INTERVIEW: Stephen Jones on Babybird, Johnny Depp and music (with the Sheffield Telegraph)

FROM Hunter's Bar to filming with Johnny Depp, Babybird's career has been varied as it has prolific. But despite being the brains behind clever lines such as Too Handsome to be Homeless, one thing has always stuck: that catchy, anthemic, chart-topper from 1996 – You're Gorgeous. Until now. Babybird, aka Stephen Jones has just finished his sixth album, Ex-Maniac, telling of heartache, drugs and roadside women. Tracks include the lush and heart-achingly astute Unlovable, in which the singer-songwriter tells the tale of a break-up in which no party is particularly lovable. The track is also the subject of his latest video, which is being directed by Johnny Depp.

But Depp's talents aren't restricted to film – the A-lister also plays guitar on the track. And, remarkably, Depp completed the guitar parts in a mere few hours, a fact that made Jones somewhat nervous at first but amazingly – the actor got it just right, a testament to his guitar-playing background. "Music was Johnny's first love," says Jones, "he played in a band with Bruce Witkin, who produced Ex-Maniac." Indeed, it was Depp – a big fan of Babybird – who introduced the Grammy-nominated Bruce Witkin of Unison Music to Jones. Depp admired Babybird's music for a number of years and decided to look the singer-songwriter up eight years ago. Depp wasn't alone. Jones has a loyal following – there are umpteen online communities, blogs, forums and constantly-breaking coverage of the artist's live schedule. Babybird have sold more than two million albums since the mid-nineties. Releases include the critically-acclaimed Bugged, which contained the Gordon Ramsey theme tune the F-Word, and Between My Ears There Is Nothing But Music. Jones says of the album: "Everything I do is autobiographical, whether it's directly from me or stuff that I've experienced."

He started to hone his lyrical craft as young as nine years old, writing poems that he describes as being "not very good." After failing his English O-level several times he concluded that academic accreditation didn't have to apply to rock and roll. Jones has written novels, however, and admits that, although his songs are narrative-based, it's much harder to cram a story into a pop song than a novel. "You have to cut corners in a way," he says, admitting that in a song the story can't always be made simple for the listener. At least in his latest video, Jones has more scope for a narrative. Jones says the video has been produced in a way that it can exist independently of the song and will last about ten or eleven minutes. "It's like a short film," he says. The video was filmed at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire – home of the home of the 7th Marquess of Salisbury. "I can't say too much because we're trying not to talk about the actual video but it's something that we could do because it was Johnny Depp directing it but if I was with a record company and I wanted to make a video they wouldn't necessarily let me." Jones says he strives to make everything special: "I think everyone would say that – apart from those people that write to order, I don't know how much emotion goes into those. But we wouldn't put a track on here that we didn't think it was special."

And, despite the fact You're Gorgeous is a catchy, jukebox-friendly anomaly in Jones' recording career, the proceeds from the song have allowed him to continue writing the music he wants to write. "It made a huge difference to my life but I get money from that so it means I can do the things I want to do." The song, which was understood as a besotted love song, was misinterpreted, according to Jones, "I can't tell people how to interpret the song," he says, "but the song's actually about male photographers who want to use women to sell things using sex." The monster hit came with a price, however. Jones was living in Sheffield at the time but had to leave for London because people were constantly stopping him.

Jones now lives in London with his girlfriend of 20 years and two children. "We're not married but we need to be because then I can call her the wife – I call her that anyway because 'girlfriend' doesn't sound as good and if I say 'partner' people might think I'm gay." For his Sheffield show, Jones will be joining forces with two of his original Sheffield Babybird line-up. "I think they're a bit nervous about the gig because it's their home town." Commenting on the lasting musical relationship between him and his bandmates, he says: "If you can find a handful of people you like you've got to hold on to them."

Stephen Jones, aka Babybird, plays at the Leadmill on Tuesday (November 10).

