Since the age of 15, Joss Stone has been belting out soul, jazz, and R&B hits at a ferocious rate. She bolted to fame in 2003 with the multi-platinum-selling The Soul Sessions, and has since released five more albums, won various awards, started her own record label, and last June, survived a serious kidnapping threat. With a new album, Soul Sessions Vol. 2, out next week,we caught up with Stone to talk about new album, her supergroup—featuring Mick Jagger, Damian Marley, Dave Stewart, and A.R. Rahman—and being an artist on her own terms.
How was your recent show at the Highline Ballroom?
The audience was really nice. I was a bit scared at first. But after the first three songs were over, I was ok. The first three songs, man, it’s always the worst. My legs shake, which makes me feel like I’m gonna fall. I’m trying to move around the stage and tell whatever story is needing to be told, and my legs shake and I’m like “Fuck I’m going to fall over!”
And you perform barefoot?
Yeah. Helps me stay upright. Otherwise I’m gonna fall over. I wanna feel what I’m stepping on, it’s a safety precaution for me.
Your sequel album The Soul Sessions Vol. 2 has brought you full circle from your first album release back in 2003. Has a lot changed since then?
I have grown a lot, and it will of course influence the album in a different way. From 15-25 if you haven’t changed, there’s something wrong with you and you need to go to the doctor’s. That’s basically it.
How was working on Super Heavy with Mick Jagger and Damien Marley?
That was fun. It just kind of came and went. It was like poof! That was fun, goodbye.
How long did it take you to record?
It was two sessions in two weeks and then bits and bobs around the globe. Dave (Stewart) and I went onto a boat in the middle of nowhere and wrote some other songs to add. So I wrote it, then I left the boat and gave Mick a hug on the way out cause he was on the way in. Tag team. Then he cut his part. It was a mad project, quite an eclectic group of people.
You must all be so busy.
Oh yeah, it’s impossible to tour, no way that’s gonna ever happen.
Did you smoke weed with Damian Marley?
Yeah, of course I did!
On a boat?
We were on a boat, but that was mostly with Dave. I don’t think I smoked any weed then. Mainly martinis. You know, you gotta go with the flow. Dave is a martini guy.
So you started your own record label Stone’d?
It seems like the only way for me to do it and be happy. If I’m signed to a record label, then I’ve got a boss.
Not really your style?
Not really, man. I don’t think so. I mean I don’t mind having a boss if they let me do what I want. I’m just terrible, I mean when it comes to my music I’m just immovable. I’ve done that and it made me miserable. To sing songs that I don’t really like, even if I’ve written them, doesn’t mean I like them. If I say I don’t like it and I don’t want it on the record, I don’t wanna sit there and argue with someone and be forced and told “No you will sing this song.” No. That is really not a fair or nice thing to do to someone. It upsets your soul. I’m not a business woman to my core. I’m an artist. That’s my oxygen, that’s where I’m happy. When I see that happening to other artists my blood boils. It makes you wanna cry. Why would you want anyone to do that? So I’ve decided to just do it myself. Each record I’m gonna partner with someone who believes in me and what I do. And then I can help other artists on my label and give them the artistic freedom to live and breathe and be happy and create.
You have a passion for acting as well?
I just like to do creative things. It doesn’t matter what it is. Acting, singing, making a dress, designing a bath, painting a picture.
You design baths?
I like to do mosaics. My mum went away for two days, and I secretly did her bathroom for her. I did this mosaic and these mirrors, we were up all hours trying to make it perfect. She hated her bathroom for so long. So I got all my friends together and we just did it. So yeah, anything creative, I love to do. Acting is one of those things. Kind of, you can’t create too much. You have to create the emotion in you and really become that, which is kind of difficult actually. Not an easy job.
So you can relate that to singing?
Give me a lyric and I will tell you a story. As soon as the music shuts off, I’m out. No longer in it. It’s the weirdest thing. It’s a little bit schizophrenic. You know, music goes on, first words come out and you’re there. You’re in this feeling of love or love lost, and then when you’re done, you’re done. I don’t get it with this method shit, man. That is just a little much. Because actually, then you turn into a crazy person. You need to jump out of it, otherwise you’ll have lost yourself. At the end of the day I’m making a noise that people happen to like. That is it. When I’m acting, I’m pretending to be someone else. It’s nothing that deserves a bowing down kind of attitude. None of that shit. We’re just doing what we do. People need to pipe down.
Someone tried to kill you?
Oh yeah, can you believe that shit?
How did you deal with that?
Well I didn’t have to deal with it. They didn’t do it. So I guess I didn’t have to deal with it at all. I got two dogs. I found my silver lining. I created a silver lining actually. I said “Hmmm… someone tried to kill me. How am I going to turn this into a positive?” I don’t know why they tried to do that but bottom line, I got two really cute puppies out of that situation.