hit You’re Beautiful. He was always a nice guy loved by other members of the industry.
He writes his own music. As a fan for many years, I’ve never understood it.
“It’s weird to talk about, because I was surprised that there should quite be the vitriolic responses,” he concedes.
“I was touring the world, I was selling millions of records at the time If you put music out you put your head above the parapet, you expect to get shot at, the people shooting at you they should do it with a bit more love and kindness because, if you don’t like someone’s music you don’t have to wage war against them, just don’t buy it, don’t listen to it.”
With James’ edgy and bold personality now on full display online, it’s the perfect time for him to release his new album – by far his most personal and raw since his debut Back To Bedlam in 2004.
On Once Upon Mind he decided to forget about the trolls and his critics and even his long-term fans. Instead, he wanted to write for the people he loves at home.
His first single Cold is about the difficulties of being a popstar spending time away from his wife of five years Sofia Wellesley, 35, and their three-year-old son whose name has never been revealed because of his “selfish passion” for music.
He says: “I have a young family, I have a wife who I leave at home for extended periods of time while I’m away on tour and all of that has an impact of loneliness for me while I’m away on tour and a huge responsibility for those I leave behind.
“If I am touring in America as I constantly do for months on end there is an ocean between us physically as well as metaphorically.”
That pressure has seen many a showbiz relationship crumble, which I suggest is why James decided to commit his gratitude to his wife in song form.
He nods and says: “Hopefully the song says enough to say how grateful I am and how lucky I know I am and how well supported I am.”
The other trauma in James’ life is the deteriorating health of his father Colonel Charlie Blount, who has been diagnosed with stage four chronic kidney disease. The standout track Monsters is about his illness, with James’ vocals literally cracking with emotion as he sings.
He says of the song: “I have left all the pain in there. To see him in anyway become unwell is a life changing moment for us as a family and it is just the circle of life in many ways.
“It’s about when I might have to put my father to bed and it’s my turn to chase the monsters away.”
James is a dichotomy of a man. Cheeky, upbeat and the life of the party in person, but deeply emotional and introspective in his music. Perhaps that’s why he found it easier to express his feelings to his father via the deeply emotional track.
Speaking of the moment he played it to him for the first time, James says: “He put his hand on my knee and I put my hand on his hand and he said ‘so true’ and that's as far as we got. I suppose that is why I love music because, you know as a British man, we are pretty reserved in our ways.
“I don’t have the need to say many things to my mates. If you’re a mate of something you don’t need to bang onto them that they’re your mate or about why they’re you’re mate. They’re your mate.
“But at a time like this, it just seems like now is the time to say something important.
“It says I’m not your son, you’re not my father we’re just two grown men saying goodbye, no need to forgive. No need to forget. I know your mistakes and you know mine. There’s super honest ways to say I love you.”
Charles has always been a staunch advocate of his son, branding as “ridiculous” criticism that he is too posh to be a popstar.
The issue came to the fore again recently when BBC Radio 6 Music DJ Cerys Matthews revealed she tries to avoid playing privately educated artists on her show.
When I raise that issue, James says: “It seems silly to judge someone on anything be it their accent or where they might from in the world.”
Has his background as a posho ever actually been a disadvantage as his parents have previously suggested? He says: “It's definitely been a topic of conversation but I don't look at myself in the mirror every morning and go, 'Oh s*** where did it all go wrong?”
On a more frivolous note, James becomes yet another star to deny a story in Lily Allen’s controversial autobiography where the singer claimed she caught him having sex with someone near the entrance in her room at the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles.
But he says: “I think never let the truth get in the way of a good story. And I think if you're out to sell a book then you might as well make it juicy. And so congratulations Lily, you've ticked all those boxes.”
While James lives primarily in Ibiza, where he has his own private nightclub, he’s also passionate about his new role as a pub landlord after he bought his London local when it was threatened with being closed to turn into flats.
He explains: “It's a 170 year old pub so it seemed like my job as a popstar to stop that happening and be saved as a pub.”
He pulls the odd pint when he’s in London but he doesn’t perform.
Then, in an illustration of the humour that has made him an internet sensation, James adds: “We play You're Beautiful normally at five minutes to midnight just before closing time to get people to leave.”
-Once Upon A Mind is released October 25 on Atlantic Records
JAMES ON MEGHAN
JAMES has become widely regarded as the most well-connected celebrity in royal circles after attending the weddings of Prince William and Kate, Prince Harry and Meghan, and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank.
He jokes: “I'm signed up to an agency for a small fee you can have James Blunt come to your wedding too. And for that reason I can't comment on them because I was just employed to be there.”
On a serious note, I wonder how he thinks Meghan has coped entering the British royal family given the microscope on her.
He tells The Dan Wootton Interview podcast: “I think it's a very, very difficult world and I think we should all as kind as we possibly can because we don't necessarily understand the difficulties that throws up. That's how I feel.
“To be in the public eye at such a huge level whilst being a young mother must a tricky business and not one I would envy myself.”
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