If I ever feel better
Remind me to spend some good time with you
You can give me your number
When it’s all over I’ll let you know
One night less than two years ago, JP Jones, a former boy bander from Wales, approached rock goddess and Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde at a London party. A short time later, the two were in a hotel room in Cuba, falling in love and writing the bulk of what is now their debut album, Fidelity (the title was inspired by an abundance of pro-Fidel Castro signage). The beautifully intense record is a series of 11 songs that sound more like love letters Hynde and Jones wrote to, for, and about each other. Through deeply personal lyrics, the album tells the tale of their affair, leaving no sore spot untouched. On “Perfect Lover,” Hynde, 58, sings “I found my perfect lover, but he’s only half my age/He was learning how to stand when I was wearing my first wedding band.” Jones, 32, responds on “Leave Me if You Must”: “I’m jealous of your future, and I’m jealous of your past/In a temporary world where nothing’s meant to last/And I’m just about to sink into a rage of angry lust/So, run a mile, walk away, leave me if you must.” Hynde says she can’t give Jones what he wants - a wife and children. So instead, the two entered a musical marriage, forming the group JP, Chrissie, and the Fairground Boys, a six piece band they play with. I caught up with the duo just weeks after they began performing together on the road.
Chrissie, you’ve been the leader of the Pretenders for over 30 years. Why did you choose to collaborate with JP on your first non-Pretenders album? He’s the one who said, “I think we could write a good album together.” I was like, “Why would he want to encumber himself with someone who’s kinda at the end of this thing when he’s a new artist?” I didn’t see that as doing a favor for him. This is some of the best work I’ve ever done.
Did either of you worry that the album was too personal? C.H.: We wrote it so quickly, and it was just a conversation between two people. When we started performing, we did start to wonder if it was too… J.J.: Graphic. C.H.: We’ve played it for some people, and you look over and they’re in tears. We didn’t plan on depressing people. It’s a rock album, it’s supposed to be fun. So, live, it will be fun, though there’s a lot of emotional angst on there. J.J.: We do have fun, but performing just brings it up every time - the circumstance. So, that’s the hard bit.
Did you ever think the emotional wear and tear just wasn’t worth it? C.H.: No. This album is addressing the fact that we really get along together, but I’m too old for him; he wants things I can’t provide. But what we can do is have a band. If we weren’t singer/songwriters, we’d probably have no reason to see each other anymore, but we continue to hang out and see each other because we’re in this band.
The two of you have very strong voices, both literally and figuratively. Did that make it difficult to collaborate? J.J.: Not at all. I never found myself musically until I met Chrissie. She’s the biggest inspiration of my life. She’s the queen of rock. And when we started writing songs together, it was so obvious. C.H.: I fell in love with him, so it’s easy to write songs about someone you’re thinking about all the time and having this correspondence with. He would send me a lyric; I’d look at it and go write a song really, really, fast and text the lyrics back. If we get a mix, we play it together, just the two of us. We know what the emotion behind it is. It’s about the music, how it makes us feel. It’s not about getting stuff on the radio. J.J.: But we’re big radio supporters. C.H.: Oh, radio’s everything. But we’re not trying to kneel and suck to the marketplace. If you like it, welcome. If you don’t like it, nudge that dial.
Now that you’ve told your love story, what will the next album be about? C.H.: Who knows? Maybe it won’t be as personal. Maybe it won’t be telling this kind of sad story. J.J.: God, I hope not.
-by Sabrina Ford, Bust Magazine