■ The Stereophonics frontman, 45, on his formative years in Wales, why he still needs dad’s approval and his solo tour
Why are you doing a solo tour?
The last one I did was in 2007 and the main reason for doing it is to work with different people and try different things. I’ve written over 160 songs and a bunch of those are played in Stereophonics shows but a lot don’t fit within a big arena show. This is an opportunity to play them in a different way. There’s a violinist and a trumpet player — it’s different arrangements, different instruments.
What inspired your last single, Chaos From The Top Down?
It’s sung from the imagined perspective of a kid who was killed on my street. The song is about young people left in a situation with nothing to do and I’ve been writing about that stuff since 1996. It’s about opportunities for young people and those usually stem from the top down. Most of the songs are about situations that happen around me — it’s about a kid who got killed in my street and my experience of being brought up in the South Wales valleys and seeing kids in my school being killed.
What was happening in South Wales when you grew up?
There was a lot of kids jumping in front of trains, drug problems, kids jumping off bridges, under the influence of things and doing things they wouldn’t have done otherwise. I grew up in the late 1980s and there was a lot going on. There wasn’t knife crime but there was a lot of young deaths and I was in plenty of school assemblies where teachers said, ‘so and so died last night’. I’ve got three kids and it’s a very real situation — especially when you’re walking the kids to school and there’s police everywhere after an incident.
Are you worried enough to move out of London?
I’m not going anywhere. The kids all know what’s going on in life. You can’t avoid what’s happening in the world whether you live in London, Paris or Cardiff, s*** happens everywhere.
Your dad Arwyn sang in clubs. Was he a big inspiration?
My dad sang in working men’s clubs and had a record on the jukebox in the pub because he’d made a couple of records with Polydor. Dudley Moore played the piano on one of them and the London Philharmonic was on there as well. He opened for Roy Orbison for five nights at Batley Variety Club. I’d hear all these stories when I was growing up. When I was 12, I’d go around the clubs with my dad and see how he worked the crowd and I did my first gig the same year.
What did he sing?
When I was watching him he did soul stuff, which sounded like Sam Cooke. He was a big influence and we’re still very tight. As with most kids and their dads I still seek his approval, I suppose. If I’m on the telly I still wait for his text to come through to see if I was any good.
Has your father given you any critiques?
So many. But my parents have been supportive. I used to send off 12 different tapes each week to 12 different record companies trying to get a record deal when I was growing up. My parents had a lot of belief in me because of my tenacity. They always backed me up but they weren’t the sort of parents who wiped your a***. I did my first gig at 12 and got signed at 22.
What was the first song you wrote about?
The first songs are on Word Gets Around. Local Boy On The Photograph is about a friend of mine who played in the local football team. I worked on a fruit and veg stall in the market from the age of 16 and he came in and asked what times the trains were and we told him. We then saw his photo in the paper and found out he’d jumped in front of a train and we couldn’t work out why. When you’re a teenager you have no idea why someone would do that. The rest were sarcastic songs about things like playing weddings and someone in the band shagging the bridesmaid. The songs on that album had a beginning, middle and end, and most came from dialogue I was writing for screenplays at film school.
Do you still write screenplays?
Yes, Graffiti On The Train came from the album we did a few years ago. It was all cast and in production but we missed a funding window and the band went on tour again. I was going to direct that myself — I’ve directed our last five videos to get my foot back in the door.
Is it annoying your screenplays haven’t been produced yet?
No, I’ve had requests from lots of producers who want to work with me. I’ve had good opportunities with two of them but they needed a proper dedication of time and we’ve been on the road for the last three albums doing stadiums and arenas. It’s not frustrating. There’s no age limit on when you can do films but with music you need to get out there when you still look half decent.
■ Kelly Jones plays London’s Eventim Apollo on Sunday, stereophonics.com/kellytour