s seventh solo album Water for Your Soul arrives in stores today, via her label Stoned Records, and features musical inspiration from around the globe. Stone is currently on a true world tour (a Total World Tour, as she calls it) with the intention of hitting every single country on Earth. She says Swaziland in southern Africa has been her favorite gig so far, and she has picked up new instruments in India and other countries, not to mention different styles of singing, sounds, scales and ways to record.
Stones albums have moved fluidly from different genres: she was an R&B phenom, then rock, then funk. This amalgamation of soundsboth from her tour and her past albumsis evident on the new album, which heavily encompasses, among other inspirations, roots reggae. As our Ericka Blount Danois discovered upon speaking with the dynamic British vocalist recently, Stone has the gift of being the consummate music student, constantly bending her style, borrowing and giving back.
soulhead: You are doing a true world tour with the intention of going to every single country in the world. Youve been inspired by musicians on the tour?
Joss Stone: I have enjoyed it more than any other tour I’ve ever done. I am visiting the charities and good causes and doing collaborations with musicians. They make it feel like this tour has more of a purpose in a way. Each time I’ve met a new musician from a country, Ive learned a different song, which sometimes is harder than others. Yesterday we were in Mexico City. I met this lady she was lovely she had this really soft, peaceful voice reminiscent of Corrine Bailey Rae. I really enjoyed working with her and singing in Spanish. When we went to South Africa, I worked with a guy with a really special spirit. I really enjoyed learning that language as well.
Working with musicians around the world inspires different sounds in my music. It opens up my mind to different sounds and scales. I’ve never been to India. An Indian producer in the UK opened up my mind to different instruments like the tabla and the Sarod, but the scale is different and it is a different approach to singing. So I learned to do a bit of background vocal for a woman the producer was working with. It took me like two weeks to learn it.
When I was working on Stuck on You, Jonathan [Shorten] and Nitin Sawhney would make this sound with the wheel and I was like, I don’t know what this sound is but I want to find the instrument that it is. The guy that plays tabla on the record. That’s the guy that plays in his band. The instrument sounds like water. He taps it with his middle finger and he pushes his palm against it to make the sound.
soulhead: Did any of the tour inspire this new album?
JS: Definitely! I’ve been trying to do this tour for some time and we’ve been doing it in little bits. The album has been written over a long period of time. We started writing it before SuperHeavy. I met Damian [Marley] when we did the SuperHeavy album.
The songs were like roots reggae songs. Damian encouraged me to continue. After we had some writing sessions, I went out again on tour. I wasnt the only one inspired; people on my team were inspired. Jonathan, he’s like my brother. I told him about all the people I’ve met on the tour a lady in Morocco, and I played him this sound. Even though he’s not on the tour, he started making different sounds based on what I played. Steve Greenwell started out as the engineer but ended up co-producing it with us. He’s been my engineer since I was 16. He knows what I’m talking about which is quite difficult because I talk a lot of shit. The tour has really inspired everybody.
soulhead: The album initially was intended to be a reggae album?
JS: We didn’t really know what we were doing and then Damian Marley was like, make a reggae record! I was like, I don’t want to offend anyone. I said to him, Damian, I can’t make a bloody reggae record, what are you talking about, I’m English? He was like, Don’t be stupid. I said, Okay, well you’ll have to help me. So we started writing and then we realized, You know what, let’s just make a record that we like with all the different sounds that we like. And let reggae hip hop and R&B be our anchors and our hearts and our background and the rest can fly around it. The Irish fiddle and the flamenco guitar and things like that can come in and out.
Reggae holds it down like hip-hop does, it’s like a real strong backbone.
soulhead: There are a few songs that are really hip-hop heavy?
JS: Let Me Breathe is really hip-hop. Hip-hop is really living in the beat, living in the bass in our drums. The guys on the bass and drums have been with me for a long time. I like that sound, I like the short snap. I don’t like things to ring out. I like a heavy, heavy bass line. I think they definitely got that one on this one. It’s also good for dub, they live nicely next to each other.
soulhead: So, you’re on track to hit every single country?
JS: Oh yeah, we’re on track. It’s hard to get gigs in certain places, but we’ll do it. It will be a positive experience.
I can get a little bored doing the same thing. It’s like eating the same food every day. You still like it, but it’s not as inspiring. For me, the travel and the different sounds I’m hearing are turning into something I need. It makes everything better and makes all the colors brighter, especially when you hear something you haven’t heard before.
Best Tracks: Love Me | This Ain’t Love | Star” | “Let Me Breathe | Cut the Line | Wake Up | Harrys Symphony | Clean Water | The Answer