James Blunt Talks Friendship With Ed Sheeran, The Afterlove Tour In Asia: Interview

Grammy Award nominated singer-songwriter James Blunt sat down with Billboard Radio China before the Hong Kong leg of The Afterlove world tour to talk his latest album, his relationship with Ed Sheeran and what to expect from his live show. 

It's Blunt's first show in Hong Kong since 2014, and this particular leg of the Asian tour is one the English singer always looks forward to. “Hong Kong is always a highlight.” says Blunt. “It's an amazing city, I've got some friends here and our concerts are always fun.” 

Despite a wildly successful world tour Blunt had far more humble beginnings, spending the majority of his twenties in the British Army. He served in the Kosovo War before leaving the armed forces in 2002 to pursue his musical career. The former army captain admits his military background did change the public's perception of him. “People often think that a soldier is such a niche thing, that you're just one kind of person,” says Blunt. “But humans are really flexible. As a soldier, once you take away that uniform you just find another human with the same emotion and the same ambitions for life.” 

This flexibility shows itself in Blunt's latest full length release The Afterlove, which sees him updating his classic ballad sound for a new decade and a new generation. The lead single “Love Me Better” kicks the album off oozing tropical house beats and R&B charm, a true departure from his signature guitar strumming. 

The Afterlove represents the 44 year-old Blunt's first return to the charts since 2013, attempting to recreate the magic that sent his debut album Back To Bedlam to number two on the Billboard 200 in 2004. 

Blunt's meteoric rise to the top wasn't without backlash, with potshots of a different kind to those he dodged in the army now being fired. 

“When something is out there, then you're likely to get some negative comment on it,” says Blunt, who still endures negativity regularly on social media. “Ed Sheeran [is] all over the place, and people are rude about him and his success because he's the guy with his head above the parapet, and I was that guy at that time.” 

It's no coincidence that Blunt mentions Sheeran, with the two collaborating on a handful of tracks on The Afterlove. Also present are an all-star line up of fellow crooners in Teddy Geiger and Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic fame. 

(https://www.instagram.com/p/BgCbynaFx3X/?hl=en&taken-by=jamesblunt) Blunt posted Instagram photo with Ed Sheeran

“I have a working relationship with all these guys, but more often a friendship,” says Blunt. “With Ed Sheeran, we go on a skiing holiday and write. With Ryan Tedder, he'll say 'I'm passing through London, I'm in a hotel here, let's go and wake up the neighbours'”. 

However Blunt's biggest recent hit 'Okay' came not from a fellow singer-songwriter but from a chance encounter with an EDM producer. What's more, the song almost didn't make it off the cutting room floor. 

“I didn't like the song,” confesses Blunt. “I thought...I was throwing it away and hoped to never ever hear the song again.” 

This was until Blunt bumped into German producer Robin Schulz in the mecca of EDM Ibiza, where Blunt currently resides. “He said 'Hey James, I like your song...and I'm gonna screw with it and do my thing,' recounts Blunt. “It's turned into a massive hit worldwide and I can't escape the song now...and I'm even going to play it tonight and its a highlight of the set. So at the end of the day, thank god for Robin Schulz.” Recently (28 April 2018) Blunt Teamed up with DJ Lost Frequencies for the producer’s new single “Melody”. 

Check out the full interview and find out more about James Blunt only on Billboard Radio China. Here to watch the highlight video interview: