"I conceived of the record as a compilation of myself, over a period of a year," says Meilyr Jones, former frontman of Welsh psychedelic pop troupe Race Horses, and now a Moshi Moshi debutant with a solo album 2013 out in March.

Following the demise of both his old band and a personal relationship, in 2013 Jones took a trip to Rome that wasn't meant to be anything other than an opportunity to experience "something new and different." What came out of that adventure is an album that draws its inspiration from the eternal city itself as well as a colourful host of characters including Byron, Berlioz, Ken Loach, Eric B and Rakim.

In person, Jones comes across as a striking individual whose overwhelming warmth and sincerity are matched by a subversive humour and elegant intelligence. His flamboyant stage performances unfold intense waves of emotion that surge and crest from Motown to baroque music, from clever shiny pop to pensive ballads. Discussing art may seem like a rather pretentious recreation but in the case of Meilyr Jones it immediately becomes apparent that he's onto something very special, sharing secrets of his creative practice and ideas far surpassing your average pop practitioner.

Your album is called 2013. Ironically, it feels like a collection of musical impressions that doesn't relate to a fixed point in time. There are echoes, nods and even direct borrowing across a vast musical continuum. Were you deliberately trying to avoid making something that could be clearly dated?

I started by not intending anything; just following my imagination in every direction and not worrying about cohesion. We're able to hear so much music from so many different times all the time, so this felt to me like the only way of making this piece. I saw Jean-Luc Godard's Film Socialism and it felt like the only modern film because it looked like the world feels. It was beautiful colour and black-and-white footage shot entirely in digital format. I wanted to make my album feel like that, so I wasn't bringing things together; rather I was being as broad as I could, just circling around. It was like an imaginary trip for me, so there were a lot of conceptual decisions but ultimately I was letting my imagination go without any bounds until the moment I decided to draw a line.

I'm assuming your 12 tracks are not just a simple chronological description of your year. What was your guiding principle in sequencing them?

Again, it was my imagination. In my head, I had a version of the album, or at least parts of the sequence. In a way, it's a completely visual thing for me that isn't actually on the album, so I imagined it as a long walk and I sculpted it with a narrative of my own images, like a film. I imagined, "OK, I'm in a karaoke bar and then I step out and walk, and then I see the moon..." and so on. But it was also hard because I wanted it to sound contemporary, balancing cheap ephemera with studio recordings. For example, I wanted to put many more field recordings in there. Like there was an internet clip of this girl singing 'Sweet Home Alabama' in a taxi. I wanted that to go into the intro to 'Olivia' but then I realised there were too many field recordings and it was too long; but I kept it in my mind as an imaginary thing. My original idea was that I would be singing some songs, some would be me doing cover versions and some recordings not by me at all.

Aside from the visual threads, there are plenty of conceptual underpinnings, complex ideas behind the scenes. Take, for example, 'How to recognise a work of art', the first track on the album.

Yeah, 'How to recognise a work of art'. It was interesting because I was thinking of starting with a midi voice recording but it didn't feel right. I was toying with an introduction to the album and it was important for me not to have an introduction to the album in a sense of something that prepares you. And I just wanted (starts clapping the Motown beat of the track) Now you're awake and ready to go!

But it is also about the idea of authenticity. That age-old question in art: from simple identification of the author to the more complex notion of emotional sincerity or creative innovation invested in a work. Is this something that preoccupies your mind?

Always. I think it is from being dissatisfied with life in Britain now. This obsession with originality and also fear of my own authenticity. I saw some things that felt disingenuous to me and I thought, "I'm gonna say that they're disingenuous". I've read an autobiography of Hector Berlioz, the composer, and it's amazing because he was talking about reading Shakespeare's Hamlet and then crying, not being able to sleep for two weeks. He'd go to see a symphony and if someone had cut a movement out, he would shout and protest. Or he would madly applaud. I think that feeling of criticism has disappeared and we're kind of vaguely critical and vaguely gushing of everything rather than being full of life, full of compassion, love and excitement.

But authenticity in the music industry now also has monetary value. It's a currency that gives credibility and helps sell records.

Absolutely but when I was doing these things I didn't think that much. First of all, I wasn't sure if I intended or wanted to make an album. I had to think that I wasn't making an album and I still think it isn't an album in a way. Then I thought if I am making an album, "What is the thing that feels right for me?" And the thing that was right for me is to show every aspect, or as many aspects as possible of my personality and my feelings at this time. I wanted to it feel like a mind-thing, a soul-thing and a heart-thing.

