The land of Abba proved the perfect location for Chrissie Hynde’s first solo album.
She headed to Sweden to record and work on the tracks and was so inspired she ended up naming the entire album Stockholm.
With a music career spanning 30 years and 25 million record sales under her belt, it’s a bit of a surprise to realise that Chrissie has never brought out a solo offering before.
But the singer behind classic songs like Brass In Pocket, Stop Your Sobbing, I’ll Stand By You and Don’t Get Me Wrong says she enjoys being part of a band and Stockholm was very much a collaboration.
American-born Chrissie first started rocking the UK when punk reigned and she led the Pretenders to chart success after chart success.
She started out studying art and even sold handbags in London’s Oxford Street for a time before her music career took off.
Now at the age of 62, her first solo album has certainly been worth the wait with tracks ranging from the single Dark Sunglasses to the haunting melody of Tourniquet.
It is six years since the last Pretenders album came out and Chrissie headed to the Ingrid Studios in Stockholm for the new album, which she recorded with co-writer, guitarist and producer Bjorn Yttling. “I wanted to make a power pop album you could dance to – Abba meets John Lennon,” she declares.
It’s certainly an album of surprises with appearances by Neil Young and even legendary tennis star John McEnroe.
She says she called John when she realised that producer Bjorn was a tennis enthusiast.
“These Swedish guys are very stoic. It takes a lot to impress them and when I saw there was a tennis racquet in the studio I realised he was a big tennis fan so I just said ‘What about John McEnroe?’
“I’d known John, gosh, I guess before his marriage to Tatum (actress Tatum O’Neal) and I found out he was in Sweden doing some tennis thing so I called him on the phone and he was there in 40 minutes.
“He’s a rock guy, he really should be in a band, and he played on some tracks and I think Bjorn was more impressed about John being there than if Keith Richards had turned up. He was “Yeah, yeah, yeah, put him on the album.”
John returned for another session when he was back in town and ended up playing guitar on the track called A Plan Too Far.
It’s hard to mention any famous name in the music industry that Chrissie does not know or has worked with. After all she has a daughter, Natalie, from her relationship with Ray Davies from The Kinks and another daughter, Yasmin, with Jim Kerr from Simple Minds.
“I really liked working with Willie Nelson, Emmy Lou Harris ... tons of people. Kings Of Leon, Michael Hutchence, Elvis Costello, Annie Lennox, but there are lots of people left.”
Chrissie has called London home for the last 40 years, but is happy to pack her bags and hit the road.
“I’m used to living out of a suitcase, I prefer it, sure it’s nice to come home to clean laundry, but I’m happy travelling.
“I just keep going. I can’t explain it. I couldn’t be like Kate Bush and take time out for 35 years. I couldn’t limp along for 35 years.”
Now bands put their music up online and it is out there in an instant, but Chrissie learned the business by picking up a guitar and playing. “I only know the old-fashioned way,” she says. “Some people think they can learn it in school, but you have to get out there and play.”
So why has it taken so long for the amazingly cool and ageless Chrissie to bring out her first solo album. “I like playing in a band,” she says simply. “Normally I’ll take most of the songs, written, to the band and the personalities make my songs sound better than they would if it was just me and a guitar.
“I’ve always said I would never be a solo artist. I never wanted to see my name in lights. I’ve done a variety of Pretenders albums with completely different line-ups and different producers. I’ve even done some co-writing now, and obviously the common denominator is yours truly.”
But Chrissie says she did a re-assessment of everything five years ago and decided it was time for a change and to “re-boot my brand.”
Recording at Ingrid Studios in Stockholm was all new to her and she says the album is very much a collaboration with influences ranging from the Merseybeat to the Philly Sound ... as well as a little bit of the Swedish city itself creeping in. “Stockholm was new to me and it was discovering a new world. It was the Swedish experience.”
She says the time was right for the album and Bjorn was the right person to work with. “Basically everyone on the album is Swedish. As I said, it’s more of a collaboration than any of the Pretenders albums.”
Chrissie says she takes life seriously, but in rock ’n’ roll either have a laugh or don’t come to the party. “It’s the irreverence in rock that was always the turn on.”
She points out: “I’m way past writing my break-up album. I’ve got 30 years of break-ups to call from. The thing is, I’m at a stage where I’m happy. I really enjoy life. I think being happy is a discipline, it’s something that every day you have to work on.”
Stockholm is 11 tracks of Chrissie at her heartfelt best. It’s a powerful and energised offering that shows The Pretenders singer is at the top of her game.
“I’ve never been very ambitious. I love playing music, and I wanted to make a power pop album that you could dance to. That’s all I cared about.”
* Stockholm is released on June 9. Chrissie Hynde will also be taking part in London’s 2014 Southbank Centre Meltdown Festival in June. Go to www.chrissiehynde.com for further details.
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