Stereophonics frontman Kelly Jones on fatherhood, the pandemic, and being ready to strap on a guitar again

The Welsh rocker talks to Alex Green about hitting the road with the band’s new album.

“I’ve been moving very fast for the last 25 years,” says Kelly Jones as reflects on his time in Stereophonics.

The Welsh rockers are rehearsing in London ahead of the release of their 12th album Oochya!, a collection of personal songs written mainly during lockdown.

May 2020 saw the singer, guitarist and primary songwriter become a father for the fourth time, but he still managed to find time to craft a new album.

The 47-year-old, instantly recognisable for his rasping yet glossy voice, wrote two or three songs with the intention of including them in an updated greatest hits compilation.

But, once he started writing, he found himself returning to unused songs from the vault, such as Hanging On Your Hinges, and working towards an entire album.

“Songs, they find their place,” he muses. “I don’t see them as old or new. They are always going to be new to the audience, no matter when they were written.”

One older track that made it onto the album was Forever, which Jones says is about freedom and escape.

“That song was about when my youngest – my first kid at the time – was going through cancer when they were like 18 months, 19 months old. It was relevant then but I never released the song.

“But then, as life goes on, you have other challenges in your life and I just thought the lyric was quite, it wasn’t ambiguous, but it was open for interpretation.

“I hadn’t forgotten about it. I had the song there. But it fitted the feeling of the record. Because as much as the song was about something very, very personal, the sentiment of how the song makes you feel, is quite celebratory.”

Stereophonics have scored a staggering seven UK number one albums since their formation in the Welsh village of Cwmaman. But Jones is reluctant to reflect on their successes too much.

“I don’t keep a diary, but the way I write lyrics, if I go back over all the albums, I can see who I was at that point,” he says.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, that is the blessing and the curse of being a lyric writer. It all comes out in one way or other.”

Fatherhood, however, has changed his outlook on life. He has two children with his former partner, Rebecca Walters, and two with his wife, MTV journalist, Jakki Healy.

“It’s very interesting how much a young person can write,” he says, looking back at the band’s early years. “I was probably 18 or 19 writing [debut single] Local Boy In The Photograph or A Thousand Trees.

“It’s weird now, because my oldest kid is 17 turning 18. When you see a gauge in front of you about what a real teenager is, and then I look back to the songs I was writing around about that age, that makes me feel like, ‘Wow, I was pretty intensely into it – working very hard at it’.

“That’s the bit I find the most interesting, is how young we all are when we are doing that stuff that gets you established in the first place.”

(Ignition/PA)

When the band head out on tour in March, playing stadiums and arenas, it will be about two years since their last outing proper (they played some shows last winter to celebrate 20 years since the release of Just Enough Education To Perform).

“Touring is going to be different,” he says. “It’s quite intense, because everybody has to do all the testing and all the rest of it. We can’t quite step into the rest of the world yet.

“There’s little parts of Europe that are now opening up for festivals, but overseas travel is going to be quite complicated. We’re just going to take it step by step.

“We’ve planned a really good show for these arenas and we have 12 albums’ worth of catalogue and the new record to celebrate. We’re going to do a great show – its just about 25 years we’ve been on the road.”

Since their debut album in 1997, Stereophonics have maintain a dogged touring schedule.

“It’s what we do,” says Jones. “Stopping was quite a strange thing, because as much as my brain wanted to stop, my body was going, ‘What the f*** is going on?’ The adrenaline was going, ‘Aren’t we normally moving? Aren’t we normally releasing our energy performing?’

“It took me a while for my body and mind to come into sync for the last two years. But now I’m ready to get back to performing and into the natural position of having a guitar strapped around my neck.”

Oochya! by Stereophonics is out on March 4