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Page 3 Profile: James Blake, Mercury Prize winner


Not James Blunt?

No! Presenting the Mercury Music Prize on Wednesday night, host Lauren Laverne accidentally used the name of the “You’re Beautiful” singer, but their styles are world’s apart. Blake pulls together broad and eclectic influences, from gospel to dubstep.

So he took home the gong?

He did indeed. Despite being a 25/1 outsider, he beat favourite Laura Mvula, Jake Bugg and dance group Rudimental to the £20,000 prize with his album Overgrown.

He must have been chuffed.

He said afterwards: “I feel jubilant and confused, wonderful… It’s a moment you don’t expect to happen to you, in fact you might even bet against it if you’re British.” The 25-year-old showed a cheeky sense of humour too, adding: “This is the first award I ever won apart from a tennis trophy I won when I was 12 years old. I hold them in equal esteem.”

So he’s been playing music for as long as he has tennis?

Yup. Showing musical aptitude from an early age, he was classically trained. His dad, James Litherland, was a musician, playing with artists such as prog rockers Colosseum and 1970s pop star Leo Sayer. Blake went on to study popular music at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he submitted his EP Klavierwerke for a second-year composition assignment. His self-titled debut album, released in February 2011, received much critical acclaim and was nominated for that year’s Mercury Prize, missing out to PJ Harvey.

And what does he sound like?

According to the award judges, Overgrown is: “Late night music for the digital age. An inventive, poignant and poetic record of great beauty.” With guest appearances from Brian Eno and Wu Tang  Clan member RZA, it seems the album lives up to his varied  musical roots.