James Blunt gets a lot of stick for being posh, foppish and soppy.
As if to make matters worse for the ballad-writing softly-spoken musician, his mum recently came out in his defence.
Getting involved in a recent debate about whether the pop and rock charts are being taken over by former private school pupils, Blunt’s mother – Jane Blount – responded to comments Pete Waterman made on the Today programme.
Waterman had said of the music industry: ‘If you haven’t got 96 O-levels, you ain’t getting a job.’ But Mrs Blount disagreed and pointed out that her son’s background and Harrow education had been a hindrance to his music career, rather than a help.
James wasn’t in any way annoyed with his proud mum for fighting his corner.
‘She was just pointing out that Pete Waterman was being stupid.
‘Had it been you pointing it out, people would say it was a valid argument. If it’s my mother, they see it differently,’ says the 36-year-old singer-songwriter.
‘But if she’s making a valid point, I think it’s worth listening to,’ continues James who, despite spending much of his time away from home, is still close to his family.
His father manages his finances and his mother helps him house-hunting.
Blunt explains: ‘Because I’m not married, I need a home base. I need someone to pay the bills and stuff when I’m away.
‘I don’t have a PA and an entourage, so I do what you would do, I go to my family for help.’
Though Blunt undoubtedly has a privileged background and is an amiable man who supports a number of environmental and charitable causes and gets along well with his parents, his reputation for being namby-pamby is undeserved.
There are also a lot of very macho strings to his bow, namely having been a captain in the Army, having a pilot’s licence and having sometimes sported a beard.
And that home his mum helped him set-up is on the party isle of Ibiza, not some annex to an ancestral stately home.
Despite recent reports that he’s living in London following a split from his Spanish model girlfriend, Sabine Vidal, he assures me he’s still based in Ibiza, though he won’t confirm or deny rumours of the separation.
By all accounts Blunt is also a bit of a playboy, which is something else he neither ratifies nor refutes.
With such contrasting reputations, it can be hard to get to the truth of what James Blunt is all about and he’s suitably ambiguous when I ask him which is closer to the real James – softie or bad boy.
‘If you pigeon-hole people then there are going to be some misconceptions,’ he says logically.
‘No-one called me a softie when I had a gun in my hand,’ he points out with a wry smile in his voice.
‘But they do when I’m holding an acoustic guitar.
‘I guess it just depends what you’re holding.’
With his gun, he served for six years in the Life Guards unit of the Household Cavalry, including a deployment as an armoured reconnaissance officer in Kosovo.
With his guitar, he’s won two BRITs, two Ivor Novello’s and been nominated for five Grammies.
His 2005 debut, Back To Bedlam, was the biggest selling album of the decade in the UK.
But his success isn’t limited to home turf. With his first two albums he achieved worldwide sales in excess of 18 million. Plus, in other countries, he’s not ridiculed the way he is here.
Perhaps that’s why James doesn’t spend much time in the UK.
‘I was last home for Christmas and I did some TV shows – Loose Women, Comedy Rocks and Strictly Come Dancing,’ he says.
He was also in London in September when he appeared at the Help For Heroes concert at Twickenham Stadium.
More recently, he has been in Europe and Australia and he’s spent the past month in America.
He reveals: ‘We’ve been visiting three or four cities a day. It’s been manic.
‘We shot a video yesterday, which was Sunday, so all the crew were p***ed-off,’ he tells me over the phone from a hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, where he is preparing to appear on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.
It’s all in aid of promoting his new album, Some Kind Of Trouble, which was released here in November and Stateside last month.
‘I’m selling my soul and hoping people will buy it,’ he explains in his half-jesting, half-disconcertingly unguarded manner.
While his first two albums – Back To Bedlam and All The Lost Souls – reached number one in the UK album chart, Some Kind Of Trouble made it to number four and currently sits at 26 after 13 weeks in the chart.
The fact that his third album didn’t hit the UK top spot like his earlier works might be down to the amount of time that Blunt has been away from the limelight in the UK and out of our musical consciousness.
But James tells me he hasn’t taken any time off.
‘After All The Lost Souls was released, I went on a two-year world tour, which was non-stop. I got on a tour bus and two years later got off.
‘Then I spent a year making this album,’ he explains.
Blunt is very much looking forward to bringing his music back to our attention with a UK tour kicking-off in Glasgow on Thursday.
He says: ‘It’s next week, it’s just a few days away and we’re really looking forward to it.
‘Again, it’s a long journey – we’ve got 13 weeks booked – but I really like playing live.
‘That’s what the job of being a musician is really about.’