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5 minutes alone - The Pretender's James Walbourne: "Chrissie gave me a ’57 Strat and I play it every night. Constantly. I’ve been told not to."

Chrissie Hynde and James Walbourne of The Pretenders perform at The Royal Albert Hall on April 10, 2017 in London, United Kingdom
(Image credit: Brian Rasic/WireImage)

Rock ‘n’ roll train

“When I listen to music on shuffle, and then Mystery Train comes on – it’s so primitive, and sounds so great, it takes me back. I always think, ‘Jesus Christ!’ It’s the sensibility of it.”

Quarantine the past...

“I see it with Chrissie [Hynde]. We’ve just made a record and it is ‘The New One’. She always thinks about the next thing. She does not look back. She has done a jazz record, with an orchestra, we’ve just did Hollywood Bowl with an orchestra. 

"We’ve reached a strange point, the way [nostalgia] has manifested itself as heritage acts. It’s just about bands coming back – it’s a very strange thing.”

(Image credit: Al Pereira/Getty Images)

People take pictures of each other...

It’s baffling. I see it especially when we play bigger gigs, like at an arena or something, and there’s people just talking on their phones in the front row.

“That’s something we talk about constantly. It’s unbelievable. It’s unbearable. Yeah, yeah it is a funny one. When watching a gig, it’s horrible. It’s baffling. 

"I see it especially when we play bigger gigs, like at an arena or something, and there’s people just talking on their phones in the front row. 

"Some people encourage it, though. Adele would encourage it. There is a whole generation that has been encouraged to take pictures, so when they go to another gig and someone doesn’t like it – like Jack White – and then they get annoyed by it.”

We are family...

“It is a unique band that way, where it is an extended family. I think part of that is from me growing up in and around music. 

"The Allman Brothers was a big, crazy, dysfunctional family, but it was a family, and when I first started travelling at nine, 10 years old and playing, my dad was always on the road with me. 

"When you put as much time as we do into this – especially the early days when we were on the road 300 days a year – these are the people who you are closest to in life. Those bonds are serious.”

Are you experienced?

My dad took me to see Stevie Ray Vaughan at Hammersmith, and the glitter-ball was going round to Life Without You. He was very loud; I remember that, and seeing some sick on the floor!

“I remember that Sinatra played with Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Laine, and it was at the Albert Hall. I think I was about eight years old. I loved New York, New York and all the big songs. 

"My dad took me to everything, like everyone. We sat in the cheap seats at the back, and that’s how we did it. I remember seeing him up there and singing.

"The same year my dad took me to see Stevie Ray [Vaughan] at Hammersmith, and the glitter-ball was going round to Life Without You. 

"He was very loud; I remember that, and seeing some sick on the floor! Stevie Ray then became a huge influence on me after he died. It’s funny how it works. I would not be doing it if it weren’t for those experiences.”

American honey

“My dad took me to the States when I was eight years old. We went on a Greyhound Bus all the way around. We went to New Orleans, to Memphis, all these amazing places. I was very lucky. 

"We went to see music. America was always the place to be, musically. I mean, I am a true Londoner. I would never move. But, musically, America is still that place."

Knock on wood…

“I have acquired guitars. I am not a collector. I play all of them. Chrissie gave me a ’57 Strat and I play it every night. Constantly. I’ve been told not to. 

"Well, y’know people, they just said it was worth too much money, too expensive to play. They should be played! I can’t really collect anything. My flat is so fucking small.” 

The Rails’ new album Cancel The Sun is out now on Thirty Tigers

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