Shy and lazy, that’s Terry Wogan, according to Terry Wogan. They’re not words you would readily associate with a 67-year-old who rises at 5.30 every morning so that he can ‘talk rubbish for two hours’ — as he puts it — for the benefit of nine million adoring radio listeners, who include ironically-minded students, large swathes of Middle England, and HM the Queen. Yet, as he elaborates, I realise he is, for once, being serious, if a little disingenuous.
It is mid morning, he has just come off air and we are sipping coffee in a dimly-lit bar around the corner from his Radio 2 studio in Broadcasting House. He is looking defiantly beige: beige socks, beige cords, beige polo neck. Defiantly, because there is something quietly subversive about Sir Terry. He ignores fashion. He mocks modern, Metropolitan manners. He crosses picket lines. He is even rude about the BBC, his employers for almost 40 years. He can afford to be. Much as it might pain them at times, they know that he knows where the centre of gravity is in this country — that is, pretty much wherever Terry Wogan happens to be standing.
‘I always had a clear idea of who the audience was and what I ought to be doing to get them to identify with me,’ he says in a subdued voice with shoulders hunched and hands pressed between his knees. ‘I can’t stand it when presenters read out sycophantic letters about themselves. I would never read out a letter saying “love your show.” That not how friends are. Friends are mutually abusive. What I try to encourage is good natured, and sometimes ill natured, badinage. I will get the occasional letter saying: “Why don’t you shut up and go back to where you came from?” — and I will always read it out.’
Wake Up To Wogan regularly wins awards and has the largest audience of any radio programme in Europe. He looks uncomfortable when asked why he thinks this might be. When pressed, he says: ‘A lot of commercial stations think it is all about play lists, but why would you want to listen to a radio station for that? You can get that on your iPod. It’s the presenters people want to listen to. We’re not slaves to the music on my show.’ Realising this sounds a little pompous he adds: ‘Although I am a keen break dancer, as you know.’
But at least on his radio show he gets to deal with normal people, I point out. Later this month he will be returning to television to present his chat show, and that will mean having to deal with celebrities. A dreadful prospect surely?
He purses his lips. ‘That is right, and now you’ve made me question why I’m doing it.’ The show — Wogan: Now and Then — is a follow up to Wogan which began in 1985 and ran three times weekly for seven years. ‘The original show could be trying at times,’ he recalls. ‘I would find myself interviewing a Hollywood star who was the worse for illegal substances, one way or another, either monosyllabic and depressed, or hyperactive.’ There were some memorable English guests, though, from David Icke pronouncing himself the son of God, to a drunken Oliver Reed and a grumpy Prince Philip.
David Icke will be one of the guests reappearing in the new show. ‘You have to compliment the people who are prepared to come back on, particularly the women because they are going to be looking at themselves as they were 20 years ago. Notwithstanding the fact the at I am going to be looking at myself on a regular basis as well.’
Judging by the trailers for the new show — Wogan now apparently sitting opposite Wogan then — he hasn’t changed much. ‘It’s the plastic surgery,’ he says. ‘The miracle of Botox. I also have a bull clip at the back of my neck.’
Certainly his hair has aged well, refulgent and scarcely threaded with grey as it is. But what about his aggressive interviewing technique? Will that have changed with time? Does he think he has mellowed? He shows his dimples as he grins. ‘I know, I know, I would be criticised for bland interviewing. But how long would you last if you came on like Clive Anderson? How long did Clive Anderson last? If you are sharp and highly critical, pretty soon no one will want to come on. I mean, I was never going to risk Mrs Merton. I’d never risk going on Have I Got News for You? I’ve been asked several times.’
That, I say, surprises me. I hadn’t imagined he was so protective of his public image. Can we conclude from this that he is a vain man? ‘No, it’s not vanity. It’s that someone else has the edit. It’s not a live show. It is edited to show Paul and Ian in a favourable light.’
