Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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Joss Stone: Liquid refreshment

Joss Stone
Joss Stone Joss Stone Joss Stone Joss Stone

This month sees Devon, UK-based Grammy and BRIT Award-winning Joss Stone returning to the forefront with the release of her seventh studio album âWater For Your Soulâ. Which - representing a musical departure for Joss by infusing her trademark soul vibe with elements of reggae, world music and hip hop - interestingly finds her venturing into previously-unexplored territory, collaborating with the likes of Jamaican superstar Damian Marley, UK dub legend Dennis Bovell and British world music pioneer Nitin Sawhney.

Interestingly, as a co-release between Jossâ own Stoneâd Records and Essential Music and four years in gestation, the self-written and co-produced âWater For Your Soulâ represents the product of world travels, emotional adventures and smoky jams with reggae royalty (an early core musical strand can be traced back to the 2011 LA sessions of Dave Stewart and Mick Jaggerâs project Superheavy on which Stone first collaborated with the aforementioned Marley).

Indeed, having been described as âeasily her most wide-ranging and ambitious work yetâ and with many of its 14 songs being co-written with long-term collaborator Jonathan Shorten, standout tracks from the new album range from the snappy percussion, funky guitar-base and gospel BVs of the typically-soulful first single âThe Answerâ and lilting, undulating reggae chug of the haunting opener âLove Meâ to the cinematic, atmospheric strings and gritty R&B vocals of the insistent, laidback âThis Ainât Loveâ and the love-affair-break-up-themed âLet Me Breathe.â

Born Jocelyn Eve Stoker in Dover, Kent in April 1987, Jossâ early love of female singers like Aretha Franklin and Dusty Springfield would ultimately lead to her, by the time sheâd moved to rural Devon in her teens, developing a soulful style of singing that would eventually conquer the world via her critically-acclaimed 2003 debut LP âThe Soul Sessionsâ. Which - finding her collaborating with icons of the Seventies Miami soul scene like Betty Wright, Latimore, Timmy Thomas and Little Beaver on a collection of mostly little-known Sixties soul covers - would go on to attain triple-Platinum sales in the UK and Gold in the US . In turn paving the way for her biggest-selling album to date - the 2004-released British-chart-topping âMind Body & Soulâ. Which, in addition to achieving triple-Platinum success in the UK, also hit Platinum sales Stateside.

Nevertheless, it was after hooking up with California-based contemporary soul producer Raphael Saadiq that Joss would first hit the US Top Ten, with her 2007-released set âIntroducing Joss Stoneâ hitting an impressive Number Two while simultaneously becoming her first album not to reach the British Top 10 - seemingly following a UK media backlash that criticised her for adapting a âfake America accentâ. After which her two ensuing albums - 2009âs âColour Me Free!â and 2011âs âLP1â - would both hit the Top 10 Stateside, with the latter marking Jossâ first release through her own label Stoneâd Records after leaving EMI Records in August 2010 following a protracted and much-publicised legal battle. While July 2012 would see the global release of her sixth album, the international Top Ten âThe Soul Sessions Volume IIâ - which continued the theme of her aforementioned 2003 debut by finding her once more primarily covering a selection of largely-obscure soul songs from the Sixties and Seventies.

Meanwhile, other prominent activities in recent years, have included Joss enjoying an occasional career in acting - prestigiously making her television debut portraying Henry VIIIâs fourth wife Anne of Cleaves in 2009 and 2010 for Showtimeâs series âThe Tudorsâ. While, on a considerably darker note, Stone hit the headlines in June 2011 for reasons outside of her career when police shockingly arrested two men near her home in Mid-Devon for plotting to rob and murder her. Nevertheless, later the same year saw her back in the press for the right reasons by releasing an album as one-fifth of the above-mentioned supergroup SuperHeavy alongside Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart, the aforementioned Damian Marley (youngest son of Bob Marley) and Indian musician/producer A.R. Rahman.

