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Audio Interview: James Blunt

The songwriter talks about his early years as a violinist, his stint in the army and the inspiration for his chart-topping hit "You're Beautiful"

June 7, 2006 10:23 AM ET

James Blunt, muse to Elton John, former protector of the Queen and sometimes pop star recently dropped by the Rolling Stone offices for one clear purpose: "I came for a free lunch," Blunt joked. Surrounded by sandwiches and the Rolling Stone staff, he fielded questions about everything from his past as a soldier, to his plans for recording album number two, to the identity of the woman who inspired his heartbreaker hit "You're Beautiful." Blunt, who is off to Europe for a summer tour, explained why he never gets sick of performing "You're Beautiful" night after night after night: "Every single night the song continues to get me laid."

Before discovering the side benefits of a hit song, Blunt studied engineering at Bristol University, then honored a long-standing family tradition by serving as a soldier in the Queen's army (Blunt's father is a recently retired colonel). Eventually, Blunt found himself in Kosovo with the NATO peacekeeping force, an experience that has informed many songs on his debut, Back to Bedlam. He left the army in 2002 and became a full-time musician, quickly drawing the attention of such industry heavies as producers Linda Perry and Tom Rothrock (who produced Bedlam). For more on the songwriter's rise to fame (including his musical experience in Carrie Fisher's bathroom), listen to the interview.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

More Song Stories entries »
 
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