Then, of course, authenticity is often closed aligned to originality. Did you deliberately bring in some very familiar chords and fragments of other songs as a way of mocking this notion?

Yes, definitely. And also the thing about regurgitation and recycling of culture. There's so much stuff around! To me, it felt real to use things of the past. It felt innovative. It just felt natural to be able to use Bowie's 'Rebel Rebel', to use Motown beats and to sing over them. In a way, I wanted to bring down the tower of pop.

Another idea circulating around the album is that of playing a role, re-imagining yourself in different settings like 'Don Juan' or a character of 'Featured Artist'.

Absolutely. And I think that past things that are important - like a relationship or a certain moment in time - are constantly revisited it in your mind. It is a kind of madness, or a compulsion. It's a strange thing trying to re-create a feeling from an earlier time but that's what songwriting sometimes is.

Then the image you're projecting, that public persona becomes the object of public's affection. Your video of 'How to recognise a work of art' is also very much about the cult of the artist and fame. What's your take on fame?

I think it's a strange thing to have for its own sake. Weirdly, I read an interview with the Pope in 'The Big Issue' where he said that fame is a really hard sacrifice to make of a life. I would agree with that. Obviously, you get some things but the need to ground yourself must be enormous. Your idea of reality and the way it sways. You must be quite together 'cos it could be a way of going away from yourself. But I also think some people are good with it. I'm glad for people who are famous and do meaningful things. I think it can alter the path that other people are on. And I'd imagine that the more famous you become, the more you need to put things in place to spend time away from it. That must be hard. It's also seeing it for what it is and seeing what you do. Always try to broaden your world rather than narrow it. The narrower your world gets, the less life comes in and the more you think about wrong things.

One of the tracks is called 'God'. Are you a religious person?

Yes. (Pauses) I think in a way religion is the biggest taboo of all. It's strange because maybe it's like what homosexuality would have been in the past. Being in Rome, in a non-secular country, it was fascinating seeing people in contemplation during the day in their dinner break but also having fun; all that kind of catholic, wild, colourful, rich, messy and really divine atmosphere around the place. You can either see things through a modern anthropological lens because you feel awkward about religion; or you see these incredible works of art, things in the past that were done from a position of a faith. I wanted to understand that standpoint because otherwise you just cut yourself off from history. I don't know exactly what my faith is but looking at the sky I feel things even if I don't know what they are. My problem is when I go too much with my mind, what I actually feel doesn't really come out.

Being on stage always presupposes an audience. What if someone interprets your work completely different from what you had in mind. Would you see it as a failure?

No, I wouldn't. I feel happy with the album. I wanted it to have a more zoomed out, light feel about it. And I don't think someone could listen to it without feeling that. But in terms of how people read it, or what they take from the songs I'm sure they're better judges than I am. Writing is a bit of a trance sometimes. I know what I intended and my feelings came out without me thinking. That's what happens when you write. It's almost like your subconscious is leading your heart.

So what in your view makes something a work of art?

(Long pause) It's an odd thing to say but joy. I mean something that has a life force that makes you feel alive. Or it is something that allows you to see the world differently: an object that's familiar, something that you may have missed or overlooked acquired new significance. That's the power of art. I never approach things from an intellectual point of view, only from the point of view of feelings. Like if I hear a Bowie record, I get excited and I forget that I can go out and do other things. It'll then stay with me and feed my life.

I think Picasso said that "art is a lie that lets us see the truth". Would you agree with that?

Definitely. I think that's why documentary-making is a weird thing. We think that because we're recording something it is real. With field recordings, I would go somewhere and with all my feelings I would remember being there. Say I was recording the sound of water. All the things I could see, or things I'd done that day were held within it. And then I'd take it home. Weeks later I wouldn't remember which recording I had those feeling about because without the visual aspect, without being there it was just the sound of water. Whereas if you write music about water and you're good, it feels like water rather than just sounds like it. It would take you back to that moment.

You said that your trip to Rome was the catalyst for this album. How do you feel about those experiences now that you've created a version of them in your album?

Rome is so vast and full of life - for me, it carries on. The album is a patchwork of different moments in time. I liked Rome because I didn't feel like a spectator. I don't think anyone can be a spectator there. You're just in there, in the midst of it. I'm really excited about playing the album live. I always feel these songs in a different way but the original feeling is still within me as well.