Published: 25 February 2010
by ROISIN GADELRAB
THE first time Babybird frontman Stephen Jones saw Johnny Depp, he was sitting under his desk, backside to the door, in a house in the King’s Road.
From these humble beginnings grew a long-term friendship, with Ol’ Jack Sparrow becoming so chummy with the Nottingham singer that he played guitar on and directed the video for Babybird’s current single Unlovable. The video also features This is England actor Stephen Graham.
Stephen first met Depp when he was filming Finding Neverland.
“I was summoned to come meet him,” says Stephen. “The first time I saw him he was under his desk with a guy that works with him... so the first thing I saw was their backsides.”
He credits Depp for making new album Ex-Maniac possible.
“I made it in LA and it was kind of paid for by Johnny Depp – it’s the best production of any album I’ve ever had. It’s got quite an American feel to some of the songs which I didn’t plan. I hope every song I write is different but you can’t change your voice that much so that always brands it as a Babybird record.”
He said Depp was “the same as most directors”, adding: “If something’s not going right they’ll tell you, but if it is they don'’t say anything.
“He did come and just tell me the odd thing but I got through it. It was very strange because there wasn’t any lip synching so it was almost like an acting job. The subject matter’s quite dark. We had a massive film set, four days shooting in the forest.”
Away from his Hollywood mates, Stephen enjoys a quiet life with his family in Belsize Park, and is a regular visitor to Camden market.
He said: “I love it, it’s a fantastic market, the best I’ve been to in the world. I love the horses and everything. I know it’s become more of a business but some of it is like entering another world, bits from Blade Runner, it’s changed for the good.”
It’s been a while since Babybird’s smash You’re Gorgeous and with the big hit behind him, Stephen is relishing working to his own tune.
He says: “Babybird’s maybe not as commercial as it could be because of the lyrics I like to write – the first line of the album is, ‘I will kill you said the five-year-old’. It’s not necessarily going to be easy to get it played on radio.
“I’m lucky because my big success came years ago, with You’re Gorgeous and that album. I didn’t really want it to be a massive success, it just happened. So after waiting a couple of years to go off the radar again, I’ve been lucky to do what I wanted – no commercial pressure, particularly with this new album. If it fails it doesn’t matter too much because we can make another.”
But, Stephen revealed, he has an incurable disease, menieres, which can affect his hearing.
“Van Gough apparently had it, one of the reasons he cut his ear off,” he says.
“It just happens because I’m into music I get this thing that affects my right ear. It’s okay, it’s very liveable, but some people get it and it’s terrible. You’re in the middle of the street, you look drunk just because your whole balance is gone and you’re falling all over the place. It’s horrible when it happens, I could be looking straight at you but everything is spinning round and I can’t focus.
“It’s kind of water pressure in your ear building up and you feel you’ve got a pea stuck in it. I get that every now and then. I’ve never had the bad episodes but it still affects you when you’re listening to music. You can only hear out of one side when the pressure builds up.”
• Babybird play Scala on March 25.