He’s no Deadhead, but James Blunt has certainly learned the meaning of “long, strange trip” in the three or so years since he ceased toiling in the singer-songwriter trenches and began his ascent to multi-platinum status. Blunt’s best known, of course, for the ubiquitous “You’re Beautiful,” but as he proves on All the Lost Souls—the just-released follow-up to his 11-million selling debut Back to Bedlam—he’s not just a one-trick pony. The Brit, who divides his time between piano and guitar (he wields both a Gibson J-45 and a vintage LG-1), exudes a burnished warmth throughout the disc, bringing to mind Lindsay Buckingham and James Taylor.

Has there been a downside to the success you’ve experienced over the past couple of years? 

I love my job as a musician and I’ve had the most amazing journey with a group of mates in a band touring the world playing music that has become the soundtrack to their own lives. Along with that have come some other things—like the dehumanization that one goes through in the terrible construct of celebrity. That I’ve not enjoyed, but my job as a musician, I love.

Who are you referring to in the title of your new album, All the Lost Souls? 

A lot of people, including myself. We’re on the planet and we’re alive and we’re conscious, so we’re aware of ourselves, but we’re not sure why we’re here in the first place. We’re looking for meaning and greater depth, and that’s what separates us from animals. Yet with all that ability to think clearly in so many ways, we seem to go for all the wrong options. For satisfaction, we seem to put money and fame as our goals and those would seem shallow human constructs to judge yourself by.

How was your approach different on this album? 

I developed a sense of confidence I hadn’t had before. I knew that I could play these instruments to a certain standard now, and I had a freedom to write for a band. Before, I never knew if anyone would ever hear my songs, but this time, I obviously knew they would. That was freeing, and so was not just writing in the privacy of my own room. I had the same band I’d been working with, not some hired guns. These are my friends, sitting in a studio with me, recording an album live.

How would you classify yourself as a guitarist?

Largely, I use the guitar as a medium to write. I wouldn’t necessarily hire myself for a band purely as a guitarist or a pianist, but I am far more confident in my abilities these days than I was last time out.

You’re not one to load songs with lyrics. Do you prefer a minimalist approach? 

For me, emotion can come as easily, or perhaps more easily, through melody than through words. To describe the feeling of loss would take a whole host of words, but if you have a string quartet to play a certain piece of music, you can probably instantly feel that.

You were one of the headliners at London’s Live Earth concert earlier this year. How did you become involved in environmental issues?

I was just kind of blown away by how much as humans we are responsible for phenomenal damage to the planet. And which we’re all responsible for that—myself included. Then I watched An Inconvenient Truth, and was really blown away by that. Prior to that what we were doing is with every ticket we sold online we were planting a tree as some way of at least putting something back that was natural rather than a human, physical construct. And then I started screening the movie—a preview of the movie—before all our concerts. I thought that was an important message to get across to people while we had a captive audience.

You’ve said in interviews that you like to have a few drinks before sitting down to write a song—is that true?

No, no, I’m always sober when I write. I guess it’s thrown into a conversation after someone asks ‘what’s your favorite color?’ They’ll ask ‘so how do you write?’ I’ll say almost anything out of boredom at that stage. I need to go out and experience life in order to write a song. You have to need to write, and in order to develop that need, I need to get out there—I can’t sit in a room for 10 years and just write about the room.