I grew up in rural Hampshire and when I was little I had a Spanish au pair who needed a way to get around where we lived. So my parents bought her a moped and as soon as I was 16, I got my hands on it. It was a Tomos scooter and it did 30 miles an hour, so I’d be screaming down the A303 with all the cars zooming past me. It took me hours to get anywhere, but it made me appreciate the freedom of the moment, and my love for two wheels started there. In a car you’re being pushed around a corner and popping out of your seat. But on a motorbike you lean into every corner. You’re in balance with the corner and you have total control with just the engine and some wheels in your hands. The movement is incredibly graceful.

The first proper bike I bought was a Cagiva Canyon when I was 19. It’s probably one of the ugliest or weirdest-looking motorbikes on the planet. It was an Italian bike that broke down a lot and looked like a kind of praying mantis. It was single cylinder, but it was pretty powerful. 

Blunt has owned three bikes by CCM, a trials bike maker based in Bolton
Blunt has owned three bikes by CCM, a trials bike maker based in Bolton © @jamesblunt
Blunt aboard his CCM Spitfire, which he recently swapped for a CCM Stealth Six
Blunt aboard his CCM Spitfire, which he recently swapped for a CCM Stealth Six © @jamesblunt

Then I got a much bigger bike when I joined the army as a way of whizzing up and down to London from barracks. It was a Moto Guzzi V11 Sport – possibly one of the most beautiful motorbikes in the world, super-powerful and very heavy. I fell off it a couple of times at very, very slow speeds and got stuck under it. Once was coming into barracks at 3am when I shouldn’t have been out – I dropped the bike on my leg. The other was when I went to a recording studio with the head of EMI music to do some demos. They saw my bike and said it looked incredible: “Hey, you should come on stage on your motorbike.” When I was leaving, they all came out to wave me off and they were saying, “You’re gonna be a star. Your songs are great.” I put my guitar over my back, leather jacket on, helmet on. For a moment in my life, I looked cool, and I got on this massive great motorbike and saluted and departed. At about one and a half miles an hour I lost balance, fell over and smashed the guitar on my back. They helped me lift the bike up; they were laughing, and I was laughing, but inside I was crying. I drove around the corner, got off the bike and said, “You fucking prick.” Surprisingly, I wasn’t signed by EMI music.

That guitar had survived Kosovo and survived being strapped to the side of a tank, survived a war zone, but didn’t survive me on a motorbike

I eventually parted company with the Moto Guzzi and now I have a bike from an amazing motorcycle company in Bolton called CCM. It started off making trials bikes and has taken off in recent years. One of their bikes passed me in London when I was on my bicycle and I stopped and took a picture of it and then Googled it. They’d only made 150 of them. I found one going in Ireland and bought that and shipped it over. That was a CCM FT35, an incredible little speedway bike. I upgraded to a CCM Spitfire, which is a raw, naked bike, and then two weeks ago I sold it back to them and upgraded again to a new bike called a CCM Stealth Six, which I think is the best-looking bike I’ve ever seen on the planet.

I get asked if I do big road trips – like the one in the video for my song “Bonfire Heart” where I rode a Harley in America. I’d love to go through the Italian mountains and around Lake Como, but I have a family and a job to do. So I use a motorbike as a workhorse. It’s the fastest way around London. I look at the rows and rows of cars in traffic queues and wonder why everyone isn’t on a motorbike. I thought wearing a helmet would also help me skate through the city unrecognised. But stopping at lights with my visor up, I’ve been asked for photographs. There’s no escape. Maybe I have a very identifiable nose.

The Stars Beneath My Feet (2004-2021) is out 19 November on Atlantic Records; James also presents Beer Masters on Prime Video from 11 Nov

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