Later this month, British soul singer Joss Stone will release Water For Your Soul, her first album since 2012’s The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2. It’s a record packed with lush vocals that have become Stone’s calling card, but they’re complemented with sounds she picked up while touring the world, and a fresh interest in reggae spurred by collaborating with Damian Marley.
“It was a mental exercise to make it fit and make it feel good,” Stone tells EW. “It wasn’t as simple as ‘Hey guys, let’s just jam.’ That’s one of my favorite things, but it had to be more thought out.”
That sound is front and center on “The Answer,” one of the standouts from Water For Your Soul, for which EW is pleased to premiere the music video. Check it out below, along with our conversation with Stone.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me about recording Water For Your Soul.
JOSS STONE:This album has been going on forever. I can’t even pinpoint when it started, to be honest. We had a few songs that had a little reggae tip—I’ve done songs like that in the past, but I haven’t properly gone there. Then life changed, and I did something else. I did the SuperHeavy record [in 2011 with Mick Jagger and Damian Marley], met Damian, and he encouraged me to continue, we wrote some stuff. I just lived life and started doing the world tour and collaborating with lots of different people and listening to lots of different sounds. I got inspired and said, “Let’s just finish this. Let’s just go with it and add in all this interesting shit that we like.”
You’ve taken a different direction with your new stuff. How would you describe it?
It’s got a world music thing happening. The world tour inspired it. There’s three elements that run throughout, and they’re my three favorite things. You’ve got hip-hop in the beats. (I’m not rapping, you’d be pleased to know.) The sound of reggae flows throughout, there’s a lot of little guitar licks, and the basslines can be quite dubby. Then of course I’m singing, so that makes it R&B soulful.
I wanted to put everything in that I love, then from that we put little cherries on the cake along the way. There’s an Indian flute, a Brazilian beat. There’s Irish fiddles and gospel choirs. I’m trying to add a little bit of life in there, the life that I live. I’m running around the world and I’m collaborating with lots of different people, and I’m learning about different rhythms and sounds and instruments and scales even. I’m trying to pop a little bit of that in there every now and then, but I want it to be complementary to everything else that’s going on. It was a little bit of a puzzle in a way, but I really enjoyed doing it.
You mentioned traveling around the world. What type of music have you been deep into recently?
Some of the people that I’ve met along the way and I’ve collaborated with, sometimes I’m really, really into them. There’s one guy from Swaziland, his name is Bholoja. he calls what he does Swazi-soul and it’s just lovely. I love putting it on in the morning, in fact I’m going to put it on in a moment. This guy, you can hear it in his voice, he listened to a lot to Tracy Chapman and Joan Armatrading, which I listen to a lot as well. You can hear this in his tone. The fact that he’s a man, on top of that, and that he’s singing with a woman’s tone, that’s a lovely combination. He’s living in Swaziland and and speaking SiSwati, so he sings in SiSwati. It sounds gorgeous and spiritual. That’s probably one of my favorite things that I’ve found along the way.
What was collaborating with Damian like?
Oh, Damian’s lovely. He’s a sweet guy. He’s kind of a special guy. He’s the type of person that when he opens his mouth to speak everybody shuts up and listens. He’s that guy. He’s very clever. He’s got something right special about him, very smart. I like working with him, he’s cool. Although he’s very smart, he’s not always giving his opinion all the time—he’s too smart to do that. He lets everyone do their own thing, as long as they’re letting him do his, which is a lot like myself. I’m not really into pushing everyone and telling them what to do, I just like to let life breathe around me. That definitely seems to me to be what Damian does. In that sense we were like two peas in a pod, in a way.
You haven’t always recorded on your own label, Stone’d. What’s that like?
The label is something I wanted to set up, because A) I want to do whatever I want to do as an artist, of course. Who doesn’t? And B) I’d like to help other people do that too, because I know how difficult it is to find a label that will actually allow that. In a traditional set up, it’s like, “Look, we pay and you do what we tell you to do, like any normal job.” Which would make sense, if it wasn’t a creative job. The issue that I took with that is that, “No no, this is my soul and spirit and words and emotions and all of that bollocks that people go on about.” The fact is, it’s true. It really is very emotional to do what we do. I don’t think I could ever be in a situation like that again.
I would like to help people. We signed a band called Yes Sir Boss, and I thought they were great. They made a beautiful piece of music, an album called Desperation State which is absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately that band has broken up now, which is sad, but the time they were with us it was wicked. They toured about then were like, “Yeah, f-ck this, we’re not doing it.” But the fact is that with the set up that I’m trying to have, I’d like people to just be free to do that also. If you want to f-ck it all off, then f-ck it all off. If you want to do it, then do it. If you want to sing that song, sing that song. If you want to do this artwork, do this artwork. At the end of the day I just want to help. For me, now, I’m just trying to hash it out and make sure I get it right. You just help it happen and then hope for the best.