Surely an ego as healthy as his can take a bit of ribbing? ‘No one wants to come out looking like an eejit. Of course they don’t. Anyway, it’s not the teasing. I could stand that. But I couldn’t stand my ripostes ending up on the cutting room floor.’
Hmm. Interesting. And judging by what he goes on to say, the ego jibe is clearly bothering him. ‘I never watch or listen to myself because I would find it embarrassing. I’ve got a very low threshold of embarrassment. I get embarrassed very easily. I used to hate it when females guests touched my knee.’
He’s not tactile? ‘Well I am, but on my own terms.’
Isn’t it masochist of him to be in the profession he is in, given his self-consciousness? ‘Yes it is. I am in the wrong business. But you evolve a technique for doing it. I hide behind technique. I would rather not see my audience, that is all.’
Interesting again. There is something about his television persona — the  awkward body language, the coy looks to camera — that could just be an exaggeration of his natural shyness. ‘Exactly. This is why radio is more my medium that television. When I do occasionally catch a glimpse of myself on TV, it’s never me. There is what the ancient Greeks used to call “a hedge of teeth” getting in the way.’
Could he cope with the scrutiny of being a Celebrity Big Brother housemate? ‘God no, never. I never give enough of myself away. It’s the Irish thing. WB Yates. Never give your whole self away. Keep something back, always.’
So there is a dark side to Sir Terry’s character that he would rather the great British public did not see? ‘No, everyone is entitled to their privacy and their own thoughts. I’m  not a loner exactly, but I was an only child for six and half years before my brother was born and you develop the ability to be alone. I’m not a gregarious person. My wife makes all our friends. I grew up in Limerick but had to leave all my friends there when we moved to Dublin, I then left all those friends when I came to London.’
His father ran a grocer’s shop in Limerick before becoming the director of a drinks firm. After leaving his (private) Jesuit school, the young Terry worked as a bank clerk in Dublin for five years. Then at 21, he entered and won a competition to become an announcer on RTE in Dublin. In 1967 he came to London to present Late Night Extra on BBC Radio 1.
Shyness is not incompatible with high self esteem, it seems. ‘It’s true. I don’t doubt myself much as a person. I think I’m all right. I can cope with disappoint and criticisms. There was no question that I felt loved by my parents. In fact I  think for those first six years I was probably put on a pedestal by them. But, generally, my parents were shy people. Catholics in Ireland were taught that, after sex, vanity was the worst sin. You couldn’t show off. Looking in the mirror was anathema. If you scored a try in rugby you ran back to the half way line almost shame-faced because it was a team game. I’m still offended if I see someone score a try and punch the air.’
So the Wogan self-deprecation is authentic? ‘And so it should be. People always assume that self deprecation  is a way of messaging your own ego or fishing for compliments. Not in my case. I get embarrassed by praise.’
I’m curious to know how he squares this lack of vanity and aversion to showing off with the success he has enjoyed in his cut-throat profession. Surely he has had to be controlling and ruthless and tetchy and prima donaish and ambitious? ‘No, no, no. That’s a cliché it itself. You don’t have to be any of those things at all. You don’t need to be pushy or nasty or confrontational to get on.’
I bet he can be a bit. ‘No, honestly. I’m not ambitious. I’ve never knocked on a door and said: “Give me a job”. I don’t fuss about the hole in a studio carpet. I can be impatient and fastidious, I suppose, but I’m not the kind of person who shouts at people.’
Don’t people take advantage of him, then? ‘No, I’m not stupid. No one takes advantage of me.’
