SXSW Breakouts

Five Rounds with James Blunt

FROM 2006: The British singer talks about getting discovered at SXSW, his ''Beautiful'' ex, and not making out with Mischa Barton

JAMES BLUNT at South by Southwest in 2005
Image credit: Randall Michelson/WireImage.com
JAMES BLUNT at South by Southwest in 2005

James Blunt's Downy-soft debut Back to Bedlam not only outsold Coldplay in the U.K. last year (and has gone gold in the U.S. since its release last fall), it also unseated Chris Martin as The World's Most Sensitive Rock Star with the runaway hit ''You're Beautiful.'' But as the wiry, 28-year-old, Oprah-approved warbler takes a seat in the Tropicana, a moonlit Hollywood hotel bar, with a Mick Jagger haircut and a mischievous grin, it's pretty clear the British army soldier-turned-hit singer ain't no wallflower. Will it be a whole other bedlam when LTT throws down one reporter, four TV cameras (hey, with a devilishly handsome star this white-hot, there are bound to be hordes of television crews around), and a bevy of cocktails?

ROUND 1

HOW THE SXSW WAS WON

LTT, Ketel One Martini This is where the Hollywood elite hang out. Is that your crowd since your meteoric rise to fame and success?

JB, Corona I was here way before they turned up.

LTT You were discovered at the South by Southwest music conference in 2004. What were those circumstances?

JB I had gotten myself a publishing deal already but I wasn't signed, so I flew out to Austin, Texas, and played this really crappy venue—the 18th floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel. There were about 15 people in the audience, and [producer] Linda Perry was one of them. As I was putting my guitar back into the case, she came up and said, ''Hey, I want to give you a record deal.'' It's a tiny label [Perry's own Custard Records] and I was their first album. It had no funding compared to a big label, but artistic control was what I was after.

LTT Is ''artistic control'' the wisest thing if you've never recorded an album before?

JB I had worked with other producers, and I recognized that they could try and force their own ego onto an album. I wanted to make one where the record label wasn't trying to push me to fit a certain bill commercially.

LTT What's it been like trying to break here?

JB You have a bit of success and then are expected to [launch] an American invasion. That's a good reason for any American to try and send us back home.

LTT Like, say...Robbie Williams?

JB Yeah, I think with him, he was so successful in the U.K., he just wanted a good holiday and came to [L.A.] and stayed. I'm playing football with him tomorrow!

ROUND 2

BLUNT DRAMA

LTT, Ketel One Martini ''You're Beautiful'' is about an ex...

JB, Corona Yes, and each month the British press go and find whoever they can and print a photo. But I don't say who it is.

LTT Very Alanis Morissette. Though whenever I see an ex, I think, You were much better-looking when we were together.

JB Yes, maybe I should've written it as ''You're Still Moderately Attractive.''

LTT Well, you've been described as a ''younger, slimmer, straighter Elton John...''

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