Joss Stone returns to the roots of soul music

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It must be pretty sweet being Joss Stone these days. When the Georgia Straight hooks up with the 25-year-old millionaire soul-pop superstar she’s on her cell at a café in Brussels, Belgium, where she’s doing some TV shows and concerts. The next day, Stone will be popping over to Paris, France, to do another gig before heading to North America for a major tour. On the line, she sounds about as happy as any globetrotting 25-year-old millionaire could be.

“I’m having so much fun in Europe playing at the moment,” says the native of Devon, England. “Like, all the new songs are pretty cool, and my band is really wicked. I’m just lovin’ it.”

The new tunes that have Stone feelin’ fine are from her latest album, The Soul Sessions Vol. 2, a follow-up to the 2003 debut that made her an international sensation via hits like “Super Duper Love (Are You Diggin’ on Me?) Pt. 1” and “Fell in Love with a Boy” (a reworking of the White Stripes’ “Fell in Love With a Girl”). The album has since gone gold in the U.S. and triple platinum in Britain—not bad considering she was only 15 when she cut it.

So, apart from being 10 years older and wiser, did Stone approach the second volume of The Soul Sessions any differently from the first?

“Back then, I was very nervous,” she explains, “and I didn’t really make that record—I just sang on it. I had some input in the song choices, but there were some songs they made me sing that I didn’t even want to sing. I would just do what I was told and try my best to learn, but I was going in every day very scared of what was going to happen, because I didn’t even know how anyone made music.

“I was hoping for guidance all the time,” she adds, “whereas now I kinda know how to make music with people, and I really enjoy it. I feel very comfortable in the studio.”

Like the first Soul Sessions, the new volume focuses on little-known soul tracks from the past, including ones by acts like the Chi-Lites, the Dells, and Honey Cone. Stone discovered most of these artists with the help of coproducer Steve Greenberg, head of S-Curve Records. “He’s the one who kinda turned me on to a lot of those,” Stone says, “and he’s really taught me a lot about soul music. When I was about 14 he signed me, and I remember he sat me down in his office in New York and he would play the music for, like, three hours and we’d just listen. And I had no idea—I still don’t know a lot about soul music. I kinda just make it.”

Stone is thankful that, through the Soul Sessions albums, she’s been able to pass along classic soul music to those who might not have otherwise heard it.

“That’s the point of this record,” she says, “to spread the music far and wide and open more doors for everyone that listens to it. They’re not just buying my records and listening to Joss Stone, they’re listening to the work of many people.”

Joss Stone plays the Commodore Ballroom on Thursday (September 27).

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