Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde talks about new tour, album
March 4, 2009
LOS ANGELES ” Not too long ago, Chrissie Hynde was still touring behind the same hits that have made her husky, vibrato-steeped voice one of the most memorable in rock ‘n’ roll.
Now the Pretenders’ frontwoman is revving up to launch a U.S. tou in support of “Break Up the Concrete,” the group’s first studio album in six years. While she may sing classics like “Brass in Pocket,” newer tunes will fill the bulk of her repertoire.
“We’ll be doing about eight or nine songs from the album. There’s the chance of people going to the bar when you launch into a new song, but I can’t do that greatest hits stuff anymore. We can play practically the whole album, and some of the rockers,” Hynde, 57, said in a phone interview from London, her main home since the 1970s.
The Pretenders’ new album, released last fall, is an Americana ode to love, loneliness and Hynde’s hometown of Akron, Ohio, where the longtime animal rights activist opened a vegan restaurant and bar in 2007. It was recorded for movie producer Steve Bing’s fledgling label Shangri-La Music.
Bing swept in during a down time for the band, when the group was label-less. He and Hynde connected during a Pretenders tour with ZZ Top.
“I said to Steve, ‘We don’t have a record deal and we don’t have a producer,”‘ said Hynde. “Steve said, ‘You’ve been doing this for 25 years, you don’t need a producer.’ No one had ever told me that before. I thought, ‘Let’s get this going!”‘
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Later, he pulled in legendary session drummer Jim Keltner ” whose credits include playing with John Lennon ” to work on the record (regular drummer Martin Chambers returns for the tour).
Though the album was recorded in 12 days in Los Angeles, much of it is informed by Akron. She acquired an apartment there to be closer to her aging parents and rediscovered the city after years away, from brisk autumn weather to local animal sanctuaries and her old record collection.
The title song, a jumping rockabilly tune, refers to the “red brick road where I grew up on” in Akron being “gone gone gone.” Numbers such as “Don’t Lose Faith In Me” have a country-ballad twang, filled with vulnerability: “The artist on the cover/ Is a phony and a crook/ I’m looking for you lover/ Show me where to look.”
“I’m referring to myself in that line,” Hynde said. “I get sometimes angry with myself. Sometimes I find myself saying, ‘You … phony.’ It goes like that until you crack it. It can be a torturous process.”
Hynde said her songwriting process after decades of music is much the same.
“It’s me alone with the guitar and a notebook. I don’t use too many gadgets. My methods haven’t changed,” she said.
As for the future, Hynde remains thankful that “I’m doing what I want to do.”
“Some people can get all their realizations in one place, being in the same town,” she said. “Some people have to move all the time. I feel more comfortable moving all the time. I wish I could stay still. But that’s how bands usually are.”