Joss Stone interview: "I've got it wrong so many times, but I'm proud of what I've achieved"

The soul star opens up about her seventh album, life on the road and jamming with reggae royalty...

“Is this really my seventh album?” Joss Stone asks as we begin quizzing her about her new record. Initially she sounds surprised by the level of her output over her 12-year career, but then she rapidly explains: “I went through a period where I would record a few songs just for fun and then chuck it out  as an album - I wasn't really concerned about how many people would hear it. But this new record has been so long in making, I want to give it a proper roll out. I haven't been this excited about one of my albums for a long time.”

Last week, Stone announced details of Water For My Soul; an album that’s been four years in the making and the product of her adventures traveling across the globe, which saw her teaming up with Damien Marley and forming a supergroup with Mick Jagger. Official Charts sat down with the star to talk about the new record, life on the road and jamming with reggae royalty...

Water For Your Soul has been roughly four years in the making; how different in the finished product from when you first started recording? 

The creation of the album has been going on for a while and I certainly had no idea what was getting myself into when I started it. I can’t really believe it’s taken me four years as I’m really a very impatient person! The songs on the album Wake Up and Underworld I wrote ages ago, with no real plan of them going on a record. Then I met Damien Marley when we were working on the Superheavy stuff and we started writing songs in the spare time we had between the sessions. I developed such a strong love for reggae music.”

Were you tempted to record a full-on reggae album?

Damien actually said to me, ‘Joss, you have to do a reggae album!’ I'm not crazy enough to know that a reggae album from me would be a very weird thing to do, but the songs we've created are heavily rooted in that sound. That’s the style of the album. There’s also the Irish fiddles, the Sarod, the tablas, the gospel, flamenco guitar… I love it all and hope to continue on this path in the future. Maybe the music will go really crazy, maybe I’ll go mad and it’ll awful. Let’s just enjoy it now while the music good before I go off on one!

The first taster of the album you're putting out - Stuck On You - is one of the more traditional Joss Stone tracks on the record...

I've been playing new songs gradually while on the road and it really is the scariest thing. I played one of the slower songs during a gig a while back and I haven’t played it again since... they obviously weren't ready for it [laughs]! I find when you’re playing new songs it’s important to explain what it’s about, otherwise it doesn't go down very well. Stuck On You has gone down really well live, people really like that one. I mean, it’s got a Sarod in it for goodness sake! It's also probably my favourite song on the album. I really love it and we’re making a video for it in Paris which will involve me being underwater. It’s going to be weird, but then the song is a bit weird!  

The lead single for the album - The Answer - is a BIG song and seems to pack most of the album's influences into it. Is that why you picked it as the first single? 

The song is so much fun and you’re right, there are a lot of influences in there. It makes you want to boogie! You've got Brazilian, Calypso, Irish fiddle, gospel, myself and a Spanish-y bit at the end. It’s odd, but I love it. The whole point of the song is if you can finally find your own happiness and be who you are in the daylight in front of the world, you’ll find the answer to any question you’re asking. I don’t know if that’s true, but I feel like it is! Basically, everyone needs to stop stressing so much. We’re trying to film as many people dancing to it as possible for the music video - we've been collecting footage for it from around the world which has been so much fun.

This is your third album on your own Stone’d Records label. As a former major label artist, how have you found the switch?

It’s a lot of hard work. You can get it wrong - and I've got it wrong so many times - but I'm so proud of what I've achieved and as long as you’re smiling at the end of the day, then you’re getting it right. It really depends on what you want to achieve. If you’re going to go independent you can’t expect to sell millions of records, unless you’re a genius! I feel like I’m starting to get a handle on it.

You released your debut album The Soul Sessions 12 years ago, and we remember when You Had Me, the lead single from your second album Mind Body & Soul, was all over the music channels…

Oh no was it?! How annoying for everyone! God that song... do you know, I still have to sing that song at every gig?

What’s your relationship like with your music from those days?

I like some of the songs on that album (Mind Body & Soul). Songs like Jet lag I still love today, but some of the songs I really don’t like. like It was more of me than the Soul Sessions was so I was pleased that they were putting something out that I had a hand in. That was a real confidence boost for me. I felt like I was an artist rather than just a singer.

There are ways to make You Had Me work, but honestly, I hate listening to that song. That said, there are songs on all my albums I now don’t like, and it’ll probably be the same with this record in a few years - you go through that cycle and sometimes the songs come back around and you fall in love with them again.

Back when you were starting out, you were one of a very small group of young British soul singers. Nowadays, the crop is considerably larger and is being lead by the likes of Sam Smith...

I love that song by Sam Smith, Money On My Mind, but I honestly don’t follow a lot of music on the radio. A producer and friend of mine also played me a song by FKA Twigs the other day and it was absolutely beautiful. I make a conscious choice to trust my friends and family to know me musically, and tell me when something is good. That means I don’t have to sift through the crap and be affected by it. I believe strongly that you are what you eat, and I want to make sure the music I’m making is of a good quality.

You were just about everywhere back in 2004, when you were 16 years old. How did you cope with level of fame at such a young age?

“My view of that time will be very different to yours. I remember being busy all the time, doing interviews, gigs and stuff like that, but I never read the press or watched TV, so I wasn’t aware of the exposure I was getting until I got home and everyone was being weird with me. When I came back to the UK, everyone started treating me differently - as if they were on eggshells - and it freaked me out a bit.

I don’t like living that way, so I try and limit that now. I don’t want people to be weird with me if I go into a shop to buy a pint of milk. I honestly don’t know how people cope with that level of fame. I remember when my life was heading that way, but I’ve managed pull it back to a level where I’m a lot more comfortable. These days, I’m very happy with where my life is at.”

Joss Stone releases Water For Your Soul on July 17. Click below to pre-order the album on:
Amazon (CD)
Amazon (Vinyl)