James Blunt has been described as the Marmite of the pop world –you either love him or loath him.
There may be a kernel of truth in that but you suspect that someone whose global album sales are north of 20 million and who’s amassed a staggering 625 million views on YouTube is comfortable enough in his own skin not to be precious about such things.
His latest album, The Afterlove, was released in March and he’s now on a whistlestop tour that comes to the First Direct Arena in Leeds this weekend, one of just seven dates in the UK.
It reunites him with Yorkshire, a county he says he has a genuine fondness for. “I used to live in Strensall. I was there for a couple of years when I was younger. York was the nearest big city,” he says.
“The ountryside around there was incredible.”
That was long before he became a pop star. Since then he’s completed a string of world tours, enjoyed four number one singles and won more music awards than you would care to shake a stick at, including Grammys, Brits and a couple of Ivor Novellos.
For The Afterlove, his follow-up to 2013’s Moon Landing, he wanted something a little bit different. He spent two years working on it writing more than a hundred songs in the process. “I didn’t just want to repeat what I’d done in the past.” And he’s pleased with the end result. “It’s exciting and diverse… it’s one man and a guitar. I think they’re some of the best and most beautiful songs I’ve ever written.”
Blunt’s path to fame and fortune has been an unusual one. He spent six years in the army, before leaving in 2002 to pursue his musical career.
His debut album Back to Bedlam proved to be an astonishing success, selling 17 million copies worldwide, spawning two of his biggest hits to date – You’re Beautiful and Goodbye My Lover.
You might think he would be tired of endlessly playing his big hits whenever he’s on tour, but he insists the opposite is true. “People who buy tickets for concerts want to hear the songs they know and it’s a pleasure for me to play those songs.”
James Blunt plays the First Direct Arena in Leeds on Saturday, November 18.
For ticket information go to www.firstdirectarena.com