INTERVIEW: Joss Stone shares the real reason her new album is so empowering
Listening to the thumping drumbeat, plucky fiddle and gospel choir-style chorus of Joss Stone's single, "The Answer," it's obvious the soul singer's sound has evolved since she scored her first record deal a decade ago.
Rich in rhythms ranging from reggae (Damian Marley was a collaborator) to calypso, the track reflects a departure for Stone — both literally and physically.
Stone's new album, Water For Your Soul, veers slightly from the more classical soul sound of albums past, pulsating with a markedly more global vibe. Which makes sense, as Stone has spent the last year traveling around the globe.
Last April, the free-spirited singer embarked on the Total World Tour. She has performed gigs in Morocco, Dubai, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Australia, New Zealand and more, all with one lofty goal in mind: to play a concert in every single country on the planet.
It has been through these travels, she explains, that much of the material for Water For Your Soul was born.
"I kept telling my writer, Jonathan [Shorten], all the little stories I had," Stone said, "and I think he was inspired by all of the stories. The idea was, 'God, this sound is great! That sound is great! Why don't we ever use this stuff?' So I guess it started to become part of our writing process," she said.
And the pair didn't suffer for experiences to pull from — in every country Stone travels to, she performs with a local, homegrown musician. She plays her songs, as well as explores the sounds indigenous to each area.
Music, she marvels, truly is a unifier. "There have been a lot of musical experiences I've had that have been wonderful," she said, "and to see the way music affects everybody around the world is a beautiful thing. It's always positive; it's never, ever negative."
Stone carries that sense of wonder into Water For Your Soul, peaking in empowering lyrics like that of "The Answer." Still, although Stone is clearly now an artist of both style and substance, she doesn't feel obligated to make music with a quote-unquote message.
She elaborated, "Music doesn't have to be any one thing. There's this whole idea that as a singer and as somebody people listen to, you have a responsibility to say the right thing and to be conscious that children are listening, and all that comes with this job... I don't agree with it completely."
Rather, Stone believes in music for the sake of music — for the sheer love and enjoyment of it. That's not to say she doesn't speak her mind on social issues, though. "I just never censor myself, that's for sure," she said.
"I guess I was just tired of listening to people moan," Stone said of the inspiration behind "The Answer" and some of the other more message-driven music on Water For Your Soul. "I feel there are some people who absolutely like to moan. I mean, God! Some people live in absolute shit, and they don't moan."
In that vein, Stone hopes the lyrics offer people a little much-needed perspective. "It's like, 'C'mon, look around you. Look at all the beautiful things that are there. If those people can see it, why can't you see it?'"
It's a notion not lost upon Stone herself. It often washes over her when she visits her home in beautiful Devon, England.
"We are hugely, hugely blessed to live here, and I've sat in my kitchen here listening to everyone bitch and moan about their lives," she said. "And I'm thinking, 'You know what? Let it go. Have a laugh. Enjoy what you do have. Enjoy the fact that we look outside and the grass is green, and that it rains. Some countries don't even have rain, you know?'"
For Stone, Water For Your Soul was about finding her own fulfillment and contentment in the world — those things which, as the album title suggests, quench your being.
And that's the sentiment she hopes to pass on to people through her new music.
"We are so lucky, and I want people to feel lucky," she shared. "I hope that they feel what I feel when I'm about to go onstage and I'm like, 'I can't believe I do this for a living.' Because we can feel like that any time of day. We just have to go outside and look for it."
Water For Your Soul will be available online and in stores July 17, but you can pre-order now at JossStone.com.
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