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Speaking With ... Joss Stone 10.05.12

Joss Stone | David Venni Photo

Joss Stone | David Venni Photo

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She was the spunky young girl of 16 who sang oh so very grown-up.

With her debut album, “The Soul Sessions” in 2003, Joss Stone wowed the music world with a sound that cut a deep swath into soul and R&B, with a passion and understanding reserved for singers at least twice her age.

Nine years later (and with four albums in between), Stone is back with “The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2,” a collection that speaks volumes to the singer’s maturity — literally and vocally. The album is ripe with new takes on some heady classics such as the Chi-Lites’ “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People” and the Dell’s “The Love We Had (Stays on My Mind).”

In between her own projects, Stone also found time to make music with SuperHeavy, a “secret” band of heavyweights including Mick Jagger, A.R. Rahman, Damian Marley and Dave Stewart (they released their namesake debut album in 2011). Stone also established her own label, Stone’d Records, to “help artists be who they want to be and just create,” the 25-year-old says.

We caught up with the Grammy winner recently by phone as she traversed Belgium.

Question: Tell me about the SuperHeavy experience and making that album happen.

Joss Stone: SuperHeavy was a real quick, creative explosion. It just happened and that was that. I think it’s quite nice really. There’s nothing wrong with being creative and putting something out there. I don’t think everything has to be such a big deal. We went into the studio for two weeks, made a record and that was done. Then I did “LP1” (with Dave Stewart) in a similar way. Went to Nashville with Dave for a week and we made an album and we put it out and that was it. That’s just the way we do it. We all play at the same time. We all cut it together. So when it’s done it’s done, isn’t it? You can’t really do any more. I like to make the records in a short time span because it’s exciting that way, and you capture that excitement on the record. Could I take three years to do an album? Sure, but I’ll get terribly bored after three weeks.

Q. What did you pick up from working with Mick Jagger?

JS: When you work with anyone for a little while you just pick up bits and pieces along the way. Mick sat right next to me the whole time and the way he writes and puts lyrics together is just inspiring to me. With Mick, he just takes time and care and creates a story painting with his lyrics. It’s beautiful and fun.

Q. Why did you feel the time was right for “Soul Sessions 2” and reuniting with Steve Greenberg (Hanson, Jonas Brothers) at S-Curve for the joint release with your own label?

JS: He asked me if I wanted to do another one and at first I didn’t have enough time because I was doing SuperHeavy and “LP1.” So I told him when I have 5 minutes free I’ll do it. So I did, and we just went in and did it. But I want to make it clear that the real producer is Steve Greenwell. He’s the man I have to click with in order for the music to work out. Greenberg is the song man. Greenberg was the brainchild for the concept of the soul approach. I feel like I don’t want people to forget that Greenwell is the producer. He doesn’t get enough props.

Q. How did you decide on the final play list of covers for both “Sessions” albums?

JS: It’s quite fun to do because you have all these choices of the best songs ever. Writing an album is a little bit more worrisome because you don’t know what you’ll come up with. Here half the job is already done for you because you’re starting with these incredible songs. Steve Greenberg is the man with the plan when it comes to the songs. He is like this song geek. He just knows every bloody song that’s ever existed somehow. He put together [“The Complete Stax/Volt Singles 1959-1968” boxed-set] ya know? He knows his s---.

Q. But what first attracts you to the songs — the lyrics, the melody?

JS: The way I chose the songs is the lyrics have to be the most important element. I have to agree with the lyrics first and foremost. I don’t want lyrics that put women down, or “feeling sorry for yourself” lyrics. I hate that. There’s a certain way that I like to touch people and make people feel through the words of a song. Soul music is nice for that. It doesn’t make you feel alone. So I didn’t listen to the original songs too much because I didn’t want to make a karaoke record. I wanted the songs to be different.

Q. How much have you grown since that debut album?

JS: I’ve grown a lot since “Soul Sessions 1.” I was a little girl when I recorded it. I’m 25 and it’s a whole different thing now. Now I know how to do my job. Before, I didn’t know what the hell to do. I was just constantly looking for direction and hoping someone would tell me what to do. I don’t feel scared like that anymore. It’s all about having fun and being connected with your emotions. Just feeling. And that to me is fun, living life to its full potential. Understanding life and all your emotions. That’s what soul music is for.

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