Joss Stone is one of the greatest vocalists in the world today. Only 24 years old, yet with a career spanning over a decade, the native UK singer is taking her career in a new direction. Joss’s latest album, LP1, was recently released through her own label. Similarly, other artists are making their music available to the public through their own companies.
In this CYInterview, Joss shares insight into her music career. She also gives her opinion on current trends in music, looking at Lady Gaga’s career, as well as Madonna’s.
Joss Stone is more than someone gifted with an incredible voice. She has performed with such recording icons as Gladys Knight, Melissa Etheridge, the late, great James Brown, Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Ricky Martin and Jeff Beck, to name a few. Ms. Stone has performed for Aretha Franklin and done tributes to Dusty Springfield and Janis Joplin. Her experience working with renowned artists helps round out her understanding of the music industry.
Fans of Joss, as well as music enthusiasts in general, will gain new appreciation for her world class talent and down to earth manner.
Featured columnist Jay Bildstein joins me in speaking with Joss Stone.
You can read and listen to the entire CYInterview below.
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Chris Yandek: This album, the most excitement you’ve ever had in making an album. With that being said looking at LP1, how much of this project you know was based on your life experiences? Because I really think, like there’s a lot of raw emotion in this album and your feelings really shine through.
Joss Stone: “Well, I mean, I always try to write about something that’s actually happened or it doesn’t always have to have happened to me, but it has to have happened at some point. So every single lyric that you hear comes from some kind of story that I’ve come across in my life. I like to think that that maybe helps me mean it a bit more and if you don’t mean it, it ceases to be soul music. So it’s important that I mean every single word.”
CY: First track on the album is Newborn. You know, I felt that kind of represented your independence now, this project being released through your new label. You know, you’re going in a different direction with your career. Am I right on point with that? Newborn, this is a rebirth period for you?
JS: “Well, I guess. It is a rebirth song. When I wrote it, it wasn’t about my label or anything. It was really more about the state of the world and there’s one of the lyrics in there it says you know, ‘Everybody walk hand and hand, get hold of your land and push it together.’ ‘Cause I’d like to see the world become one as everybody would, All of this hope, peace and love thing people say is hippy silliness, but it would still be nice. We can still write songs about it hoping. So that’s what I was hearing. I was writing a song about the hope that one day everybody will be at peace with each other. But that song was written separately from the making of this album.”
CY: Referring to the first track then, what you’re really saying is we should just all be people, Newborn.
JS: “Yeah, totally. It would just be nice if everybody would be nice. That’s what I’m saying.”
CY: Why are so many artists like yourself, now, after being in the label industry for a period of time going off and starting their own entertainment companies and then releasing their own music? It seems to be a new, common trend.
JS: “It does doesn’t it. The thing is because we can, you know, we can. It’s simple really. If you have good people around you and someone that knows how to do it, instead of having a manager, have somebody run a label for you. You know, it’s kind of like, there’s this whole beauty that’s happening right now. The big, big record labels have so much control. I think too much control that it actually made their artists scared to not do what they were told and then the music suffers because of that dynamic and now there’s the power of the download. People will download the music for free and they’ll pay for it if they want to give you a compliment. They don’t have to pay for it. And the only way the artist can make money was by touring ‘cause the record label didn’t take that money. Unfortunately now, cause the record company’s not making money from the downloads, now they want to take money away from everything.
So it’s kind of all come to this halt and everyone starts fighting and all this stuff and I thought you know what? Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just have my own label and then nobody fights and everybody is just nice to each other and instead of having all these people around me to fight my record label ‘cause that’s all the team does. A team that’s with the artist as you guys already know cause you’re right next to it. You’re probably in it all the time. You know, if a manager is there every day, you know that their job is pretty much every waking hour they’re having arguments with the record label. It’s like this big war.”
JS: “So I thought let’s not have a war with another label ‘cause now I finally got free. I thought, I’m not gonna go have a war with another one. I mine as well just make my own and then there’s no wars.”
CY: What should we know about you that we don’t?
JS: “Oh, well, nothing. I think people know more about me than they should anyway. You know, it’s like, I sing songs and I hope people like them and I’ve played gigs and I hope people like it.”
Jay Bildstein: You know what Joss, I would ask you this, though, following on that theme. Do you feel comfortable with, perhaps, the mantle of currently being considered as, perhaps, the greatest female vocalist in the world today? Is that a mantle that you’re comfortable with?
JS: “That would be nice. I don’t think that’s true though hon. That would be awesome.”
JB: I think it’s true. I mean, when you belt out a song.
JS: “Oh, you’re so sweet.”