This said, Terry Wogan has at times felt undervalued at the BBC. Its young, Guardian-reading, black-wearing, Soho House dwelling executives tend to faun over cool and intellectual presenters such as Jeremy Paxman. Wogan nods. ‘They do think I’m uncool, and they are probably right.’ He also concedes that 1993 was the lowest point in his career. That was when his TV show was axed by the BBC and replaced by the doomed soap Eldorado. It was a humiliating experience and, understandably, he felt vindicated when he took over the Radio 2 breakfast show and increased its listener figures from three million to nine million. But he is in magnanimous mood today. ‘I hope I have their respect. They don’t abuse me. We come to mutual agreements.’
It occurs to me that it may partly be laziness that has kept him at the BBC. ‘There were always things I wanted to do,’ he says. ‘I would have loved to have been a journalist, for example, but I never did anything about it, I drifted into the bank instead. I never pursued things. I could have gone to university but I felt I’d done enough. I’m lazy. I have so little capacity for working hard. I like to do programmes live simply because I’m lazy. I hate rehearsal.’
What’s going to be in his autobiography? ‘Well, I’ve nearly finished it. It’s inconsequential. It’s only a life: me and my family and what I do.’
He married Helen, a house model for Balmain, in 1965. The two of them were virgins on their wedding night. They celebrated their ruby wedding last year. What, I ask, is the secret to a healthy marriage? ‘You sound like a man who has been through a few.’
Me? No. Just the one. ‘Of course,’ he says with a laugh. ‘I was forgetting. You’re married to a Catholic aren’t you?’ I nod. ‘That means you can’t get out of it. There’s no secret,’ he adds. ‘It’s luck. You do sometimes take each other for granted but as long as you’re aware that your taking each other for granted it’s OK. Consideration is the key. The things we argue about are so small and petty, like, “Where are me socks?”. Helen is my confidante. She knows me so well.’
So he daren’t leave her! All that stuff she could tell the tabloids… ‘No, she never would. When we married there was never going to be anything else. I always used to tell her at the time she married me that she was the luckiest woman in Ireland.’ He grins to show he’s joking.
The couple have three children, now in their 30s:  Alan, Mark, and  Katherine — who once said she grew up fearing her friends only wanted to be with her because of her famous father. I ask Sir Terry if he thinks his children suffered because he was in the public eye. ‘I don’t know. I kept my own name when in retrospect it would have been easier on my children if I had changed it and taken a nom de plume. But they’ve coped very well. They seem happy. We’ve got two married now and the elder boy is walking out. He works with The Sanctuary, Katherine was an actress for a while and is a full time mother now and my second son Mark works at the agency which represents me. He’s very good at it.  Terrific networker. Don’t know how he does it.’
Was he a strict father? “No, I always thought that would be a mistake. Parents assume their children are going to be the same as them, with the same drives and standards and they are not, of course. You’re children are always going to be a permanent surprise to you.’
Do they tease him? ‘They do, but I never talk about what I do when I’m at home. Well, I do a bit now Mark is in the business. But I think they were vaguely ashamed of me when they were at school and I was doing Wogan.’
Ashamed? ‘Well you don’t want your father on television. Makes you a target. I didn’t envy them. Children want to be conventional. Teenagers don’t want attention drawn to them. It gave them though, I hope, an extra layer of character.’
Teenagers might not want attention drawn to themselves, but I’m pretty sure that, for all his protestations to the contrary, Sir Terry does. Perhaps that is the thing he wants to ‘keep back’. His self-deprecation, after all, clearly, comes from an underlying security, a robust sense of who he is and of his own value. He may not have a dark secret, but he does, as he admits, have a ‘technique’ he can hide behind: the easy laugh, the folksy charm, the whimsy. He hams up the public Terry Wogan – the conceit that he is an innocent just arrived off the boat from Ireland. Yet in private, I have heard, he can be quite serious-minded and bookish, as well as puritanical and scornful. He is also more sophisticated that he likes to let on: a wine connoisseur with a second home in France and a sizable commercial property portfolio. Shy and lazy? I don’t think so.


