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“I really, really enjoyed making this one," gushes James Blunt, talking about his forthcoming album Moon Landing. "The best thing about it is that I made it for myself. I wasn’t even thinking about an audience. When people hear it, I think they’ll recognize it as a genuine sound and will be able to relate to it in a very personal way."
Moon Landing, due out November 5th, sees Blunt renewing his collaboration on eight cuts with Tom Rothrock, the Los Angeles-based producer who guided the singer-songwriter to multi-platinum fame with 2004's Back To Bedlam. It's a wholly naturalistic experience, largely bathed in the sounds of unvarnished folk-rock, on which Blunt, who also worked with producers Martin Terefe, Ryan Tedder and Steve Mac, achieves a startling level of intimacy, heard most notably on the elegiac ballad Miss America, written about the late superstar Whitney Houston.
Blunt sat down with MusicRadar recently to talk about the new LP, getting back to his roots and our celebrity-obsessed culture.
This is the first time you've worked with Tom Rothrock since 2007's All The Lost Souls. What do you think is special about your collaboration with him?
“Well, just that – it is a collaboration. You know, we've always stayed in touch. Tom has always been a great friend and has come off on holiday with me – a bit too much, really; he should have been off working. [Laughs] But for me, it’s been a real journey to go back to Tom. This all started when I got signed to an independent label, Custard Records, and I was an independent artist. So I worked with an independent artist, Tom, who had also worked with Elliot Smith, Badly Drawn Boy and Beck.
“We made Back To Bedlam, which, of course, had You’re Beautiful on it. That song sort of stripped me of my independent roots and took it all to a dirty place called ‘mainstream.’ That was an amazing journey and experience – three world tours. We made a second independent album, and on that I brought in my touring band. They took with them all of their great experience and musicianship, and they gave the record its sound.
“For the third record, I found that I had to try to write songs for these larger spaces I was playing, the arenas around the world. I guess I was doing what I’d always wanted to do since I was a teenager, fronting a band and playing an electric guitar, but as I said, I was writing for these big places and thinking of what an audience might want. It was phenomenal and great fun, but I think the emphasis was on the fun; it wasn’t as emotionally and personally fulfilling as when you’re writing for yourself.”
A song like Bonfire Heart has what you’re saying – a more intimate folk-rock sound.
“Yeah, absolutely. I just started stripping things back. I started realizing that I didn’t want to write for you – not ‘you’ personally, but you know what I mean [laughs] – because then I’d be writing what I thought you wanted. I’d be saying the words that I thought you wanted to hear rather than words that were simply true.
“I went initially to Martin Terefe, who actually was the guy who gave me the confidence to do what I wanted to do. By stripping things down and working with him in his studio, with him right there in the room as a producer rather than being behind a screen, we played stuff live. On a song like Blue On Blue, for example, it was played in the studio completely live, with all of the musicians performing together at once. It’s all one take. There’s no Auto-Tuning or fixing up or massaging. It’s all real. I decided that doing it this way was how I wanted to go. And it’s exciting, too – you’re not just trying for radio play.”