You pays your dues...

From Chicago mail office to Harrods shoe department: it's been an education. Jasper Rees goes on the PR stump with John Prine

John Prine is in the toy department of Harrods, giving a studious once-over to a range of clockwork boats and dolphins. They look robust enough for a lifespan of perhaps three bathtimes. A couple of them are destined to share the tub back in Nashville with young Jack Prine. If he doesn't get too rough with them, maybe his younger brother, due any day now, will get to destroy them instead.

This is as close as you'll get to a modern rock star. Prine has never been a willing player in standard industry practices; he even founded his own record company so he could call himself president. He's in the odd position of being not only his own boss, but his own client, too. He's here because he's told himself to get his ass over to London, England, and promote the new product. When he drops into Harrods one lunchbreak to promote family harmony, he doesn't mind at all if a witness tags along.

A Dylanologist would get a book out of this. A Prinologist gets a couple of paragraphs. When Prine first surfaced in Chicago in the late Sixties, he was hailed as the next croaker with a conscience from the Midwest. Atlantic signed him up and squeezed the albums out of him. After 25 years singing his own bitter-sweet, ever so slightly wacky compositions, the pace of his career has slackened agreeably. Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings on Oh Boy Records, for instance, took over two years to make - a period mostly consisting of well-earned rests.

His schedule in London calls for a degree of acceleration, but nothing to cause even mild perspiring. Monday, it's off to VH-1 in Camden, the grown-up arm of MTV, to record an interview with Robert Sandall. The itinerary says "Please bring guitar" - as if Prine would go anywhere without it. Sandall, in a white suit and no socks, asks him what it was like being a mailman in Chicago in the Sixties. Prine describes the knock-on effects of having a big hit with his last album. "The dressing rooms keep getting better and better," he says. One day, they'll be fit for a president. They get their pound of flesh at VH-1. For the left-field country series, "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way", Prine introduces a bunch of songs, mostly by his Nashville neighbours, that will go out over four weeks. To make it look like the anecdotes weren't all done on the same afternoon, he customises his appearance between takes by rolling up his sleeves, or even changing his shirt.

After that, there's a short Mojo interview, conveniently conducted on the premises by a VH-1 employee. "Actually it wasn't very short," says Prine. He prefers radio interviews, "because you've got your guitar with you". So thank God it's Tuesday, which finds him in Studio 1a at GLR in Marylebone, on Johnny Walker's show. "Please bring guitar," advises the itinerary. Walker, like Sandall, is a fairly typical Prine interviewer: middle-aged, middle-length hair, knows his way round the biog. He asks him what it was like being a mailman in Chicago.

The session is recorded to play later in the week on Richard Wootton's Friday night country show, for whom he'll be standing in. GLR, the BBC's London station, is an important staging post on the promotional round. "It's not a huge audience," explains Wootton, who also happens to be Prine's publicist, "but they really listen." The same cannot be said for Radio 1, where the audience is not small but its attention span is often said to be.

After the session at Harrods (in which, Prinologists will want to be told, their man could have composed a song in the time it took to buy his wife a pair of red shoes and matching handbag), Prine moves on to record a slot for Britain's most popular station. His interviewer, in a studio off the top end of Ladbroke Grove, is Johnnie Walker.

If Prine hadn't already known Walker socially, he certainly would by now, especially as the disc jockey's private studio is so small it gives its occupants no option but intimacy. Sinead O'Connor recently stomped out when Walker asked her if she'd ever get round to singing about the joys of life. Prine, it's safe to predict, will not be emulating her.

Success, he explains to his old pal, means that "the dressing rooms get better and better". He's staring at the only unoccupied square inch of carpet when he says it. Midway through "He Forgot That It Was Sunday", the president announces "there's an accordion s'posed to be playing right here, but I can't do two things at once".

On Wednesday, Prine puts his feet up at the hotel and talks about himself for several hours. There is one face-to-face interview, with Country Music International magazine, followed by phone calls from around the country. The itinerary makes no mention of a guitar. The old pro gets down to it anyway. "I'll talk to anyone that's got the price of a record," he says. The chances of one of them not asking about life as a Chicago mailman are infinitesimally small. "I'm not saying they don't have good questions, it's just that when you been doing it as long as I have, you've heard the good questions. You're lucky to take a reporter to the ladies' shoe section at Harrods."

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?