James Blunt

It could be the homes around the world; his military bearing; or that he’s our biggest musical export since Elton. For whatever reason, being called annoying, a philanderer or – worse – middle class doesn’t exactly keep James Hillier Blount awake at night. Nigel Farndale met him

It’s not the sight of the groupies that haunts me, but the sound, or rather the absence of sound, as they ghost past us on their way up the stairs to the dressing-room. It takes me a moment to figure out that the reason they aren’t talking to each other is that they don’t know each other. One of the band members, the keyboard player, I think, has picked them from the audience on the basis of their looks. Half-a-dozen of them, all in their late teens and early twenties, and all, surprisingly, in pretty frocks, as if they were going to a Sunday school meeting. They have been separated from their friends like lambs weaned from their mothers. The silence of the lambs.

The ‘us’ they are filing past is James Blunt and me. He has a bottle of beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and not a hair in place – tousled just so, like a Renaissance painting of John the Baptist – but they don’t realise it’s him because he has changed out of the suit he was wearing on stage and is now in jeans, T-shirt and leather jacket, as well as a pink feather boa and star-shaped novelty sunglasses. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is the end of the day; we need to go back to the start, well, to the middle, when the seats are empty and the Texan sun is at its most unforgiving.

A barefoot and unshaven Blunt is wearing normal sunglasses and shorts as he plays his piano, strums his guitar and sings his plaintive songs into the microphone for the sound check, all the while looking out with his soulful eyes over an empty, open-air arena in Houston. At 5ft 7in, he’s not a tall man, but he has presence and an unaffected manner – a certain maturity, too, one that you wouldn’t normally associate with a pop star in the ascendant.

But then he is 34 and this is his second career, his first being as an officer in the Household Cavalry. He joined after graduating from Bristol University with a degree in sociology. He became a champion skier for the Army and not only saw active service in Kosovo, but also guarded the Queen Mother’s coffin when she was lying in state.

Tonight he will be supporting Sheryl Crow, though, since his second album ‘All the Lost Souls’ and the single from it, ‘1973’, went straight to number one in America, he is arguably the bigger act these days. Indeed, not since Elton John has there been a more successful British singer-songwriter in the States.

His first album, ‘Back to Bedlam’, also went to number one over here, as it did in 18 other countries, making it the biggest-selling album of the millennium. It even entered the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest-selling album in one year. But it was his first single that really put him on the map. You’re Beautiful became the sound of that summer. It was everywhere, and still is – having become a favourite at weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs. I even heard a brass band playing it at an agricultural show in the Yorkshire Dales this summer.

As well as millions of sales, James Blunt has won Brit awards, Ivor Novello awards, MTV awards and various Grammy nominations. In terms of credibility, he’s headlined at Glastonbury and won the respect of the world-weary music press. Yet not everyone loves him, as he points out when we get something to eat in the canteen area back stage.

‘After Back to Bedlam really started selling,’ he says, ‘there was this sudden aggression towards me in the UK, for whatever reason, and that focused my mind, made it clear to me what I was doing and why I wanted to do it. I write songs for myself. I don’t write them for you, or for anyone else, I write them because I have experiences that I need to process. I don’t have the answers all the time, but I do have lots of questions, and I express them in the songs I write.’

He is, I think, alluding to a poll last year of ‘the most annoying things in life’, which put him at number four, just behind cold-callers and queue-jumpers. ‘I haven’t met anyone who voted in the poll, have you?’ he says when I mention this. ‘That poll probably came from a website that was after some publicity. You and I could do the same poll very quickly right now and it would count as a poll. We could do one about annoying newspapers, for example. I promise the Sunday Telegraph wouldn’t be in my list. My parents take it.’

His father, a retired colonel in the Army Air Corps, manages his son’s finances. His mother arranged the purchase of his six-bedroom villa in Ibiza (he also has a chalet in Verbier and recently bought a place in Chelsea). ‘I’m not married,’ he says, ‘and so the support structure in my life is my parents. I’m closer to them now than I have ever been.’

He certainly isn’t married, as the photographs of him emerging from nightclubs with various high-profile women on his arm attest. Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was probably the best known socialite, Jessica Sutta, of the Pussycat Dolls, the most glamorous. He also seems to be photographed regularly cavorting on beaches with bikini-clad models such as Petra Nemcova, whom he dated and then dumped – unceremonious dumping being his way of ending relationships, according to the tabloids. He once said he found himself in a swimming pool in LA with nine naked women. ‘I was the only bloke. It was the only time I wished my mates were there, purely to spectate. I had arrived. It was a moment.’

