British singer-songwriter James Blunt claimed a double victory last week when he simultaneously topped the UK singles and album charts.His single 'You're Beautiful' leap-frogged over late rapper Tupac Shakur's 'Ghetto Gospel' to claim top spot, while his album 'Back to Bedlam' held off renewed competition from Coldplay's smash hit LP 'X&Y' to retain its number one position. The singer has maintained his position at the head of both charts for another week, capping a remarkable rise from obscurity.The double success must be sweet for the talented singer-songwriter, whose road to music has been far from straight forward.Before he became a rising star supporting musicians like Elton John and Katie Melua, James led a more 'respectable' life as a British Army Captain stationed in Kosovo and a protector of Britain's Queen Elizabeth.But even though he wasn't encouraged to enjoy music in his younger days it was always in his soul. While in the army he would write songs, a form of expression that helped him make sense of the world around him.He said: "I had been dreaming about this since I was 14 years old and you want to get it right, not for anybody else, but I had these thoughts, ideas and later on the songs. It would have been an awful shame to have this opportunity and not make the right album. So yeah hard in the sense that I wanted to get it right - hard in the personal things? No that's what songs are all about for me, it's the only form of expression I really have."

Shortly after leaving the army Blunt got a manager, secured a record deal with Linda Perry and found himself in the Hollywood Hills recording his debut album 'Back to Bedlam' with producer Tom Rothrock, who has previously worked with the likes of Beck, Elliott Smith and Badly Drawn Boy.

The album is a beautiful culmination of all these experiences mashed together - his songs are both uplifting and powerfully tragic. All have a personal touch and heartbreaking melodies. It has been released through Atlantic/Custard and takes the listener through heartfelt songs of unattainable romances, lost loves and friend's failures before climaxing with James' first-hand experience of war in Kosovo on the closing track 'No Bravery'.

James said: "It does always bring back vivid memories from those times. The song is very descriptive of the sights, sounds and smells that are out there so yeah when I am singing it I definitely find myself in that place again."

The Army has had a huge impact on the singer.

He revealed: "I am pretty independent and maybe you have to be as a solo artist.. you are out on your own so it's put me in pretty good stead for that. Also I have performed in front of soldiers who have given me all sorts of abuse so I can face any crowd now, it's much easier in comparison." Technically the star could be called up by the Army and sent to Iraq, but James doesn't let the thought keep him up at night.

He said: "In reality I don't think the army would dream of calling me back up, looking at me now I'm far too scruffy. But if I get a call out I would be very willing to go - unless I've got a big gig that night."

Elsewhere on the album 'So Long Jimmy' pays tribute to James' musical influences and inspirations from the sixties to the present day.

James said: "It's really a tribute to Jim Morrison and Jimmy Hendrix. I wrote it with my friend Jimmy Hogarth and I get called Jimmy occasionally.

"It was the last song I wrote before heading off to LA so it was like saying goodbye to Jimmy my song-writing partner. You can obviously hear the nod at the end to 'Riders on the Storm' by the Doors. I was enjoying making all those associations."

While the three singles off the album, 'High', 'Wisemen' and 'You're Beautiful' have been progressively more successful, Blunt has his own favourite.

He said: "I think 'Goodbye My Lover' is the most personal on there, it really reminds me of the thoughts that were in my mind at the time so I am really happy about that song but also really sad about it too."

The quality and success of James' debut album is all the more impressive as it was recorded in Carrie Fisher's bathroom.

The singer stayed at the 'Star Wars' actress' Los Angeles home while making the album - and recorded some of the tracks in Carrie's bathroom because she has a piano in there.

James revealed: "I recorded in her bathroom because she keeps a piano in there, which is the kind of thing they do in Hollywood. It was great fun - she made me soup while I was recording."

Carrie - who played Princess Leia in the first three 'Star Wars' movies - invited James to stay at her LA home after meeting him through his ex-girlfriend.

James said: "I met her through my ex-girlfriend. She knew her and introduced me in London and Carrie said, 'If you're doing an album, you might as well come and live in a weird house'. So she was my landlady in Los Angeles."

Despite his chart success James maintains playing live makes him happiest. He has been touring almost constantly for the last year, and wowed the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury this year.

He said: "Doing lots of live shows, the tour, possibly some festivals, it's all about the live shows for me at the moment. I am living this wild lifestyle and travelling a hell of a lot but sometimes you don't get time to stop and look around you so the live shows are where we get to stop, take a breath and enjoy it all. The last tour was great fun, the audience were really enthused by everything and that is what I'm really enjoying at the moment."


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