James Blunt, the former Guards officer turned romantic pop singer, is set for a courtroom battle in the long-running dispute over the authorship of six songs from his mega-selling first album.
Royalty payments to the ex-Harrovian were suspended last year after a claim by Lukas Burton, aLos Angeles record producer, who said he co-wrote the tracks with Blunt when the singer was little more than a raw young talent embarking on a career in the music industry.
Burton, who has worked with stars including Dido and Sir Paul McCartney, is seeking royalties for the tracks "Goodbye My Lover", "No Bravery", "Cry", "I Don't Believe", "I Really Want You" and "Don't Lose Yourself".
They were eventually recorded on Blunt's first album Back to Bedlam, which sold 14 million copies worldwide, making it the second biggest-selling album of the century so far. Blunt insists he wrote the songs either while serving as an officer with the British Army in Kosovo in 1999, at his flat in Bristol or at his parents' Hampshire home as early as 1989.
The singer's publicist confirmed yesterday that he and his publishing company EMI were asking the High Court to settle the dispute. "This is true. It is all a matter for the public record," she said.
If the matter reaches court, it raises the intriguing prospect of seeing Blunt explaining intimate details of the creative process behind some of the most lucrative love songs in modern music.
Details of the dispute between the singer and producer emerged in an extraordinary blog in which Burton vented his spleen about the fallout. Describing Blunt as a "folky balladeer who's shifted a couple of million records in the UK and is set to be the next big thing in the world (this year at least...)" he described meeting the Briton through a former girlfriend in 2001.
"His stuff was crude, occasionally laughably direct, and betrayed his relative lack of musicianship or discernible influence," he wrote. "But I kind of loved the guy. He was great looking in a short-arsed Tom Cruise-y kind of way and he had this girlish singing style that brilliantly offset his back story." He added: "It would probably be an overstatement to say that in terms of his professional musical aspirations James had nothing going on, but he definitely had next to nothing going on."
According to Burton, Blunt was ordered to sever all ties with him when he signed a new management deal. "I wasn't so much angry, just completely gutted... I had breathed life into it and I simply couldn't believe that the universe was going to repay me with such abject treachery."
Blunt, whose second album is due for release in September, went on to become the first British artist in nine years to have a No 1 hit in the United States. His song "You're Beautiful" has become the most popular track in the UK for couples to get married to - surpassing Robbie Williams's "Angels".
A spokeswoman for the MCPS-PRS Alliance, which handles royalty disputes, declined to comment on the case. "Whenever there is a dispute we suspend the royalties until they have sorted the situation out which can be either in or out of court," she said.