Through Doubt And Dark Times, Joss Stone Lets Her Voice Light The Way
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Let's listen to a voice now that stunned people 14 years ago.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LESS IS MORE")
JOSS STONE: (Singing) Don't go sending me those three dozen roses. Don't you know that just one rose will do?
MONTAGNE: That soulful voice belonged to a teenage girl from the British countryside name to Joss Stone. She became known for taking success in stride at a young age. And our colleague David Greene found her pretty much the same at age 28.
STONE: I'm here, hi.
DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Hi.
STONE: Where are you? Are you in D.C.?
GREENE: I am in Washington, D.C.
STONE: Where are you from?
STONE: Ah, I went to Pittsburgh once.
GREENE: Did you like it?
STONE: And I really liked it, yeah. I had a huge sandwich there.
GREENE: Primanti Bros.
GREENE: That's what you had. It's good.
STONE: Oh, my God. It was this disgust - it was just like egg...
GREENE: Just like bread and coleslaw and French fries?
STONE: And chips all in this monstrous, monstrous sandwich.
GREENE: This is - that was a great interview. It was nice meeting you, and we'll see you next time.
STONE: Yeah (laughter).
GREENE: We did get on with the real interview. And we talked about this trend in British music. There's Joss Stone, but there's also Amy Winehouse and Adele and Sam Smith.
Where does this British obsession with American soul music come from?
STONE: I just think it's great. I mean, the soul music that I was listening to was just great. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the accent. I mean, when I was a kid, I used to listen to Janis Joplin because I was so in awe of her accent. So I would kind of put on the voice really, really strong. And without knowing it, I was kind of teaching myself how to sing in this soulful manner. But, you know, what was that song? (Singing) Oh, Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
This one - and it's so kind of country.
GREENE: Oh, yeah.
STONE: So I would dance around singing that when I was - I don't know - 9 or something. And my mum would just absolutely wet herself laughing.
GREENE: And so how did that little girl entertaining her mom go on to make it big?
STONE: Let's look at this for the truth. I was 14, 15. People didn't really like it because I was a great vocalist. They liked it because it was a freak show, at the end of the day.
STONE: It's really the truth, you know? It was like, oh, my God, it's a little white girl singing with that, you know, gravelly voice.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RIGHT TO BE WRONG")
STONE: (Singing) I've got a right to be wrong. So just leave me alone.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Joss Stone has been criticized for being a white British woman who found stardom singing American soul. She's also trained with some of the greats, including American rhythm and blues artist Betty Wright. Bob Marley's son, Damian, had a hand in her new album, which is full of reggae.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)
STONE: (Singing) What is this nonsense I can't through? This combination of money unfolds. It's a bum on a (unintelligible)...
DAMIAN MARLEY: Tell it...
When Damian said that, I was like, oh, my God, I can't do that. I'll get in so much trouble. I got in enough trouble singing soul music being the wrong skin color, you know. So I kind of - I know what that's like, to be told off for singing the wrong type of music. You know, but then at the same time, I know what it's like to just do what I want anyway.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)
STONE: (Singing) What is all of this nonsense? Why can't we be conscious of what we're (unintelligible) people...
So with Damian kind of saying, yes, this is - you know, this is good, It made me feel more confident because it's like having the OK. I know that sounds silly. But I think that that's important because you need the support from the people that actually do it and have been doing it for years and years and years. And they know that sound.
GREENE: Joss Stone does know that she's led a charmed life, from small-town teenager to overnight star who hangs out with music royalty - and, since she lives in England, actual royalty as well. But she's also dealt with the dark sides of fame. Four years ago, two men were caught plotting to break into the farmhouse where she grew up and where she still lives today.
These were two guys who were near your house. And the police say that they were trying to kill you.
STONE: They were. There were totally trying to chop me up. Can you believe? How rude. Yeah, I don't know. I don't know.
GREENE: Did that change things for you in some way?
STONE: I suppose it did. I do have locks now, and I lock my doors. So I have a front door and a back door. And I lock them all up. And then I've got one to my bedroom, and I lock that one, too.
GREENE: I had read somewhere you were terrified at the bottom of the stairs thinking there was a ghost when you were a kid in the farmhouse where you grew up.
STONE: Yes, I was.
GREENE: And you live in the same farmhouse. And now you feel like it's sort of those fears are a real thing.
STONE: Well, yeah, you know, that did annoy me because I'm a bit of a wuss. I'm not great with the dark (laughter) I'm going to say. And it's very, very quiet where I live - very quiet. So it's beautiful, you know. You go outside, and you can see every single star. But it's also a little bit creepy when you're thinking, oh, my God, someone's trying to kill me. So yeah, those fears were just silly before. But now, it makes me think, oh, God, that actually could be true.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)
STONE: (Singing) It's just too much to deal with. I had enough. So hang up on my call and let me, let me breathe...
GREENE: What you're hearing here is on her new album. We wanted to know about a song that isn't, a song called "Show Me."
STONE: You know when you get sad - you probably don't know 'cause you're a boy. I don't know.
GREENE: (Laughter) We get sad.
STONE: Do you get sad?
STONE: Do you cry?
STONE: Aw, you're emotional. This is good. You're one of the good guys. You're not one of those traditional English blokes that never cry at anything (laughter).
GREENE: Definitely, most certainly not.
STONE: Well, you know, when one gets filled up with emotion, one's throat doesn't work in the way that you want it to. I'm trying to cut this thing and, do you know what? I just couldn't do it.
GREENE: Why? What was the song, and what was so powerful?
STONE: It was sad. It was about - OK, so I wrote some songs when I was traveling around in France. This is about 5 or 6 years ago. And I was with this chap. And we were on the road for so long, and I hadn't really heard that much music. And I hadn't been making any music. And one day he just said, oh, for God's sake, just write some songs for goodness sake. And I was like, oh, right. I had no idea why I was so moody. But he knew.
GREENE: Wait, why were you so moody? You realized what?
STONE: I was so moody because I was so - I hadn't watered myself (laughter). I hadn't fed myself musically for...
GREENE: I see.
STONE: Like a month or so.
GREENE: So he helped you figure that out.
STONE: Yeah, he did.
STONE: And we're not together anymore. And that one song just - oh, it just upset me so much. But I will record it. And then one day people will hear it. But, you know what, man? Some days, you just can't - if you can't do it well, don't bother.
GREENE: Well, best of luck with the new album. And Joss Stone, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. It's really been a pleasure.
STONE: Aw, thank you, darling.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STUCK ON YOU")
STONE: (Singing) Deeper I fall, the tighter you hold on.
MONTAGNE: That is our colleague David Greene talking with Joss Stone. Her new album, "Water For Your Soul," is out tomorrow.
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