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Joss Stone Talks Her New Album and Introduces Us to the Expression 'T*ts Up'

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jossstonephoto.jpgJoss Stone released her debut album, The Soul Sessions, at the tender age of 16 and, nearly 10 years later, she's back with a sequel. The Soul Sessions Vol 2 features covers of Sylvia's "Pillow Talk," The Chi-Lites' "Stoned Out Of My Mind," and Womack & Womack's "Teardrops," among others, and arrives via Stone's own imprint, Stone'd Records, along with S-Curve, after a long and publicized saga with the singer's former label, EMI, whom she at one point offered to pay 2 million pounds to terminate the contract.  Now, with newly-gained artistic freedom, it makes sense that the musician would choose to return to the genre that launched her career, soul.  And, though she's grown up quite a lot in the last ten years, the singer's trademark neo-hippie style and laissez-faire attitude seem to be perfectly intact. Below, Stone shares her thoughts on the new album, and why her acting role on Showtime's The Tudors could have gone "tits up."  Read on.

What's been the biggest change in your life since recording the first Soul Sessions almost ten years ago?  

Well, there has been every change that a normal 15-25 year-old person would have and we could talk about that for two months. But musically, I've learned how to make music.

I was signed when I was fourteen and I was in the studio when I was fifteen. I didn't know how to sing at all. I only made it up, which I kind of do now. I didn't know how to work a microphone. I didn't know how to lead a band. I didn't know how to listen to a mix and understand what was going on. I knew nothing about it. Zilch. I didn't even play an instrument.  I was literally going in there because I managed to make a noise out of my mouth that they happened to like -- that's all I had. Right now I feel like I've got a little bit more knowledge and I've been taught these things and I've sat in these environments and I've watched and I've learned and I can understand now how to create a piece of music with a band. I still don't play an instrument. I play a little guitar and sometimes a bit of piano but enough to understand it and lead the band.  

Is it fair to say that with more knowledge, you've had more control over this album?

Knowledge can give you more control if that's how you want to use it but it also gives you safety and makes you feel more comfortable and less out of place. When I was younger and I made the record, I was shitting myself the whole time. I was so nervous. You can't have that much fun when you're that nervous. You don't know what you're doing -- it's scary. I'm not scared anymore. I feel really comfortable and really happy and really elated when I'm in the studio.  

But I try to set up the Sessions [in a way that] there isn't really a lot of control. Having fun is the most important [thing] in making an album. That's all it's about, man. If your musicians are having a wonderful time and they're brilliant musicians, then you've done a good job.

How did you decide which songs to include on the record?

I don't have a lot of knowledge of songs. I'm not the type of person to sit and investigate anything, actually. Anything. Even if I'm really interested, I still don't. I just let things come to me and let things be and it's just like, "If I'm meant to hear it, I'll hear it." It's just how I live my life.  Steve Greenberg, who helped me make the Soul Sessions, has a massive vault of songs and played me loads and loads of them. The way I chose them was obviously taking into account the lyrics, the melody, and whether you can tell that story because this is soul music we're talking about here, so it's got to be told. How famous it was matters too because I don't want to cover really, really massive hits like "Stayin' Alive" or "Simply The Best" because I feel like you're wasting an opportunity. The opportunity that we have is to show people music that they might have missed or that they didn't hear.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, is it safe to say you believe in fate...

I believe that anything's possible -- that's truly, truly what I believe. I believe that one day pigs will fly. There you go. That's my philosophy. I've been very lucky. You just have to be open and happy and you draw in good things.  

What do you like to do when you're not recording or performing?

I'm at home as often as I can be with my dogs. I've got lots of dogs.

How many?

Four. I've got a teacup poodle. 

You live two hours outside of London?

Yeah, I live about two and a half hours in the middle of the countryside. Have you ever seen Lord of the Rings? That's what it's like. It's like the shire. I love it. It's so beautiful there.

Are you going to do any more acting?  I loved your guest role on The Tudors as Anne of Cleves.

I'd love to do some more. I don't have much time at the moment and nothing's really come up but when the opportunity presents itself, I'm in, man. I'm so in. I was so worried about being one of those [crossover artists] and that it would be a dodgy thing to do but I was like, "I'm not going to let the fear stop me from having fun. I'm just going to try." And it could've gone tits up. Everyone could have gone, "Joss, what the fuck are you doing? Get back in the singing booth!"  But actually all of the feedback has been really nice. I've been encouraged.

Okay, last question: William or Harry?

I think they're completely different and they're so different in personality as well. Harry is quite fun but so is William. William doesn't get enough props for being fun and a little bit cheeky.  He's just as cheeky but he covers it up a little more.


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