Now he says of the tabloid interest in his peripatetic love life: ‘Last week I went to my home in Ibiza and was photographed by the paparazzi in my swimming trunks with girls. What is the point of that? I’m not that bothered, but maybe the media should be concentrating more on global warming or the Russian invasion of Georgia.

‘Looking at me in my swimming trunks is not a great sight. It’s a waste of time. There generally is a long lens pointing at me wherever I go, these days. I’m comfortable with it. I appreciate how things work. But my record label said something about my always being photographed coming out of nightclubs and I thought, “But this is what I do. I was doing it before the second album came out, so what is different now? You didn’t tell me to stop then.” I’m not going to change my life because of these people. I don’t see why I should.’

His label also gets him to dye his grey hairs and be enigmatic about his love life, which is an old tactic dating back to the Beatles – they had to pretend they didn’t have wives and girlfriends so that fans could fantasise they were in with a chance.

Actually, at the time of going to press, Blunt seems to be going out again with one of his old flames, Verity Evetts, an Oxford-educated barrister. He has also stayed friendly with some of his other exes, the socialites at least. He told one – an ex who got married not long ago – that he doesn’t feel ‘centred’ at the moment and would like to get married as well. Then again, he also said that he never tires of singing You’re Beautiful night after night because it gets him laid night after night.

Either way, he tells me he has grown used to the idea that his mother will probably find out from the papers what he has been up to, and with whom, before he has had a chance to tell her. ‘And my [two] sisters are quick to email me about things in the papers, laughing their heads off. I get healthy, ritual abuse from them, and give it back myself.’

As we are talking, I can’t decide whether the way Blunt smiles all the time is disarming or disturbing. He’s like a victim of a religious cult, smiling at the beginning of the sentence and at the end. I guess he has a lot to smile about, but also I sense a great deal of insecurity to disguise.

Then, I’m distracted by the sight of Sheryl Crow playing table tennis across the room. She has been holding her adopted son in one arm as she bats with the other, and now, even more distractingly, she is heading straight for us. ‘Are we going to have one of our little conversations on stage again tonight, James?’ she says. ‘That flirting thing. I think it worked well last night.’

They discuss the duet they will sing – a cover of Cat Stevens’s The First Cut is the Deepest – then we both watch her shimmy away, her blonde curls bobbing. ‘She’s very down to earth,’ he says. ‘I’d met her a couple of times, which was why she asked me on this tour. We do end up playing a lot of table tennis on the road. We’ve done 117 shows so far this year, in 117 cities, and there are a lot of hours to fill in the day.’

As he sleeps on his tour bus with his band, one city tends to blur into another. When I joke that he is in Cincinnati now, he looks genuinely confused. ‘No, this is?… Oh, right. Actually, I always get the tour manager to say where we are just as I’m going on stage. I still managed to get it wrong the other night, saying “Hello Dallas” when I meant Austin. I’m surprised I got out alive.’

He is funny on the subjects of things that go wrong. ‘People are normally surprised by my show, which is more energetic than you might think. Jumping on the piano. Jumping out into the audience and running up and down the aisle high-fiving them. But going off the stage can be quite dangerous. I broke my finger once. My legs carried on when I jumped off, and I smacked down on the ground. The spotlight was on me, and when I got back to the piano I hit the wrong note and thought, “Why did I do that?” And I looked down and saw it was because my finger was broken, sticking out an angle. Look,’ he says holding it up. ‘It’s still crooked.’

On another occasion, in Chicago, he jumped 8ft off the stage. ‘When I began running to the audience, a security guard stuck his arm out and I thought, “Does he want a hug?” Then next thing I know he’s rugby-tackled me. He wouldn’t release me and I was screaming in his ear, “I’m the f—ing singer.” I had to wait for the other guards to pull him off.’

