Wednesday, October 30, 2013

James Blake still boastful over Mercury Prize, despite James Blunt gaffe

James Blake with his Mercury Prize.

James Blake with his Mercury Prize. Photo: Reuters

James Blake, a classically trained pianist, songwriter and producer who began in the underground electronic world, has won this year's Mercury Prize. The prestigious award, the UK equivalent of the Australian Music Prize, was given to Blake for his second album, Overgrown, the second time he has been nominated for the Mercury.

Luckily for Blake, host Lauren Laverne, who had earlier in the evening called him James Blunt when introducing his performance, got his name right when she announced the winner.

Eschewing any swagger, the 25-year-old Blake thanked his parents for making him "self-sufficient" after receiving his award and the £20,000 cheque ($33,850). It was in keeping with a level of modesty seen earlier this year when Blake was in Australia.

Ahead of shows at the Opera House, Blake spoke glowingly of his love for Joni Mitchell and how he was yet to make a record as good as her and other heroes such as Stevie Wonder.


"The third record needs to be great. The first and second sound a bit hodgepodge," he said. "I want to write my Talking Book, my Blue. That's what I want next."

Overgrown, which like its predecessor is based on a mix of electronics and soul, grew out of Blake's discovery that actually falling love was nothing like the abstract love he'd written about on his self-titled debut. In keeping with that, Overgrown featured his high, sometimes vulnerable voice presented without the studio treatments he had used earlier.

"First of all, I'm not talking about an empty space; I'm talking about something that truly is there," Blake said. "And that forms a positivity that wasn't on the first album."

In winning the Mercury Blake beat both a legend, in David Bowie, and someone anointed by British critics as one of the voices of 2013, the bookie's favourite, Laura Mvula. Also among the nominees were previous winners Arctic Monkeys, multiple nominee Laura Marling and teenage star Jake Bugg.

They were among 12 shortlisted albums drawn from 220 submitted for the competition. By comparison the Australian Music Prize is expected to draw from a pool of more than 300 albums this year.
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