All Grown Up
McFly frontsman Danny Jones is enjoying life – from his stints on The Voice to impending fatherhood
Article by Andrew Steel, Photography by Andy Barnham
There is a point during Riddle’s hour-long conversation with Danny Jones where peak egosurfing is achieved, when the McFly frontman resorts to performing the musical equivalent of a Google self-search on Spotify. It’s not derived from any desire to fluff up his pride though; rather, the 31-year-old Lancastrian honestly cannot remember the name of the song he most regrets writing for the band; perhaps having intentionally suppressed all knowledge of it for good measure.
“I can’t think of the title!” he mock-cries in-between bouts of laughter at the ridiculousness of his task. “The problem is that the fans will know them by their actual titles; but when we’re demoing them, we call them something entirely different. Like Welsh Idea Four or something.” He cuts himself off with a cheer and another howl of laughter – his quest for the accursed ditty has been a successful endeavour. “Just My Luck! Oh no, I can’t stand it! That’s the one that doesn’t do it for me!”
A decade-and-a-half into his career, Danny is all grown up, doggedly avoiding the pitfalls of the transition from teenage pin-up to mature musician. Much can be attributed to his tight bond with his bandmates and his retention of youthful excitability. There’s a genuine likeability to him; grounded, engaging, untroubled and infectious in his passion. They are traits that crop up ubiquitously on nearly every topic touched upon, be it his role as judge on television show The Voice Kids, his impending fatherhood or his almost devout love of New Jersey rock legend Bruce Springsteen.
The former marks his first fully-fledged endeavour onto a television series, having guested on the odd show here and there. Rumours circulate that he’s on the cusp of signing up for The Voice proper, making the leap to the original for its seventh year in the winter – though he is quick to put them to bed, for now. “I don’t know where they’re coming from!” he laughs, embarrassed. “Obviously, I’m flattered, and it would be super amazing to do both, but I honestly can’t tell you because I don’t know anything about them.”
Regarding his time on the show so far though, he coaches it in nothing but positive terms. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It’s been great to mentor the kids in particular. At first, I didn’t really have confidence in myself, since playing an alter-ego as a frontman of a band is all I’ve ever really known in music. But to actually get to the nitty-gritty, it’s been nice that I can mentor these talents into what they want to become and bring the experiences of my own ups and downs in to help.”
How much of himself does he see in his protégés? “Every single one of them, I see a little bit here and there. They’re not bothered by the money or the fame, they’re singing for the love and the passion of music. That’s the ethos that I had then, and still hold to now. I never approach a gig thinking how much I could profit from it financially – and nor do they. It’s quite nerve-racking, for them and me, but we’re collectively giving it our all.” He chuckles. “It’s like being a schoolteacher almost; the problem is that I don’t have any grades to back it up!”
Danny is about to get to grips with one youngster on a more full-time basis than he expected to; in July, he and wife Georgia Horsley announced they were expecting their first child together. For the pair, it was an unexpected, but happy surprise after a weekend spent away at this year’s Coachella Festival in California. “A festival baby!” he laughs and grins. “I’m quite excited by it. We played it some classical music the other night, since that’s what you’re supposed to do. I’m holding off on the greatest hits album!”
He acknowledges that his own relationship with his dad – strained for long periods of his life – has influenced his own views on fatherhood. “It’s taught me a lot. It’s taught me how not to do certain things, or that how arguments between parents can upset not just the partner but the whole family. Your mum and dad are your first idols; you look up to them and admire everything that they do almost. No matter what happens, I chose to have this kid. It’s my duty, it’s my job, and I’ll be there for the rest of my life.”
The impending new arrival to his family is the arguable high point of a relatively quiet 2017 for Danny. He played in the #Game4Grenfell charity football match in early September, organised by Marcus Mumford and QPR to raise funds for people affected – “it’s the least we can do if football helps them in some way” – but that aside, has kept a relatively low profile, in the wake of McFly’s Anthology shows last autumn, where the group revisited their entire back catalogue.
“It was great to do that,” he notes, “because every song has its own story. Every album we’ve made, we’ve had an experience and so playing these old songs, they take us back to a time and place. These songs have been on journeys – like (first single) Five Colours in Her Hair. That’s gone from us playing clean guitars and singing like chipmunks to being something much more distorted and sung by men. It was one of the hardest things we’ve done, remembering sixty-four songs; properly intense. But I like a challenge and the fans loved it.”
Conversation naturally drifts to Springsteen, his childhood rock hero, and the veteran musician’s upcoming solo residency on Broadway – would it be something he’d be interested in replicating in the West End himself? “One hundred per cent, yes. I mean, that’s a great idea, isn’t it?” He pauses and chuckles. “Perhaps not for five months like him though. He’s pretty unbelievable – I mean, live, that’s too good to be jammed, right?”
His favourite song to perform by The Boss in his own home is Born in the U.S.A. cut My Hometown, and his album of choice is the Live in New York City release from the E Street Band reunion tour in 2000, at Madison Square Garden. America still holds a strong allure for him; it remains one of the few major territories he and McFly are yet to crack in earnest. Yet elsewhere in the world, in markets they’ve not visited for years, the passion remains inspiringly full-throated.
The band will regroup in the winter to begin work on what will be their first record since 2010 – and Jones is already eyeing up the next chapter. “I’ve just sent an interview back to some Brazilian fans,” he states, “and it’s just amazing that they’ve still got the loyalty and dedication after all this time. Their want for new music – it’s powerful, man. It makes us hungry, makes us want to give them what they deserve. We’re so lucky to have that fanbase.” And with that, he dives back into the Spotify wormhole, in search of tracks by The National and Sigrid. All grown-up indeed – but this is one man still in touch with the boy at the heart of his journey.
Location: The Rumpus Room, Mondrian London