I would have thought Blunt’s training in unarmed combat would have helped. I presume he still works out. ‘No, never. Couldn’t handle it. Too boring. I am a hyperactive person though.’ He likes an adrenaline rush, as well, having recently bought an 1100cc Moto Guzzi V11 Sport motorbike. There’s also the skiing, which he still does, and the riding. Actually, he tells me, he never really liked horses before joining the Life Guards. So why did he join that particular regiment?

‘Well, it is a reconnaissance regiment.’ But they are all so tall in the Life Guards, did that not make him self-conscious? ‘Some are. The Foot Guards tend to be taller regiments, though. The Life Guards take a few shrimps, as well. Besides, they are on horses, so height isn’t so important. Also being in that regiment had the benefit of being in Knightsbridge. I got a chance to be in London and meet people in the music scene.’ And groupies, as it happens.

As he paraded up and down the Mall in plumed helmet and shiny breastplate, girls would stick their phone numbers down his knee-length boots. But it was his time in Kosovo that really made girls swoon. He used to strap his guitar to the outside of his tank, because there wasn’t room for it inside. He had learnt to play the violin at five, the piano at seven and the guitar at 14, while a pupil at Harrow.

He writes his songs on piano and guitar. ‘But mainly guitar because it is easier to carry around. It’s like a child messing around with a toy. If a tune comes to me I don’t record it instantly. I think if I remember it, then it must be worth remembering, and if I forget it, then it was forgettable.’

Does he have any anxiety dreams about forgetting lines or chords? ‘Not yet. Perhaps I will tonight. Perhaps you’ve jinxed me. But audiences aren’t judgmental, and if things go wrong and you can look them in the eye, that is fine. The only people who are judgmental are the journalists. I will be conscious of you being there in the audience judging me.’

Blimey. Sorry about that. Is it true he signs breasts? ‘Not that I remember. Not that I’m fussy what I sign. A lot of men started coming to the shows after I appeared on Top Gear last year. That was such fun. I spun the car five times. I thought I might as well make the most of it. I am competitive.’

He recorded one of the fastest laps, but I’m surprised blokes didn’t think him manly before that, given his tour of duty in Kosovo. ‘It’s because I sing songs that are heart-on-your-sleeve and therefore I must be overly emotional. Nothing I can do about it. I could pose more, but I am comfortable with my masculinity.’

He has said that his lyrics are autobiographical, in which case, are we to assume that the lyric on his new album, ‘I killed a man in a far away land’, means he killed a man in a far away land? I only ask because in the past he has said that he would never try to exploit what he went through, what he saw. ‘You should ask any soldier how many lives he has saved. How they do it is no one else’s business. What I took from my experience in Kosovo is that you are told from one day to the next who your enemy is and it keeps changing. That’s what is happening in Iraq, too. I believe in looking people in the eye, looking for the common humanity.’

He is a great believer in looking people in the eye. He will use the phrase again later and it seems to reveal a Christ complex, or a John the Baptist one. That direct and challenging stare of his. It would also explain the hair.

It is time for him do some photographs before he goes on stage and, endearingly, he says he is ‘not fussed’ about the grooming he is offered before they are taken.

On stage his features contort with passion when he sings. The big video screen goes in tight on his face. His voice is by turns soft and tremulous and forceful, but always high. Having seen him in concert once before, a couple of years ago, I notice the tone of his banter has changed.

‘Wow it’s hot tonight,’ he says now. ‘I’m surprised any of you are wearing any clothes. We could all take them off and get friendly.’ It is suggestive, designed to get the teenage girls in the audience screaming. Before he used to joke about his ‘girlie voice’ and taking helium to get it that way, and being ‘a bit wet’ and the ‘housewives’ favourite’. I think now he has realised that, actually, he is a proper musician, a popular one, too, and that he doesn’t need to apologise for it.

Afterwards, back in the dressing-room, he strips to the waist as he talks because he wants to take a shower before going back on to do his duet with Sheryl Crow. ‘Things got a bit hairy out there when I jumped into the crowd,’ he says. ‘Did you see that? Some thought it was some kind of sport to grab me.’

