James Blunt has heard all about "the sophomore slump," about impossibly high expectations and incredibly low success rates. So rather than address the issue of the follow-up to his mega-popular Back to Bedlam album head-on, he decided to take a different route altogether: He admitted right off the bat that there's no way he could top his first record ... and everything else just sort of fell into place after that.
"I didn't have to do a second album that was going to compete with the first, because at the end of the day, to try and chase the number of albums the first one sold — if that's how you define success — is pointless," he laughed. "And to try and get reviews that are positive, against those that are negative, again, it's pointless. So when you let go of all those things, you say, 'Well, I'm going to do a second album purely for the love of it, and for the passion I have for music.' And that's the best place to be, really."
And so there will be no "You're Beautiful" on Blunt's All the Lost Souls, due September18, something he hinted at when MTV News caught up with him in May (see "A Blunter James Blunt? Singer Says Next LP Will Have 'A Bit Of Grit' "). But now, with the album all but finished, he's willing to confirm that fact.
"I wrote the first album in a kind of naive innocence, that was maybe its charm. It was about relationships — between 'you' and 'me' — that was the dialogue. And this one, things have changed. There's a lot of noise," he explained. "Having been put into the public eye, there's a lot of noise suddenly, and a lot of attention. And I can definitely tell the relationships in this have changed. There's 'you' and 'me,' and then there's 'them.' And 'they' are definitely weighing quite heavily on the impact of the dialogue within this.
"But then also, it's taken on a richness, because I've toured for two and a half years now with a band, and these guys are expert musicians, and they came into the studio with me. And we set out to record an album with performances on it," he continued. "And we sat in a studio in Los Angeles, and we all faced each other in a room, and we performed these songs. And we recorded them in a '70s sense of recording an album. We've got 10 songs which all relate to each other, that tell a story in a way. ... We set out to make a '70s rock album, and that's what this album is."
Some of those songs — like lead single "1973" — are dead-ringers for '70s AM hits. (Blunt described it as "a '70s club classic. It sounds a bit like Fleetwood Mac.") While others, like "Same Mistake" and "I'll Take Everything," don't necessarily fit the mold at all. And then there's "I Can't Hear the Music," a song Blunt singled out as a personal favorite on the disc. It deals (as much of Souls does) with the concept of existing under the magnifying glass, of going from struggling singer/songwriter to internationally renowned dater-of-supermodels within the span of roughly three years.
"It's a song about that change in perception, and the noise that comes with media attention," he said. "And suddenly with that noise, you're changed into the awful title of celebrity. A lot of songs [on the album are] about what I've done since the first album came out: the people I've met, the journey I've been on, the change from being an anonymous person to being someone who's quite visible in this day and age, where the cult of celebrity seems relevant and important."
So while most of what Blunt says about Soulsis probably going to make his fans — not to mention his record label — a little nervous, he's quick to point out that the album isn't going to be some huge departure. It's just his take on the last three years of his life, a pretty hectic ride that doesn't show any sign of slowing down anytime soon. Unless, of course, the album is just another in a long line of follow-up letdowns. But, hey, he'd probably be OK with that too.
"This one has been a whole different ballgame, because I wasn't sure if anyone was going to hear the first one. With this one, I had to let go and find the driving force for recording an album in the first place, which is the love of music," he said. "People talk about the pressure of a second album, they talk about the diversions, the noise around it, that it's competition with the first, the expectancy of the second, and all of those things become a distraction. And having considered that distraction — and then separating myself from it — I was able to make this album for the love of music, and the fun of it, and the excitement of it. And it's a very special position to be in."