Once Upon a Mind

Once Upon a Mind

James Blunt’s sixth album emerged from a period of heavy emotional turbulence for the singer-songwriter. As he and his wife coped with all the joy and tumult of raising a young family, Blunt’s father was diagnosed with stage 4 chronic kidney disease. “I’m seeing that circle of life playing out in front of me,” he tells Apple Music. “This has been one of my easiest albums to write because I’ve had really clear things I’ve needed to say. I’ve just had to describe how I feel about specific things that are going on.” “Monsters” is the centerpiece—an aching piano ballad that addresses his father and the changes in their relationship that illness has fueled—while the first three songs are unfiltered expressions of thanks and love to a wife left at home “to pick up the pieces” when Blunt disappears on tour. “I’d been writing songs in the hope that other people might like them, writing words that I thought you would like to hear,” he says. “I think people have realized that that’s a bit disingenuous. On this, I’m writing the truth and I think people can hear that it is genuine. It’s turned out into something that is bigger and better than I could have expected.” Here, he takes us through every emotion and event, track by track. The Truth “I’ve been on five world tours. I’m about to start my sixth. For much of that, I was a single man with a band, traveling the world, having an incredible time—a roller coaster of a ride. And I’ve lived a very lucky and fun life as a single man. But all of it has brought me to the person I’m with now. And I’m in the right place now. I’m very happy with that, and that's the truth.” Cold “I leave [my wife] behind for 18 months at a time, and the song talks about there being an ocean between us—in the physical sense whilst I’m away on tour, in America, or Asia, or Australia, or wherever. But the message is very warm. It says, ‘Without you, I’m just cold.’ There’s definitely risks in saying such things, but the point of music is to be moved by it.” Champions “Same again—it’s for my wife. I’m away on tour, and I leave that little family behind, and then my wife has to pick up the pieces. So, there are consequences to that, and therefore lots to write about. This is that I’m away a lot, and it can be really difficult, but we're worth the fight, and we can be the greatest.” Monsters “My dad, he needs an O+ blood group kidney donor, and it’s a long wait, and life gets pretty shit in the meantime. And I suppose for me, the positive is that I have a chance to say the things I would never have otherwise said. To be able to say to him, ‘I’m not your son, you’re not my father/We’re just two grown men saying goodbye/No need to forgive, no need to forget/I know your mistakes, and you know mine.' I idolized this man throughout my childhood, but as we grew older, I realized that he had his own fallibilities, and that’s an awesome thing to see because you suddenly can become friends then. And then obviously as parents get older, the responsibility starts to weigh on the children that look after them. Although that can be painful, there’s something beautiful about it, too. We recorded this in the Guards Chapel, on Birdcage Walk [in London], where I'd been as a serving soldier, and the Trinity Boys Choir came and sang and they sounded amazing.” Youngster “‘Youngster,’ for me, it's a celebration, really. I've still got a record deal, I'm still able to put albums out. You know, there might be new people on the block, but I’m still here, and it's a great place to be.” 5 Miles “I was the guy who sang that song on the subway 14 years ago, going after another man's girlfriend, saying, ‘You’re beautiful.’ And so I just wonder what’s happened to him now. Is he any better? I mean, he made a ton of money off the song. So now, I imagine that man's chat-up line would just be, ‘Hey, I’ve got a real fast car outside.’ That would be as cheesy as it gets now, as shallow as that.” How It Feels to Be Alive “‘How It Feels to Be Alive’ is an awesome-sounding track, and I’m sure I’m going to get the call asking for it to be in the next James Bond movie as its theme tune. Be my guest! And it’s a dark story, really, about when some people come back in your life, about how old memories can kill you.” I Told You “When I realized how time is short with my father, it made me realize how I have quite little time with my own family, too. And I felt like I needed to visit the things I’d like to say to them. In case I don't come back.” Halfway “Again, it’s about a relationship, and it’s saying, you know, ‘We’re either in or we’re out.’ There’s no such thing as halfway. It was just, if we’re going to jump off a cliff, then let’s go. It's about not holding back.” Stop the Clock “I‘ve written this with my dad in mind. It’s probably how he feels, but definitely how I feel is, ‘I wish I could stop the clock right now.’ It’s really as simple as that. Musically, it’s just how I heard it. You know, there's a clock ticking in the background, you can hear me pacing up and down through the studio. You can hopefully hear the tension.” The Greatest “This is for my kids. Because, you know what? The news today—the world seems like a pretty shitty place. And some polarization of dialogue, and lack of respect for each other's opinions. So I thought, ‘I just want my children to be the best that they can be—and better than the people who came before them, including myself.’”

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