I watch his duet from the side of the stage and notice he whispers something in Sheryl Crow’s ear and then she starts running her hands over his trousers suggestively, patting them. Afterwards, I ask what he said. ‘”Is now a good time to ask for your phone number?” She was checking my pockets, pretending to look for a pen.’

He shows me round the gold-coloured tour bus where he will be sleeping tonight as they drive to their next gig in Dallas. It is full of hi-tech equipment and is nicely air-conditioned but there isn’t much space in the bunks. ‘We do live in close proximity,’ he says. ‘Some of us stay up late. This is the crew end, they have to get up early.’

Where do the groupies go? ‘Never have groupies on here. Never. They’d only get in if we invited them in. But we’d only ever invite friends in.’

Does he sleep OK? I heard he has to take sleeping pills. ‘It is a bit of a rough sleep, but better than a hotel and taking planes all the time because you have to get to the airport two hours early, which is miserable. Then your flight gets delayed.’

He is drinking champagne from a plastic cup. ‘This is for your benefit,’ he says. ‘The tour management went out and bought a bottle of champagne because he thought I should be seen drinking it. Better for my image. Isn’t that sweet? Normally, we drink vodka and beer. In fact, I think I’d rather have a beer, now. Want one?’ He opens a well-stocked fridge then takes me to the back of the bus where there is some seating space. He has one small case which he pulls out from a cupboard. It continues a few pairs of socks, T-shirts and a spare pair of jeans. No photographs or mementos. ‘This is all I have for 14 months on the road,’ he says. ‘I’m not known for style.’

Does he know how much he is worth? ‘No I don’t, not very interested in it to be honest. I travel with hand luggage only. That is why I always seem to be wearing the same clothes in photographs. If a tabloid says my clothes aren’t fashionable or my hair looks stupid, I really don’t worry about it. Don’t have any hair gel.’

In London, he takes the Tube or the bus. He prefers pubs to restaurants. When he goes to Ibiza, he flies easyJet. Still, that’s at home. Presumably on the road he can afford to be more self-indulgent.

Another lyric that we can only assume is autobiographical is ‘I’ve taken a s—load of drugs’. It is. Though his only comment on the subject is that he has ‘a comfortable relationship with drugs’. His relationship with fame is less comfortable. Oscar Wilde said there were two forms of tragedy: not getting what you want, and getting it. Is that how it felt for him when he went to number one? ‘Actually, I don’t think I had been dreaming about it. Certainly, I hadn’t anticipated being so recognisable so quickly.

‘I do remember getting a phone call from the record company, who said both the single and the album have gone to number one, and thinking, “S—, this is not what I expected.” I hadn’t prepared myself for it. Number two is great. Number two is nice. I sensed then it would mean having to change from being a musician to being a celebrity and that that would be a change for the worse. Fame doesn’t affect me, but it does affect everyone else around me. As for celebrity, it is the worst invention of the modern world. Gossip columns treat your life as if it were a cartoon. Relationships reduced to cartoons.’

Although there are other public-school bands around at the moment – Radiohead, Coldplay – Blunt seems to have suffered more than most from a perception that he is too posh to be credible. His family name is Blount (and his middle name Hillier), but he changed it to Blunt to sound, well, blunter and more proletarian.

When he tells me he would nevertheless still send a son of his to Harrow – ‘I think I would. I think I would. Public schools make individuals rather than sheep’ – I ask what he makes of the mood change now that the old Etonian David Cameron has made it OK to be posh. ‘Is it? I must come back to Britain immediately. Is it really safe to come back?

‘It’s not a dirty word to be posh, people come up to me and no one gives a damn if I’m posh. It’s about having a normal conversation and looking people in the eye.’

We head back to the dressing-room where he puts on his feather boa and novelty sunglasses then we wander back downstairs to have a word with Sheryl Crow, who is signing autographs. This is the moment at which the keyboard player says: ‘This way to the good-time room girls’ and the silent groupies dutifully appear.