All of which pretty much brings us up-to-date and this monthâs release of âWater For Your Soulâ. As a decidedly-upbeat and ever-talkative 28-year-old Joss (whose global album sales of 14 million have unquestionably made her one of the best-selling soul artists of this century) reacquaints herself with âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis at central Londonâs historic Gibson Guitar Studio to enthusiastically discuss her much-anticipated new album as well as her plans for her own Stoneâd Records.

PETE: Letâs start by discussing the background and meaning behind the title to your new album âWater For Your Soulâ

JOSS: âWater For Your Soulâ was actually the title of a song I wrote in France like five YEARS ago, which we havenât actually used on this album - not because I donât like it, but because it doesnât really fit in with the rest of the MUSIC. I remember the day I wrote it I was quite moody because my boyfriend was pissing me off. I was driving round in this van which kept breaking down; I had nowhere to go; we were walking through the forest somewhere⦠You know, I guess I was just really BORED. And so he was like âOh for fuckâs sake, why donât you just go and write a SONG?â. And in that moment suddenly I realised âOh, THATâS why Iâm pissed off - I havenât created anything for like three MONTHS!â. I mean, I didnât even have a CD player in the van, it was so broken! So I just thought âWell you know me better than I know MYSELFâ!. So straightaway we booked a studio, I called my mate Johnny (Shorten) who produced the record with me - and then together we made âWater For Your âSOULâ. Because that day I REALISED something about myself, that I do need the MUSIC!... And so the point of it being the title of the album is basically to convey the message that whatever it is that waters your soul - and thatâs something different for everybody - just go DO that! If itâs running go for a RUN, if itâs chocolate eat some CHOLCOLATE, if itâs music listen to MUSIC... You know, water your soul so you can personally stand UPRIGHT. Which is exactly what Iâve done with this album and with the way I live my LIFE. I just water my soul and in that way Iâll continue, hopefully, to GROW!â

PETE: So what did you want to achieve musically this time round?

JOSS; âAll I ever really want to achieve is a good piece of music that people can enjoy and thatâs true and honest to what I FEEL. You know, when youâre not employed by a company you can do whatever is the truth to YOU. And I made the decision a long time ago going forward that I do want to be free with the styles and the things that I do and the words that I SAY. And so when it came to this particular recordâs overall sound, thought we definitely wanted a reggae feel, when we first started writing it Jonathan (Shorten) and I decided that we didnât want it to be STRAIGHT reggae. Basically because that would be DANGEROUS - Iâm not Jamaican and I donât think I know enough about it to even DO that. Which is why our decision was to combine a prominent reggae vibe with R&B - which is basically my voice - while at the same time using hip hop as the BACKBONE. You know, initially those were our three players which are still there and still very much present in every SONG. But then what ALSO happened was, when we got about halfway through and I started travelling and collaborating with different artists in each county along the way while at the same time also working on some projects with Nitin Sawhney - who of course has a lot of WORLD influences in his work - after Jonathan came along to the sessions with Nitin and started getting involved with making up different sounds and things on the keyboards he was like âI know itâs supposed to be a reggae/R&B/hip hop thing, but instead can we just do whatever we WANT and just whatever COMES?â. So I was like âOf COURSE you can do whatever you want!â - you know, there was this conversation where we were like âLetâs just be FREE and just make MUSIC - weâll just listen to lots of instruments, see what works and make it HAPPEN!â⦠So yeah, basically all those different experiences that happened along the way paired with the world tour I was on brought in all these different sounds and different IDEAS. And then when you get THAT you get different MELODY ideas, different LYRIC ideas⦠Which is why this album for me became one of my most enjoyable projects EVER.â

The album âWater For Your Soulâ and single âThe Answerâ are both out through Stoneâd Records/Essential Music

The single âGet Stupidâ is out now and the album âShow Stopperâ will follow in October, both through Warner Music


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To read more from our interview with soul songstress Joss Stone, including who were her influences while making her new reggae infused album and her thoughts on releasing though her own Stoneâd record labelâ¦Pick up a copy of the latest Blues & Soul magazine at your local magazine retailer, inc; WH Smith, Menzies + selected Euro Foods, Cost Cutters and a plethora of independents everywhere⦠if they don't stock it, ask for a "B&S shop save" and they will get it for you.

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