Hollywood may be the land of star-crossed romances, but Chrissie Hynde's version began two years ago at a party in London.
As the Pretenders frontwoman recalls it, she was propped up against the bar having polished off several screwdrivers, when JP Jones, apparently feeling little pain either, came up and introduced himself. Despite the noise and Hynde's foggy state of mind, Jones made an impression, and the two stayed in touch, trading text messages and song ideas.
At the same time, sparks were also flying on a more personal level. But the age difference — Jones is 31; Hynde, 59 — made the idea of romance unworkable. It did, however, serve as great inspiration for Fidelity!, the newly released debut album from JP, Chrissie and the Fairground Boys.
"With JP, because he's my muse, it was so easy to write these songs," recalls Hynde. "It was so fast because we would just write them to each other while we were looking at each other. It was really good fun, even though thematically it was kind of gut wrenching. Certainly we were crying when we wrote some of the songs."
Jones, a British songwriter whose band Grace garnered numerous Snow Patrol comparisons before getting dropped from EMI, credits the new partnership with enabling him to find his own voice as a songwriter.
"It's the first time that I've been really truthful and honest and completely heart-on-sleeve in the songs I'd been writing," explains Jones. "I was signed with a major label and being pushed to write hits for radio and stuff, whereas I discovered that you don't need to. True rock and roll is something that comes from the most truthful, honest place inside you. That's what Chrissie's taught me."
The duo began the album after the completion of a Pretenders tour, managing to write most of the songs in a single week. Appropriately enough, the album explores the story of two people who fall in love but can't act on their emotions because of their age difference.
The result is arguably the best record Hynde has made since the Pretenders' third album, Learning to Crawl, was released back in 1984. Songs like "Fairground Luck," "Courage" and "Australia" fall nicely into the mid-tempo pop-rock vein of such Pretenders' favorites as "Brass in Pocket" and "Kid." Others, like "Leave Me if You Must" and "Never Drink Again," suggest the country-leaning sound her group explored on 2008's Break Up the Concrete.
Hynde and Jones are further developing their partnership on tour now, playing much of Fidelity! as well as several other songs they expect to be on a second JP, Chrissie and the Fairground Boys album. Hynde says she's also enjoying sharing the stage with another front person.
"This is completely different, actually sharing the lead vocal with someone, and it's been a revelation," says Hynde. "I love it. This isn't the kind of thing you can buy in the shops. It's not something you can set out to do. It's like falling in love. You don't know when it's going to happen and all of a sudden it's there and you just have to deal with it. I mean, it's made me think what did I do right all these years that I've got this great gift at the end of it all."