By Noah Hubbell
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James Blunt's debut Back to Bedlam was the number-one album in the U.K. last year, catapulting him to superstardom, thanks in large part to the hit "You're Beautiful." Go back a few years earlier, and he was a personal guard to the Queen of England -- and before that, a peacekeeper in Kosovo, where he served as a captain in the British army. We caught up with Blunt recently and asked him what it's been like to go from regular fella to rock star.
Westword: While in Kosovo, did you really strap your guitar to the side of your tank?
James Blunt: I wanted to take something that would keep me interested in my downtime. Some people took a deck of cards or a ball. I took a guitar 'cause I really wanted to put it on the inside, but there wasn't enough room with the other soldiers. I tried to strap the soldiers outside, but it just didn't work.
"No Bravery" is one of the most powerful songs about war written in recent years, inspired entirely by the atrocities you witnessed in Kosovo. What drove you to write it?
It was really just a kind of reportage of the images that we got on a daily basis out there. You look around and see these individuals who seem to be relatively intelligent and sympathetic, but when they got caught up in groups, large groups, something innately evil would take over. Their compassion as human beings would dissolve. For me, it was more like a diary, documenting what was going on. I think it was more just trying to capture it as a memory. And now I get to reproduce it every night.
You bunked at Carrie Fisher's place while makingBack to Bedlam. Is it true you recorded "Goodbye, My Lover" in her bathroom while stoned?
I wanted to record ŒGoodbye, My Lover' on a piano, but we'd used up all our budget getting into a decent studio and had no money to get a grand piano. It was really just forced by our situation with the budget that we went into the bathroom where I happened to live. I guess the story is funny because it happens to be a famous person's bathroom and she keeps a piano in the bathroom.
You've gone from being James Blunt, regular bloke, to James Blunt, rock star, in a little over two years. Do you ever get dizzy by the fact that you trounced Coldplay on the charts, crashed at Princess Leia's place and, most recently, performed at Elton John's wedding?
I think what I've tried to maintain through it all is to keep the relevant and important people very close. My friends and my relations at home -- my relationship to them still hasn't changed. They're as abusive to me as ever.