Sometimes making an album doesn't have to be complicated, as Joss Stone discovered firsthand this spring. The British soul singer's fifth studio release -- "LP1," due in stores July 26 as the first release through her own Stone'd Records and in partnership with indie Surfdog Records -- was recorded in just one week at Blackbird Studios in Nashville.
Going into the sessions, Stone had no idea what the results might be. "I never made like a conscious effort to make an album," the 24-year-old says from her home in Dover, Kent, England. "I just happened to do it because [producer] Dave Stewart called up and was like, 'Hey, come play.' So I did. And we ended up with an album, which is quite handy. I like that freedom and I enjoy just not having to always organize what's going to happen next. It's fun that way."
Stewart (Eurythmics, Bob Dylan, No Doubt, Tom Petty) is a longtime collaborator of Stone's: The two initially worked together on the "Alfie" soundtrack in 2004. Both Stewart and Stone will join Mick Jagger, Damian Marley and A.R. Rahman for the supergroup project SuperHeavy, set to debut this fall, and Stewart is also a Surfdog artist. But Stone and Stewart's work in Nashville was solely about Stone getting back to making music again, on her own terms.
In 2008, Stone began a legal battle seeking her release from EMI. She spent the next year-and-a-half publicly fighting with EMI over the stalled release of her fourth album, "Colour Me Free." Although it was eventually released, the album underperformed, selling only 93,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan -- a far cry from the commercial success she found with earlier projects like 2003's "The Soul Sessions" (981,000 copies), 2004's "Mind Body & Soul" (1.3 million) and 2007's "Introducing Joss Stone" (652,000). Stone retreated to her home in Cullompton, Mid Devon, and officially split with EMI last year. In January she announced that she was launching her own label, Stone'd Records. Perhaps fittingly, "LP1" ushers in a fresh sound.
Video: Joss Stone's "Tell Me 'Bout It"
"It is surprisingly rock-y," Stone says of the project. "I've never done anything rock-y before. I don't feel like it sounds country but I feel like it sounds Nashville-y. That twang. It definitely doesn't sound English, [but] it's definitely still soulful."
Like her previous albums, "LP1" centers on Stone's full-bodied voice. At times she belts out lines from deep within her chest, and at others she's merely whispering. But where her other albums trafficked in retro soul, "LP1" is a mashup of folk rock, country and soul R&B. Songs like "Newborn," "Cry Myself to Sleep" and "Landlord" are built around acoustic guitar strums and bluesy organ riffs.
The album is a break from Stone's norm, and the promotional efforts surrounding it have been smaller and more concentrated than her days with EMI. The first single, "Somehow," which leaked to the Web in early June and has been receiving play largely on triple A stations, was officially released at retail on July 11. Stone appeared on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" (July 11) and "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson" (July12) to support the album, and "Somehow" will be an iTunes Free Single of the Week the week of "LP1"'s release. But plans for a video are still up in the air and Stone hasn't announced summer tour dates to support the album.
"She had a creative impulse for this collection of songs and it wasn't driven by the typical strategy of an album cycle and touring and that kind of thing," Surfdog Records founder Dave Kaplan says. "It's a lot of fun to see somebody so confident in her decisions and just help them facilitate it. It's more like a thrill ride than a strategic day-to-day game plan."
"I was originally going to not do anything," Stone says of her promotional efforts. "I was going to do two interviews, one in America, one in the U.K. But now people really like it so I said, 'OK, I'll do like a month of promo.' We'll see what happens. I don't need to sell 10 million to feel that it was a success."