Read more at: https://www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk/business/direct-link-to-hollywood-superstar-for-babybird-1-457413
FROM Hunter's Bar to filming with Johnny Depp, Babybird's career has been varied as it has prolific. But despite being the brains behind clever lines such as Too Handsome to be Homeless, one thing has always stuck: that catchy, anthemic, chart-topper from 1996 – You're Gorgeous. Until now. Babybird, aka Stephen Jones has just finished his sixth album, Ex-Maniac, telling of heartache, drugs and roadside women. Tracks include the lush and heart-achingly astute Unlovable, in which the singer-songwriter tells the tale of a break-up in which no party is particularly lovable. The track is also the subject of his latest video, which is being directed by Johnny Depp. ADVERTISING But Depp's talents aren't restricted to film – the A-lister also plays guitar on the track. And, remarkably, Depp completed the guitar parts in a mere few hours, a fact that made Jones somewhat nervous at first but amazingly – the actor got it just right, a testament to his guitar-playing background. "Music was Johnny's first love," says Jones, "he played in a band with Bruce Witkin, who produced Ex-Maniac." Indeed, it was Depp – a big fan of Babybird – who introduced the Grammy-nominated Bruce Witkin of Unison Music to Jones. Depp admired Babybird's music for a number of years and decided to look the singer-songwriter up eight years ago. Depp wasn't alone. Jones has a loyal following – there are umpteen online communities, blogs, forums and constantly-breaking coverage of the artist's live schedule. Babybird have sold more than two million albums since the mid-nineties. Releases include the critically-acclaimed Bugged, which contained the Gordon Ramsey theme tune the F-Word, and Between My Ears There Is Nothing But Music. Jones says of the album: "Everything I do is autobiographical, whether it's directly from me or stuff that I've experienced." TripAdviser has revealed the best airlines in Europe for a range of categories as part of its annual Travellers' Choice Awards These are the best airlines in Europe, according to TripAdvisor He started to hone his lyrical craft as young as nine years old, writing poems that he describes as being "not very good." After failing his English O-level several times he concluded that academic accreditation didn't have to apply to rock and roll. Jones has written novels, however, and admits that, although his songs are narrative-based, it's much harder to cram a story into a pop song than a novel. "You have to cut corners in a way," he says, admitting that in a song the story can't always be made simple for the listener. At least in his latest video, Jones has more scope for a narrative. Jones says the video has been produced in a way that it can exist independently of the song and will last about ten or eleven minutes. "It's like a short film," he says. The video was filmed at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire – home of the home of the 7th Marquess of Salisbury. "I can't say too much because we're trying not to talk about the actual video but it's something that we could do because it was Johnny Depp directing it but if I was with a record company and I wanted to make a video they wouldn't necessarily let me." Jones says he strives to make everything special: "I think everyone would say that – apart from those people that write to order, I don't know how much emotion goes into those. But we wouldn't put a track on here that we didn't think it was special." And, despite the fact You're Gorgeous is a catchy, jukebox-friendly anomaly in Jones' recording career, the proceeds from the song have allowed him to continue writing the music he wants to write. "It made a huge difference to my life but I get money from that so it means I can do the things I want to do." The song, which was understood as a besotted love song, was misinterpreted, according to Jones, "I can't tell people how to interpret the song," he says, "but the song's actually about male photographers who want to use women to sell things using sex." The monster hit came with a price, however. Jones was living in Sheffield at the time but had to leave for London because people were constantly stopping him. Jones now lives in London with his girlfriend of 20 years and two children. "We're not married but we need to be because then I can call her the wife – I call her that anyway because 'girlfriend' doesn't sound as good and if I say 'partner' people might think I'm gay." For his Sheffield show, Jones will be joining forces with two of his original Sheffield Babybird line-up. "I think they're a bit nervous about the gig because it's their home town." Commenting on the lasting musical relationship between him and his bandmates, he says: "If you can find a handful of people you like you've got to hold on to them." Stephen Jones, aka Babybird, plays at the Leadmill on Tuesday (November 10).

Read more at: https://www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk/business/direct-link-to-hollywood-superstar-for-babybird-1-457413