If you are going to pick a fight, even a war of words, it is probably best not to square off against a soldier.

During his army career James Blunt has had a stand off with the Russian army over who was to control a Kosovan airport. He also questioned an order from an American general to take the airport by force, concerned it might kick off a greater global conflict.

He is certainly not going to be rattled by a few Twitter trolls taking exception to his songs or perceived poshness.

“Anyone in the public eye gets that kind of criticism,” says James.

“Where are these people?,” he continues.

“I think they are probably at home, in their bedroom, in the shadows, perhaps with their trousers round their ankles, writing nasty words on Twitter.

“They don’t have the courage to turn up to a concert.

“The level of effort and commitment to their hatred is incomparable to the people who actually turn up with all their love of a musician or band.

“No one ever talks about the 10,000 people who turned up to my concert last night, who bought tickets, hotel rooms, train tickets, flights even, and queued up for hours.

“Instead it is the handful of negative comments on a digital platform.”

Sometimes he decides to put his detractors back in their places with a combination of self deprecating wit and sarcasm and there are “Why James Blunt wins at Twitter” threads dedicated to his witty comebacks.

For example: “James Blunt just has an annoying face and a highly irritating voice,” is met with “And no mortgage”. and the rather more succinct “F**k James Blunt”, is swatted down with a “I‘m sorry, but you’ll have to get to the back of the queue.”

“I am really on Twitter laughing at them for taking their opinions quite so seriously and laughing at myself,” he adds. “I hope it is only ever taken with good humour.”

His genuine fans will be turning up to the NIA in November when the newlywed James – he married Sofia Wellesley, the granddaughter of the Duke of Wellington, this month – and his band mates will be rolling into the city with his Moon Landing tour.

They won’t linger too long to take in the newly refurbished arena and its sky needles, however, as the first priority will be to find a shower.

“I’ll have just climbed off my home, which is in a bus. It has 12 men on it and 12 bunks. We sleep in beds the size of coffins and live in very close proximity for 18 months.

James Blunt's Moon Landing album
James Blunt's Moon Landing album
 

“Touring is without the glamour that people expect. It is like a glorified camping holiday.”

When a convoy of two tour buses and five trucks, it must seem like a mini invasion to the locals living nearby.

But with six years with the Life Guards (a unit of the Household Cavalry) under his belt, the 40-year-old former Captain James Hillier Blount (he dropped the o for his stage name is used to that reaction.

“I have said before that I used to go round the world with a bunch of blokes in a tank and now my tank is just a bit more comfortable and we go to places that aren’t quite so dangerous.”

It is perhaps his army training that has helped James mould his fellow musicians into a tight knit band of brothers.

“Remarkably for the length of time I have been touring now, my band and crew are closer than ever before. We are totally reliant on each other and get on very well.”

Once they have washed the fug of the road off them, they do like to explore the cities and towns they find themselves in.

“We try and look round for an hour if we can. We have got a bunch of bicycles on our trucks and we ride round and do a bit of speed tourism.”

When they arrive in Birmingham he says they will be expecting drummer Karl Brazil, a Birmingham City Football supporter who was born in Solihull, to show them its best bits.

“It will be a little homecoming for him. He claims he knows where the best spots are. We will see.”

He remains confident of a warm welcome from fans, and not just because Karl can call on his family to lead the cheers.

“For my sins I come from down South (he was born in Wiltshire and went to school at Harrow) where audiences are much more quiet. It is always nice to get just a little bit north of that and you get an audience which is more fun and engaging. I can’t wait.”

Of course with such a rigorous schedule it is not surprising that James sometimes finds it hard to keep up with which country, never mind city, he is in.

It is a musician’s nightmare that they walk on and do a shout out to where they think they are only to get it completely wrong.

“I might have been known to do that,” says James, sheepishly. “That is why at the very top of the set list it does say the name of the city, so I get it right.”

He has been performing in stadiums since being taken under Elton John’s wing as a support act for him .

“My first show I did was with 50 people and the second show I ever did was to 45,000 at Ipswich football stadium and it was just an amazing opportunity.

“Elton is an incredibly generous human being. He actually owns the management firm who look after me, Rocket Music. Obviously he is the Rocket Man.

“We toured round South America as well in front of tens of thousands of people.

“I find it quite hard to remember the emotion, I am sure it was probably quite frightening. From knowing that my own audiences were only in the dozens at that stage and to see a stadium’s worth of people is just incredible.”

And getting a break by simply performing is, he feels, a more traditional way of earning your success.

“I suppose in the world of the TV talent shows that we have got it is a very different thing.

“Having a support slot is much more natural. It is not about a back story and TV editing and a competition.

“It is really just a case of you standing on a stage in front of people who don’t know you, playing your heart out, and whether they like it or not.”

It took until James’s third single for audiences to decide that they really did like him. When his album Back to Bedlam (recorded while he was staying in LA with his friend the actress Carrie Fisher) first came out a decade ago it was, he acknowledges, “to universal indifference”.

That changed with the release the third track from it, You’re Beautiful. The melancholic tribute to lost love stuck in the hearts and ears of unrequited romantics aided by a video that saw James stripping off his top on a snowy cliff before leaping into the icy waters below, like a musically maudlin Bear Grylls .

James is now on his fourth album, Moon Landing, which he recorded with Back to Bedlam producer Tom Rothrock.

The theme is the journey he made to find and work with Rothrock again, rather than any youthful obsession with the Apollo missions.

“I wasn’t fascinated with rockets and flights, I think I am happier on planet earth,” he says.

“We locked ourselves away in a studio for a year and we have made something that sounds kind of old school and lonely, nostalgic and hopefully beautiful.

“Each album is different, Moon Landing for me is something very special in the making and in the sound. It’s something I am really proud off and I don’t think I will replicate again. It’s a one off thing.

On stage he promises “a socking great Moon Landing production. We have these kind of lunar modules on stage and incredible light show. It looks incredible”.

He even has a specially sourced costume.

“I have a MiG pilot’s flight suit. Mine is a Chinese pilot’s g-suit (China produced a plane based on the famous Soviet jet fighter) designed so they don’t lose consciousness at high altitude puling high g corners.

“I bought it on eBay.

“In context it all adds up to something that is the Moon Landing tour. From a distance I look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.”

Audiences have been receptive to the new material, though James knows that he has to pay his dues on tour playing You’re Beautiful or Goodbye My Lover.

While guesting as a judge on X Factor Australia he commented that he sang songs he hated every night but simply thought about the money and that made him smile.

“I was entirely joking,” he stresses. “I sing songs I love and that means a lot to me. If the audience are really enjoying what you are playing it is pretty difficult not to enjoy the experience.”

* James Blunt’s Moon Landing Tour will be at the NIA on November 23 For tickets contact www.theticketfactory.com or 0844 338 8000.