Chrissie Hynde : Singer is back in Akron with a new album, new band, same attitude

Updated: November 17, 2014
Chrissie Hynde : Singer is back in Akron with a new album, new band, same attitude

Rock legend Chrissie Hynde is back with an album called, “Stockholm,” and a new band that is not called the Pretenders.

After fronting the Pretenders for 35 years, Chrissie Hynde, 62, is finally recording and touring under her own name as Chrissie Hynde and the Will Travel Band.

Ostensibly, the difference may seem minor since Hynde has been the unquestioned leader of the Pretenders since original members guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon (who was fired from the group) died within a year of each other in the early 1980s when the band was on the rise.

But Hynde has long touted that she prefers being in a band — even if she’s totally in charge — to the seemingly ego-driven, all-eyes-on-me path of a solo artist.

“For 35 years, I’ve said, ‘I’ll never go solo,’ ” Hynde told the Guardian shortly before the release of the album. “But after a period of time — and this isn’t just for an artist, but for anybody — all the things you never wanted to do eventually become the only things left that you haven’t done. So they start looking pretty interesting.”

Despite being touted as her debut solo effort, Hynde considers Stockholm a collaborative album between her and Bjorn Yttling, a songwriter and producer who has worked with singer Lykke Li and Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand and is the bass-playing third of pleasant indie rockers Peter Bjorn and John.

Hynde and Yttling co-wrote all but two of the album’s 11 tracks, which were co-written with fellow Swedish musician Joakim Ahlund of the Caesars, and the backing including Ahlund and Yttling was composed of Swedish musicians.

Keeping with Yttling’s catch-all post-modern style, the album touches on many sub-genres of rock. There’s early ’50s rock in You or No One, a little Pretenders-style guitar growl on Dark Sunglasses, room for guest guitarist Neil Young to wail on Down the Wrong Way (called “The Neil Young Song” during the recording process) and dips into peppy indie pop on You’re the One. A Plan Too Far sports some noir-ish guitar licks provided by Hynde’s buddy and tennis legend John McEnroe.

The Pretenders’ last album, Break up the Concrete, was released in 2008, and Hynde seemed to all but disappear from the music scene save for her 2010 album Fidelity, featuring Welsh singer/songwriter J.P. Jones.
But in 2014, Hynde has been all over the place, including an appearance on The Colbert Report where she flustered the blustery host by asking him if he was flirting with her, and performances with the band on various late-night talk shows.

But Hynde, a longtime and usually quite vocal activist for animal rights and environmentalism, has in recent years decided to simply “offer music,” telling the Guardian, “If you talk about something that’s really important to you and someone doesn’t want to know, they won’t respond very well to that. So just shut up. Being quiet is important. We could all use more of that. More quiet.”

But when properly prompted, she can still dish out some of the patented B.S.-less Hynde speak.

“I’m not big on awards,” Hynde told on the subject of the Pretenders’ induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“To summarize my feelings about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: when I got into this game, it was very anti-establishment and it was about not joining the establishment, and institutions like that make it an establishment. So that’s why it doesn’t sit well with me, it doesn’t feel like rock and roll to me,” she said.

Hynde has also never embraced her status as an iconic “woman in rock” or the challenges of which many female artists discuss.

“I never had to work harder ’cause I was a girl; I think I got away with murder. The buck stops with the artist. I think there’s a lot of whingeing,” she told the Telegraph this summer.

“You hear women say someone told them what to wear. Already I’m lost. Why didn’t you tell them to f— off? To me, that’s such a simple one.”
Hynde has been playing music for nearly four decades and is now on a 25-date tour of the United States backed by a mostly new band of relative youngsters and guitarist James Walbourne who has been a member of the Pretenders for six years.

During the tour, the more than 20-song setlists have been leaning on Pretenders material, mixing expected hits such as Back on the Chain Gang with more deeper tracks such as Biker from 1999’s Viva El Amor alongside a smattering of songs from Stockholm.

As to whether Hynde will continue her solo route or reignite the Pretenders for future recordings:

“Yeah sure, maybe. I would be heartbroken if I never did any more shows with Martin Chambers.”

Opening for Hynde will be Half-Cleveland, a band composed of former members of old-school Akron rock bands featuring Harvey Gold (Tin Huey), Chris Butler (Tin Huey and the Waitresses) Bob Ethington (Tin Huey and Unit 5) and Hynde’s longtime friend Debbie Smith Cahan (Chi-Pig).