It usually takes an interviewer asking their celebrity subject about Buffalo’s quintessential chicken wings for that tired local folklore to come up. But James Blunt doesn’t waste time. On a recent phone call with the singer, who comes to town on July 9 to open for Ed Sheeran at KeyBank Center, wings came up immediately. He brought it up.
“For me, Buffalo is the highlight of the tour. Between me and my band, for the last 12 years, we’ve been writing a book called ‘Wings of the World.’ It’s about the best wings in the world,” Blunt said. He might be serious, but if his British wit is as quick in conversation as it is on Twitter, he could be fooling.
“For me, of course, No. 1 is Duff’s,” Blunt said. “Super-hot is good. A little sweat is good.” He’s not fooling.
Blunt’s music is just as straightforward. His 2005 breakout single, “You’re Beautiful,” is full of pathos. It’s an “emotional song,” hitting all the right buttons for heart-on-the-sleeves teenagers and other romantics. Blunt wrote the song about a passing moment in which he locked eyes with an ex-girlfriend on the London Underground, her new boyfriend in tow. It’s practically impossible to not feel for the guy. In hindsight, it is not Blunt’s favorite song, even if it’s his most successful.
“It’s my biggest hit, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s my best song or the one that’s most reflective of me,” says Blunt. “It’s just the one that worked best on radio.”
“I suppose I wrote songs once upon a time for a need to express emotion. I come from a boarding school, army background. As an English man, traditionally, expressing emotion is not (my) forte. My outlet was through songs,” Blunt said. “I suppose the songs that I wrote, therefore, came across as quite melancholic, quite earnest and hopefully touching in their way. But it wasn’t necessarily the whole picture of the kind of music I like to listen to, of the whole person that I was.”
His new album “The Afterlove” covers a more complete territory. Now married with a baby son, Blunt has plenty of new ground to cover.
“The album is full of songs that are diverse from each other,” including his current single, “OK,” a dance track with Robin Shulz. “Of course, (the album has) still got those emotional songs, and some of the most beautiful ones I’ve ever written. I’ve got some things to write about and great experience as a songwriter, so I’m really thrilled with those emotional songs that are on this album. But at the same time there are songs that are confident and bold, songs that would surprise people who think they know what I would do.”
That surprise might be easier made in the States, where Blunt remains a bit of a one-hit wonder. In Europe and beyond, however, he is a superstar, selling out headlining arena tours. He plays theaters, too, which seem a better fit.
“My albums haven’t sold nearly well in the U.S. But there are benefits to that, too. That means I play smaller shows in the U.S., and that means they’re more intimate, and more rewarding.”
Opening for Ed Sheeran gives Blunt a larger American platform than he’s had in years. Sheeran’s single “Shape of You,” off the album “(Divide)” is a hit, and leads a massive, 141-date tour that spans 12 and a half months. Blunt joins him for a three-month North American leg and said he’s excited to get a second chance here, some 13 years and five albums into his career.
“When I got into the business, everyone said that America is a different place, that it’s got a different music scene. And I’ve had great fun here, but it’s a market that I haven’t necessarily cracked,” Blunt said.
“I’m kind of thrilled to be coming here as a support act, the kind of new kid on the block, with Ed, playing to his audiences, who won’t know me in any way. It’s a fantastic opportunity to come and tour again. I’m kind of thrilled about it.”
Ed Sheeran with James Blunt
7:30 p.m. July 9 at KeyBank Center. The show is sold-out.