I can still remember buying a copy of Joss Stone’s The Soul Sessions when I was fifteen years old, so it was a little trippy to be speaking to her over the phone roughly twelve years later to talk about her seventh record, Water for Your Soul, which is officially out TOMORROW, 7/31. Joss was at home making dinner when we spoke, which seems to be a rare occurrence seeing as she’s undertaken a massive Total World Tour, which is exactly what it sounds like: a TOTAL. WORLD. TOUR. in which she brings her music to as many countries around the world as possible. Apart from playing live shows in these places, she also makes it a point to collaborate with local artists, as well as to work with local charities; all of these things have helped influence her own music, which (as you’ll hear on her latest work) dabbles in a variety of different kinds of instrumentation from around the world. We talked about her travels, as well as about how she recreates the rare and exotic sounds from the record in a live setting, and about what’s in store next in her career. Read up on all of that below, pre-order a copy of Water for Your Soul HERE (out tomorrow on Stone’d Records), and follow Joss on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest and greatest news. HERE WE GO:
So congratulations on the impending record release! Four years in the making seems like an almost agonizingly long chunk of time…
It was agonizing, I’ll tell you that! I’m one of the most impatient people that I know. It definitely took a long time, but I’m glad we have it now.
Did it seem like that long, or did it kind of fly by? Because you seem to stay very busy with touring and all of that.
No, it did seem like a very long time, because it was happening in little dribs and drabs, you know? I think when things happen all in one go, they tend to pass you by very quickly, but when you space things out and you think about things and mull over them and redo stuff it’s not like that, and that’s kind of how this one went. On one hand that was very frustrating, but on the other, it added hugely to the music that’s on this record. I’ve lived a very interesting life for these past four years, so it’s not just one environment that this has come out of; it’s been lots of different environments and lots of different people, travel to different countries, different languages and instruments, so I think it did benefit the music.
And so how many tracks were you working with when it came to finalizing which songs would go on the record? Because again, four years is quite a good bit of time, and I imagine there was a lot of material to choose from.
Well, it wasn’t like, “Right, here’s what we’re going to write for this record.” They’re all songs that we’ve kind of collected over the years, and the ones that were chosen all kind of fit together into a running theme. I have others, but they weren’t really meant for this record. One day I’ll hopefully bring them to light, or if they’re shit, hopefully they’ll never come to light. [Laughs]
Right. Well, backtracking a bit to what you mentioned about all of the different influences and instruments and things on this record, how do you plan on bringing those songs to life on stage when you perform them live?
It’s quite difficult, actually. [Laughs] I didn’t think about performing it live when I was writing the songs, and normally I just play with my band. Now we’ve had to kind of bring some sounds in the computer with us, whereas usually we don’t use extra backing vocals and beats, because it means that you’re not as free. Every now and then if we’ve got a song where we’ve thought, “You know, the strings are missing here,” then we’d put it in the computer and play along to it, and I always thought it was a bit odd; you’re watching the stage and you’re hearing an orchestra, but there is no orchestra. It’s a strange thing.
But with this record, there are a certain amount of songs that, if you don’t have a particular sound, you don’t get the feeling of the song, or the heart of the song. For instance, “Stuck On You” has the sarod in it, and I consider that to be rare in the style of music I play normally. The guy that played it is amazing; he plays sitar and things like that, so he played it for us, and so we’ve taken it and put it on the computer. I try to explain to the audience, you know, “Here’s the deal: we have this instrument, and I hope it works out. Fingers crossed we’re not going to fuck up the timing or anything like that, because then it’ll be all out!” [Laughs] Similarly, “The Answer” is a massively rhythmic track, and it relies hugely on the drums and percussion. There are a lot of layers to that, so we bring that as well. It’s kind of strange for me; it’s a new thing to do on stage, for sure.
Right, but that’s exciting!
Yeah, when it works out it’s great! [Laughs]
So speaking of all of these international influences, are you still on track with the Total World Tour?
Oh yeah! We’re doing Lichtenstein soon, and then we’re going to do Japan and China. (We might even have a gig in Vietnam coming up, but we’re not sure on that yet. That’d be wicked.) I love China and Japan, though, because they’re so different to England and America. I really enjoy that part.
And then on the tour we do a collaboration with an artist from each country, as well as a charity, and that helps us to learn more about the countries we’re in, which is a beautiful thing to do when you’re there. Because normally, on a traditional tour, you kind of sing and then leave, sing and then leave, but with this one, it’s not like that. There’s so much more to it, and I’m enjoying this tour more than ever.
I’m sure! And I think it’s really cool that you’re taking the time to incorporate these extra elements like the charity work into your time in each country, because you’re right, ordinarily it would be a very whirlwind thing.
Yeah, it’s knackering! It’s definitely exhausting to add more onto your plate, but I really think it’s worth it. And it kind of feeds your soul a little bit. The collaborations can be quite inspiring, because you learn about different instruments and rhythms and even languages; having to sing in a different language is cool, because it pushes you into different melodies and things, you know? So I really enjoy it.
Absolutely! And you’ve also been taking footage of all of this, which is very cool. I saw something where you mentioned you were recording people dancing in each country you went to with the ultimate goal of creating a music video; is that still happening?
Yeah, and we’re hoping to get people to send in their own dance videos, because we’ve shot some of our own, but we’re trying to get a bunch of different people to participate.
Which country’s got the best dancers?
Oh they’re all great, but we haven’t had any from the US! We’ll have to get some. People need to get off their asses and do it.
Well, I won’t do it because I’m not such a great dancer, but I’m sure someone will.
Come on! It’s funny, because it has been very telling about which cultures are the shyest. [Laughs] It’s very funny.
I’m sure, I’m sure. Now, you also were filming a video for “Stuck On You” in France, yeah?
Yeah, that’s almost finished now, and it’s actually really cool. It was very challenging, though, I have to say. I had to do this whole thing under the water, but it was cool. That one was probably the most challenging music video I’ve ever done.
Anything that requires you to perform under water is automatically going to be super tough, especially when you’re trying to look glamorous all the while, so that’s completely understandable.
Yeah, because you think you’re going to die for half of it. It’s the whole possibility of death thing that you have to get over. [Laughs]
Exactly. [Laughs] Now, what else have you got coming up apart from the record release and a handful of shows? Are you writing anything new?
No, I’m just promoting this record at the moment, making sure everybody knows about it so that hopefully they can enjoy it before I jump back into this World Tour. To me, my World Tour is my biggest mission right now; I just want to continue it and see more of the world that I haven’t seen, you know? I’m really excited to do gigs in places that I’ve never seen before. Those are the bits that I really want to get to. I’m excited to do that, and that’s kind of the focus for me. Everything else is a bonus.