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JP, Chrissie & The Fairground Boys

Change Gang: Chrissie Hynde gets inspired, loses The Pretenders.

By Dan Nailen
Posted // October 14,2010 - Ask Chrissie Hynde and her new songwriting partner, JP Jones, how much of the May/December romance dissected within the 11 songs on their first album together should be regarded as autobiographical by the listener, and you don’t get a straight answer.

“They’re the listener, they can read into them whatever they want,” Hynde says, more cagily than her typical straightforward way with words. “If we have to explain ourselves as songwriters, then we’ve kind of failed as songwriters. It’s like reading a book, a novel. You use your imagination, and the audience is welcome to read whatever they want into it.”

It’s pretty easy to read the tunes on Fidelity!, the first album by the band they dubbed JP, Chrissie & The Fairground Boys, as a direct reflection of Hynde and Jones’s burgeoning musical relationship. But that relationship might have never blossomed had the cheeky 31-year-old Jones not approached the 59-year-old Hynde at a party two years ago with designs on getting The Pretenders’ leader’s number.

Hynde obliged, then immediately left the country on a Pretenders tour. They chatted and texted while Hynde was away, and when the tour ended, a coffee date turned into a couple of weeks in a hotel suite in Havana, drinking, smoking and eventually writing a slew of songs about a couple who fall in love despite a dramatic age difference, only to realize the relationship is ultimately doomed.

“We didn’t plan to write together, but we’re both songwriters, so it’s like if two tennis players were hanging out together. They’d probably fancy a match,” Hynde says.

Despite the romantically tragic premise at its heart, Fidelity! is not in the least a downer of an album. Both Hynde and Jones sing lead on various songs and trade verses on others, unfurling a narrative that benefits from Hynde’s familiar voice and Jones’ whiskey-soaked growl on songs that hew closely to straightforward rock & roll while delving into country, pop and folk.

Both songwriters express surprise at how easily the songs came once they started working together. Hynde, despite doing a lot of recording and performance collaborations through the years, had never written songs with another person. And Jones, whose band Grace had a major-label deal before splitting up, had another deal in place that he turned down to pursue the project with Hynde.

“I was doing my own thing, writing songs, and I had another deal on the table with Universal, but I walked away from it to do this with Chrissie because I believe in these songs more,” Jones says.

Besides writing the songs together and forming a backing band out of some of Jones’ British mates, they formed a new label, La Mina, to release the album themselves, as well.

“It’s completely different than working with a major label, because every decision we make is our own,” Jones says. “It’s doesn’t get the kind of money spent on it that it might if it were through a major, but we like that because we want people to discover it and for it to be a slow build, for it to be respected and kind of found by people, as opposed to having it shoved down their throats.”

“Clearly, the industry has collapsed,” Hynde chimes in. “And I have to say, it’s the artists’ faults, too. They’ve allowed this to happen because they’re greedy little motherfuckers. They want the prize; they’re not so interested in the process. And the labels have lost their minds. They think they know better than the artists! They push the artists around, and the artists have become ‘Yes, sir! No, sir! Three bags full, sir! You want me to cut my hair? I will! You want me to push my tits out? I will, if you sell my record.’ But I’ve never done what anybody ever told me to do anyway, so that’s not my problem.”

Clearly, the straight-shooting Hynde we know and love did not get lost in that Havana hotel.

JP, CHRISSIE & THE FAIRGROUND BOYS
w/ Amy Correia
Eccles Center for the Performing Arts
1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City
Saturday, Oct. 16, 7:30 p.m.
$18-$65

Dan Nailen:
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