CY: Looking at one of the other songs on your album, Cry Myself to Sleep, you know, it represents letting go of someone, letting go of anything in general.
CY: Was there any personal experience you were referring to in that when you sung that song?
JS: “I guess so. I mean, I think there’s a lot of different experiences that can equate to a song like that. It can be with a guy and you know we all had past relationships whether they’re important or not, there’s still songs in them or it can be a friend or whatever it is. You know, I like the hit to that song because it’s like it’s exactly what I did, very honest. I was just writing the words down that was happening in my head.
The fact is when I get pissed off about something or something awful has happened, I just say, ‘You know what? Thank you very much. Thank you for the lyrics. Because that is exactly what you just gave me.’ There’s no real negative then. So if something happens, I don’t cry about it. I just find myself a pen and I figure it out. “
CY: Well, turning a negative into a positive.
JS: “Yeah. You have to do that. There is a silver lining to every cloud and there’s some awesome songs that have come from some really like bad experiences, but they’re great experiences ‘cause then I’ve got some good songs so it’s all good for me.”
CY: I think in this era of music today, we have just so much shock value and attention grabbing and you just get out there and you sing and you bring it. Why do you think that’s a rarity today?
JS: “I don’t know. I think that people are having to do like really crazy things to shock people now, to get people’s attention and it kind of, it’s this way in lots of different aspects of life. You know, people fight for attention. It’s competitive. So they need to be the one that stands out. But sometimes I think like, sometimes I’ll see a really great singer and I know I sound like an old lady when I say these things and maybe they’ll be like, I don’t know, dressed up in some crazy outfit with a piece of meat on their head or whatever like a Lady Gaga thing.
I think, that I know the shock value is good and gets people to watch you, but actually she can sing songs and she can play piano and it just feels like it might overshadow what talent she does have and obviously it doesn’t really matter because it’s a totally different style of music. It doesn’t bare any relevance to soul or whatever, but it does happen in lots of different areas.
And Madonna, ok, Madonna’s not the best singer in the world, but she was awesome with her entertainment and all of her shock tactics and stuff and that’s where it began. She then inspired all sorts of other girls to do that. But I don’t know, I just think music’s kind of important too. So you’ve gotta know where that line is especially when you are good at singing. So I don’t know. I would never want something I’m wearing or the way I’m dancing or something to overshadow what I’m doing. I’d rather grab people’s attention with my voice.”
CY: I think that’s what the problem is. That’s my biggest issue with Gaga is that there is real talent underneath all those gimmicks and she could just be a normal singer and she could make it happen and she doesn’t need all that.
JS: “People would love her still you know. She can sing, but then people forget she can sing because she’s doing all this crazy stuff, but I don’t know. I guess it’s a great show. I mean, I’ve never been, but I’m sure it’s awesome.”
CY: It’s a really tough time for people to hold on to their dreams and independent beliefs with the challenges the world is currently facing. You know, as somebody who has achieved what you had, held on to your beliefs and always spoken your mind. What is your advice to people who feel like these times are just so challenging and dreams seem even farther than they were during good times?
JS: “You know, I think, like I say, there’s always a silver lining to every cloud and everything has to happen for a reason and if everything’s really challenging, then you can make it into a positive. It’s very, very possible to do so. It just takes a little bit of thought and a little bit of hard work. It really depends what kind of issue you’re facing there because I’m being quite general now in answering this question, but can’t really be general because there’s lots of issues in the world right now and they’re all different, but they all equate to one big massive tear. It doesn’t need to be that way. We can turn it around to find a silver lining and stick with that.”
CY: Yeah. I think that you make a very valid point there. Looking ahead to something that was just so unbelievably insane and crazy at the same time referring to, you know, the possibility that some two people were trying to kidnap you and possibly kill you.
JS: “Oh yeah. I know.”
CY: I wonder what can you take away and what can you learn from that? How can you turn that into a silver lining and positive? I mean, that’s ridiculous. You can’t live in fear of course.
JS: “No. It is ridiculous, but you gotta see the humor in it. I know it’s hard, but it’s actually not that hard. Look at this, picture this, there’s two guys, come down from Manchester. They spend all this money in coming down here which is really stupid to rob my safe that I do not have and they got lost. How can you get lost? Seriously, if I was trying to kill somebody, I think I’d think it through a little bit better than that. I don’t know, I just think it’s quite funny. I know my mum doesn’t think it’s funny. She thinks it’s really bad. What can you do.”
CY: It makes your life more interesting is what you said.
