‘80s trendsetter Howard Jones hits Atlanta with Retro Futura, new music and an inescapable legacy

By Gregg Shapiro

If the first acts that come to mind when you think of longstanding British new wave in the 1980s are The Cure, Depeche Mode and The Smiths, you’d be remiss if you left out one of the biggest influences, Howard Jones.

A musical presence since “New Song” was in rotation on the radio and on MTV in the early ‘80s, Jones lived up to the promise of that track with a series of unforgettable singles, including “What Is Love?,” “Things Can Only Get Better,” “Life In One Day,” “Everlasting Love,” and his biggest hit, “No One Is To Blame.”

Not one to sit on his laurels, Jones continues to make music to this day and hits Atlanta on Friday at Chastain. He chats here about his career, legacy, collaborations, and more.

In “New Song,” your first single as a solo artist, you sing “I don’t want to be hip and cool.” But you ended up a symbol of ‘80s music trends. Isn’t that ironic?

We were doing something different. We were using new technology. We were using video. It was new, and I guess, quite cool and hip [laughs]. But it wasn’t the intention to do that. It happened by accident.

There are echoes of ‘80s synth in EDM. Are there any of those artists with whom you might consider collaborating?

I really like an American artist called BT. I’m a huge fan of his, and I think he’s super talented and wonderful. Cerdri Gervais recently did a great remix of “Things Can Only Get Better,” which I really like.

Some of your biggest hits could be considered “advice” songs. What’s the best advice you were ever given?

I suppose one of the things you could say is that in those songs I’m probably talking to myself just as much as to anyone else. There’s a lot of sort of self-therapy going on there. For me, it was always reacting to something, rather than taking advice.

I always thought it was very important to be yourself and do what you do. It doesn’t matter what other people do. They do what they do. Only one person can do what you do. I don’t know where I got that philosophy from as a young person, but I definitely live my life like that.

You don’t want to be copying people. You want to be striking out in a new direction. That’s the way things move forward.

In addition old favorites, can Atlanta expect new work in your concert on Friday?

Yes. There’s new music from Engage. There’s also brand new music from the Eddie The Eagle film for which I wrote I couple of new songs. [The show] covers the whole career. I think it’s important to be playing new things that you’re doing, as well. It would be wrong not to play all the big hits. People really want you to do that; I totally get that, and I enjoy it.

Finally, the question that’s on people’s minds: Do you still think “no one is to blame”?

The way I try to live my life is that I am responsible for what happens in my life. I don’t look to blame other people and things outside of myself. It’s my life, it’s happening to me, I’m responsible. That still works. No one is to blame, except me [laughs].

Howard Jones plays Chastain Amphitheatre as part of the Retro Futura tour, which also includes Men Without Hats, the English Beat and Modern English on Friday, July 28 at 8 p.m. howardjones.com