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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 February 2006, 00:14 GMT
Blunt words of sensitive soldier
James Blunt
Blunt's army career was 'a delaying thing' before he started in music
James Blunt earned his two Brit Awards after swapping a military career for transatlantic chart success.

He won the British male artist and best act award, while his debut album Back To Bedlam competed for the British album prize and his UK chart-topper You're Beautiful was in the running for best British single.

But while his musical ascendancy seems rapid, Blunt claims he has been planning it since picking up a friend's guitar at the age of 14.

He was born James Blount in a military hospital in Tidworth, Wiltshire, in 1978 - eventually losing the "o" to become a chart star.

'Secure job'

After attending boarding school from the age of seven he became one of the youngest holders of a UK private pilot licence.

Both his father and grandfather had served as senior army officers, and Blunt followed his schooling with an Army-sponsored degree in Aerospace Manufacturing Engineering and Sociology at Bristol University.

"Like any parents, mine wanted me to have a secure job with a regular wage and career prospects," Blunt told BBC Norfolk in 2005.

James Blunt
Blunt was named best new artist at last year's Q Awards
"And the one job my father knew of, that he'd had experience of himself, was the Army, so he could help me in that direction."

Having helped pay for Blunt's degree course, the Army then trained him at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and enlisted him in the Life Guards.

"I didn't always think 'Oh, I'm going to be in the Army,'" he said. "I always thought 'I'm going to be a musician.' The Army was just a delaying thing."

During his four years of service Blunt regularly accompanied members of the Royal Family and stood guard as the Queen Mother lay in state for a week in 2002.

Blunt was promoted to captain and served as a Nato peacekeeper in Kosovo, leading a column of 30,000 troops into Pristina.

While in Kosovo he wrote the song No Bravery, which would later appear on his debut album.

"I wrote it lying by my tank in my sleeping bag with my boots on," he said. "The song is pretty fatalistic. The rest of the album is fatalistic."

Cult US producer

Having fulfilled his army duty, Blunt secured a song publishing deal with EMI after presenting them with "some dodgy demos".

He then performed at Texas music festival South by Southwest, winning the attention of Linda Perry - the ex-4 Non Blondes member famed for writing and producing songs for Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

She awarded Blunt a contract on her Custard Records label and he decamped to Los Angeles to record his album with Tom Rothrock, famed for his production work with cult stars Elliott Smith and Beck.

While recording in the US he spent five months living in the Beverly Hills home of actress Carrie Fisher, a friend of his ex-girlfriend Dixie Chassay.

James Blunt
I'm not really trying to break the US - I'm just trying to have some fun and learn something
James Blunt
"I met Carrie in London and she said 'Come on, if you're doing an album you might as well come and live in a weird house!'"

His first two singles - High and Wisemen - failed to penetrate the UK top 100, but his fortunes changed with the summer 2005 release of sparse love song You're Beautiful.

It entered the UK chart at number 12 but slowly built enough momentum to take it to the top of the chart seven weeks later.

For five weeks Blunt simultaneously topped both the UK singles and album chart, before repeating his success across Europe.

He was subsequently named best new artist at last year's Q Awards.

As You're Beautiful eventually dropped out of the singles chart, his album sold more than 2.3 million copies in the UK - topping its 2005 chart - and six million copies worldwide.

In a rare achievement for a UK artist, Blunt currently sits in second place in the US singles chart with You're Beautiful while his album is nestled inside the US top 10.

"I'm not really trying to break the US," Blunt said. "I'm just trying to have some fun and learn something, and hope to make a connection."

Nevertheless Blunt's transatlantic success with simple and melodic songs has attracted criticism from fellow artists and music fans.

No doubt the former soldier will prove tough enough to take it.

See some of the nominees for this year's Brit Awards


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