Video: Joss Stone performs "The High Road"
It's been nine years since Joss Stone released her multi-platinum debut, "The Soul Sessions," a record of covers made with producer Steve Greenberg when she was just 15 years old. Since then the singer's schedule has remained packed: She's released four more LPs, honed her songwriting, grappled with an uninterested label, joined a group called SuperHeavy (alongside some musicians you might've heard of: Mick Jagger, Damian Marley, Dave Stewart and A.R. Rahman), and started her own record label.
On July 31, Stone will return to her roots with the release of "The Soul Sessions, Volume 2," and to mark the occasion, the singer took to the roof of Mophonics Studio in Manhattan to perform an acoustic trio of songs. Watch as she sings "Teardrops," "The High Road" and "While You're Out Looking for Sugar" for the Billboard.com Tastemakers series.
Like the first installment of "Soul Sessions," Stone teamed up with S-Curve Records founder Steve Greenberg, who produced a possible list of songs to record. He and Stone then whittled down the list based on what felt most comfortable, creating an eclectic set filled with soul standards and deep cuts (The Dells' "The Love We Had" and The Honey Cone's "While You're Out Looking for Sugar"), along with tracks Stone had never heard before -- like the album's first single, Broken Bell's "The High Road." Final decisions, according to Stone, were made up to the wire as they were entering the studio.
Video: Joss Stone performs "Teardrops"
"That's where I find the enjoyment: In the spontaneity of making music and not knowing what's going to happen," Stone told Billboard.com. "Just kind of going, 'Let's try this one right now. Let's go,' and giving yourself a couple of hours and then leaving it alone."
That persistent desire to keep things fresh and fun has marked much of Stone's professional journey -- from skipping class to make music with Yes Sir Boss bassist Josh Stopford (the first group signed to Stone's new label) to challenging herself to write a record on her own for the first time ("Introducing Joss Stone") -- but it became the driving force once she found herself without a label and in control of the next steps in her career. One of those moves occurred in 2010 when Stone left longtime label EMI and formed Stone'd Records. The roster is currently comprised of Yes Sir Boss -- who Stone describes as "the kind of band you can't stand still while listening to" -- and herself, though she hopes to add more soon.
"I just try to be myself in every single part of my life," said Stone. "I try to say what I think, sing what I think, sound how I want to sound, dress how I want to dress. I'm happier that way."
Video: Joss Stone performs "While You're Out Looking for Sugar"
That joy is fundamental to Stone's music, both past and present, though recent injections were perhaps inspired by the rollicking horn-laden rock of signees Yes Sir Boss. Yet she continues to dabble primarily in the mother of all gut-wrenching, world-shattering, heart-breaking music: Soul.
While Stone agrees that soul is more of a feeling than a genre, her belief that music is playful and needs to feel good resulted in a recording experience where things were constantly moving and grooving. It allowed the necessary emotion to bubble to the top, but kept stress levels at bay, allowing for the most important thing: fun.
"With the music I make, I try not to stick too tightly to any one sound, because it's boring," said Stone. "We've got such a lovely opportunity to experience all these different sounds and fuck around with them and see what happens -- maybe make something new."