English singer, songwriter and actress Joscelyn Eve Stoker, better known as Joss Stone, has been obsessed with soul music since she was a little girl. By the time she was in her early teens she had begun to intuitively hone her now trademark gravelly-but-lustrous vocals by singing along to Aretha’s Franklin’s Greatest Hits.
At age 12, Stone chose to become a singer by default. In an interview with The Herald, she explained that she thought she might like to become a veterinarian or midwife. “But then I realised that meant seven years at school. I couldn’t do that so I decided to be a singer.”
She secured a record deal at the age of 15, and in 2003 recorded her star-making debut album, The Soul Sessions. A stunning exercise in vocal poise, passion and power, the album was well received globally and charted in the Top 20 both in the UK and in the US, garnering some of her best reviews for many years.
Following her critically acclaimed arrival on the music scene in 2003 (which preceded the plethora of soul-inspired female artists that came along in her wake), things took off for Stone in an enormous way. Her second record, 2004’s Mind Body & Soul, capitalised on The Soul Sessions’ commercial momentum and critical adoration, and earned Stone three Grammy nominations, including one for Best New Artist. It also spawned a self-penned UK Top 10 single, “You Had Me”, and earned her Two Brit Awards that same year. Her third album, 2007’s Introducing Joss Stone, was a more independent, less packaged effort, on which Stone further showcased her songwriting abilities, and revealed the singer had truly been embraced by the American audience when it crashed into the US charts at No.2, marking the highest debut ever for a female British solo artist on the Billboard charts.
In her short young life and already long career, Stone has performed onstage with the likes of James Brown, Gladys Knight, Solomon Burke, Blondie, Smokey Robinson and Melissa Etheridge among many others. She’s contributed to albums by Jeff Beck and Ringo Starr, played the Super Bowl pre-game show, performed on the Grammy’s, and indeed won a Grammy herself! She’s participated in more moments of absolute musical wonder than most people can hope for in an entire lifetime. And she’s approached it all with a sense of independence and joie de vivre. Stone has always been a bit of a rebel, whether she’s dancing barefoot onstage or dyeing her hair various colors or speaking out on issues she’s passionate about, part of what her fans love about her is that she’s a free-spirit, following her own instincts at all times.
The past few years have seen further albums: 2009’s Color Me Free, and 2011 saw two releases – Stone’s own debut album release on her label Stone’d Records, LP1, (written and recorded with Dave Stewart), and a collaboration project, Superheavy, with Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart, Damien Marley and AR Rahman.
With over 12 million album sales to date and a wealth of experience under her belt, 2012 seemed the right time to bring things full circle with the release of The Soul Sessions Volume 2, a collection of classic soul covers that mirrored her 2003 debut in content and spirit.
Stone’s seventh studio album, Water For Your Soul, is slated for release in July 2015 via Stone’d Records. Originally touted as a full-on reggae affair, Stone instead opted for a mix of styles, taking in hip-hop, R&B, pop, and reggae. “It’s really a combination of all the things I like,” Stone told Digital Spy. “If there is a theme to the album, it springs out of conversations, arguments, ideas about ways of living in the world. It’s about shaking off all the crap and getting up and realising that hey, you’re alive today, so move on.”
Despite some of the dramas that have followed or beset Stone in her short life so far, it is her approach to music – intuitive and free-form – merged with the backdrop of nearly a decade of hard-earned experience in the industry, that characterises the Stone mindset. If she wants to do something badly enough she gets it done, no matter what the obstacles – but only if she’s having fun along the way.
Not content on being a multi-platinum selling artist, Stone has recently embarked on her most audacious project to date – going on a ‘proper’ World Tour by playing a gig in every single country around the world. As Stone herself puts it, “My mission is to explore and understand the universal language of music in every country on the planet. The tour will be tiring and tough and I know at times very emotional, but it will be a truly amazing journey of discovery and one hell of a ride.”