JS: “Yeah. It’s like the tapestry of life. What can you do. Hey, they just added a really big bright color. It’s hilarious. These guys tried to do me with a samurai sword. I mean, what are we? Are we in Kill Bill here? This is not the movies. They watch too many movies. So, what can you do. They didn’t do it. I mean, if they would’ve turned up at my house and like threatened me with a sword and all this, then I would be beside myself probably and I probably would’ve had a heart attack and they wouldn’t have even had to kill me, but they didn’t. Nothing happened. They got lost. So there you go.”
CY: But you’re not living in fear and you’re not moving.
JS: “No I’m not moving. I love my home. Yeah. No way. No way Jose. They come around here and they’ll have a fight on their hands, but yeah. What can you do.”
CY: No way absolutely. Is there any one moment that stands out from your career? I know there’s a lot.
JS: “There’s many. There’s so many fun things. Sometimes it’s hard to like even remember them all, but I think for me like, there’s a couple good ones I can remember. I remember watching Gladys Knight when I was about 16 and I can honestly say that she totally changed the way that I perform like just by watching her. I don’t know. I feel like I’m a quick learner and I’m also very quick to forget. That’s why I can’t play an instrument because I can’t bloody remember it.
But yeah, I just watched her and learned from that and said, ‘Wow! My god’ Then the next day, I did a performance and mom was like, ‘What the hell. What happened to you?’ I said, ‘Well, I just watched Gladys do it last night. She really did change a lot. I don’t think she realizes cause I don’t really tell her, but.”
CY: You know you’ve got a long career ahead of you, of course absolutely, and I just wonder what you hope you’re contributing to the world?
JS: “Well, I hope that I contribute some kind of smiles, you know. They don’t always have to be smiles. Sometimes it just has to be emotional. I really love art and I always have in every single different form and I just hope that I’m able to give some art that will touch some people and help them to be more positive and stronger. So I like to make sure I don’t sing songs that are like self hating and feeling sorry for yourself ‘cause that’s not the kind of legacy I want to leave really. I want people to feel like strength, especially young women. You know, it’s nice to know that you’re worth something and music really does put that kind of light back into you. Well, it does for me anyway. I’ve been through some very interesting times in my life and there is certain songs that I go to and I’m like, ok, it’s not that bad. So I hope that I can do that for people. That would be nice. If I could be a doctor and save lives I would, but I can’t so I do this.”
JB: Well, you know what? I think it was, that, I saw you performing with Melissa Etheridge, Joss. I guess it was at the Grammys when you did Janis Joplin’s Cry Baby. And I know, I think Jimmy Page was in the front row. I saw you do a tribute to Dusty Springfield when you sang Son of a Preacher Man. You sung in front of Aretha Franklin to honor her, I think Natural Woman. You worked with James Brown, did A Man’s Man’s Man’s World. What does it feel like when you’re working with these greats doing their music?
JS: “It’s very scary. It’s just very scary, especially that Aretha Franklin one. I literally walked off the stage I burst into tears. I was totally, I’ve never been so afraid in my life to get something wrong. You know I always say like you have let go of the outcome when you’re doing these things and just go for it and not think about, like, what’s gonna happen afterwards or you can’t help it. Sometimes it’s just like, oh my God and that adrenaline, it’s just makes you do it.”
JB: We’re pressed for time so let me ask you three you haven’t sung. Randy Crawford’s got a great song called Street Life. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, with The Crusaders. Any chance you’d ever cover that? Any chance you’d do any Shirley Bassey and any chance you’d do any Nina Simone because those are three that come to mind that I haven’t seen you work.
JS: “Actually, I haven’t really thought about those things. Nina Simone I have, but yeah I love to sing all types of music. That’s kind of my mission going forward really. I guess you could say my life’s been kind of real polymorphic in a way. I keep changing and going through different things and writing with different writers and stuff. I’m hoping that I can try lots of different styles ‘cause now I don’t have a label so I don’t have to do what I’m told, which is quite nice so I can go off and I can sing, cover whatever I want, try lots of different genres, lots of different artists so maybe I will cover some Shirley Bassey.”
CY: Joss it’s great talking with you and hope to bring you back in the near future and I’ll send this along to your team so you can get this great interview up on Twitter. I think all your fans would love to see it.
JS: “Oh, thank you very much. Thank you guys. Glad it worked out, cheers. Bye bye.”
You can find more information and purchase a copy of Joss Stone’s LP1 here.
Joss Stone’s official Twitter is at http://twitter.com/#!/JossStone
Joss Stone’s official Facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/jossstone
Joss Stone’s Stone’d Records Facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/stonedrecords
You can email Chris Yandek at ChrisYandek@CYInterview.com