It was 10 years ago that a young, soulful singer debuted her first album — a collection of cover songs titled, The Soul Sessions.
Though her voice wowed audiences with a depth and maturity that was unexpected from a 15-year-old, Joss Stone admits she didn’t know what she was doing.
Stone, who recently released a follow-up to that debut album with The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2, said she’s changed in every way possible since she started.
Before she performs at the O’Shaughnessy Auditorium in St. Paul next month, Stone took some time to chat with us about her new album and how far she’s come.
Sara: You’re coming to St. Paul in October to perform at the O’Shaughnessy. Have you been to Minnesota before?
Joss: Yeah, I have actually. A couple of times. I’ve got some good friends in Minnesota. It’s a lovely part of the world, I like it. Everyone’s really nice over there.
Sara: Yeah, that’s what we’re known for — Minnesota Nice, haha.
Joss: Isn’t that lovely? To be known because you have nice people there? That’s just lovely.
Sara: So I read that you basically decided to do another cover album, simply because it sounded like fun. In an industry that can sometimes have a lot of drama and a lot of fuss, how have you been able to keep things simple and focused on what you want to do?
Joss: I know, I don’t understand why it needs to be like that, man. Music is a lot of fun. It doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. I’m just kind of like, I like my job — I love my job. So yeah, they say “why did you make the record?” And it’s like, well, why wouldn’t I?
Sara: That’s a refreshing answer. On the record, you do a great job of balancing a respect for the original while adding your own sound and keeping it interesting. Was that a difficult thing to balance or did it kind of come naturally?
Joss: Oh, thank you. That is kind of a bit of the challenge, any time you do a cover. So I’m glad you feel that way about it because it’s very important to me. It came naturally, I think because of the method that we used — it couldn’t have been another way. I chose to listen to the songs just before I was doing it, and so did everyone else. It wasn’t like we had the songs for a long time and learned them and got to know them, you know, because a lot of these songs I had heard before and some of them that I had heard before, I just stopped listening to them.
So when you go in, you have to be creative, because you don’t actually know. But at the same time, the lyrics always have to stay the same — the song is the song and there’s a reason why it’s a great song. So you can’t go completely off piece and disrespect it. What we would do is we’d play it and everybody would be ready, the studio is set up, ready to go. And we’d just press play and be like, “OK, how bout this one?” We press play, go into the studio and we cut it. And then we’d come back into the studio, listen to another song and be like, “OK how bout this one?” And then we’d cut it. It was a very fast-paced kind of way to make music. It made us be creative. You can get very stuck, but the record turned out great.
Sara: How did you come up with the song list, what was your approach to making it a cohesive album?
Joss: You know, I think to make it one cohesive album, I prefer to do it all in one session because then you’ve got one feeling with one band. You know, we are one unified piece of music together that week. That’s how you get the flow of the album. Nothing really pokes out, like we made it two years later with a different band. It just naturally has that, you don’t need to think about it. The song choices, there’s a chap called Steve Greenberg that had a lot to do with the song choice and put together a big, long list and I then chose from that list, which is why I didn’t know half of them.
Sara: I would imagine this is the first time a lot of your fans are hearing some of these songs, as well. What has their reaction been so far?
Joss: Yeah, exactly. Their reaction is pretty good, they really like it. It’s really nice, I’m glad.
Sara: Is that a lot of pressure to sometimes be the person who is introducing a generation to these iconic songs?
Joss: It’s nice because you’re taking a song that maybe hadn’t been heard by a certain group of people and spreading it just that little bit further. It’s quite nice. Some of these songs are really hidden gems that no one had really ever heard and some of them were really big in some countries and not others. It’s different today because we’ve got the internet. But back when Womack and Womack was released, it only spread so far, so it’s nice to spread it a little bit further. And that for me, that song “Teardrop” is a big song — everyone in England knows that. Then you get to other countries and they’ve never heard it before. So it’s quite nice.
Sara: So from your first Soul Sessions to this second volume, how have you changed?
Joss: Oh, loads. I mean, I’m about 10 years older. I was a little girl. I was literally a little girl. I guess you can’t really say. I mean, I’ve changed in every way that you can change. Apart from that I’m still the same person, I’m just older. But yeah, I mean, I kind of know-ish how to do my job. Back then, I didn’t know what the hell to do, I had not a clue, not a hope in hell. I didn’t know anything about music. I didn’t know what I was doing in the studio, nothing. Useless. I just kind of sang, you know. It’s a little more involved now.
Sara: Is there anything you’ve learned now that you wish you could’ve told yourself in 2003, when you started?
Joss: No, I don’t think so. All of the things that I went through, I had to do, I had to go through in order to learn, in order to get where I am. If I had a head start, then I might not learn as much. I might’ve missed a couple of moments in my life, where I’ve made some mistakes or whatever it is. I think it’s important to make mistakes.
Sara: For fans coming out to see your show in St. Paul, anything in particular they can expect?
Joss: No, I don’t think so. Just expect some good music. That’s it, really. We don’t even know what we’re going to do. We’re going to play the new stuff but will also play the old stuff, too. You know, because people really like that and it’s really about the audience. I just want the audience to be happy so I just try to feel out the audience, as I go, so I don’t really know what’s going to happen until I meet them, you know. I would expect good music.
Joss Stone, with special guest Vintage Trouble, will perform at the O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4. Tickets ($54-$57) are on sale now. For more information, click here.