Joss Stone is handed a warm "cuppa" midway through our discussion of all the things she’s involved in these days. It’s a lengthy, exciting, even life-changing list, so we patiently wait as she savors a quiet moment and a sip of tea.
As it has since she was just a teen, music maintains a front and center role in life for the British singer-songwriter. Her new album, Never Forget My Love, is due February 11. At the time of our discussion, she'd just begun a tour with fellow British songstress Corinne Bailey Rae. They had a February 8 date slated for 713 Music Hall but Stone won't be able to perform since she's tested positive for COVID. She announced yesterday she is leaving the tour and hopes to reschedule her date here. Rae is expected to play the scheduled date as of this writing.
"I am gutted. I so badly want to come sing for you all," Stone wrote to fans on social media. "The show must go on without me. Corinne is still gonna play! She exudes beauty on every level. Her music is enchanting and so is her personality. Please go and enjoy her loveliness."
Stone was touring to promote the new album which teamed her with Dave Stewart, the iconic English music producer and Eurythmics co-founder. The duo has created an album that recalls the sophisticated soul of those legendary Dionne Warwick-Burt Bacharach pairings.
“I think now, with the music that we’re making at the moment, it’s like ‘Oh, okay, we’re doing that again. That’s cool.’ For me that’s a bit of a breath of fresh air, to be able to make music that’s like real songs with real string arrangements and real horn arrangements. It’s a very real piece of music, for sure and I love that,” Stone said of the album. “That’s been the case for all of my records, but a lot of the records in the past have been a different style of music, often groove-based. And this is really song-based. It’s like these are the stories and we want you to hear them.”
Fans have already heard some of the album’s songs, like the title track and “Breaking Each Other’s Hearts,” a power ballad worthy of Stone’s big, expressive, familiar voice. Both songs were released late last year. A sneak peek of the album had us picking our own favorites. We get “I Will Survive” vibes from the bold track “You Couldn’t Kill Me” and are especially in love with the classic feel of “Love You Till the Very End.”
Channeling the sounds of the Sixties is good for music lovers, but will it be good for the 2022 music charts, we asked?
“The thing is, I try not to consider the charts because when you do when you’re making a record you just stress yourself out unless you’re doing something that really is sounding like the charts and I’ve never done that. It’s always just something that I ignore,” said Stone. “But I hope that the music that we make is good enough to stand the test of time. If that means that it hits the charts in 2022, great. If it means that it never does but people are still listening to it in 2070, then that’s good.
“I think there’s a big difference between making music that’s from the human heart and making music from the computer. There’s a lot of fun in that and a lot of opportunity for a great dance, which is why I do love music like that, too,” she added. “But the songs that I’ve listened to from Dusty Springfield and Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin, telling those stories, they don’t have a place, they are in every place. And you can play them at any time and it’s a piece of someone’s heart, so it can never not be there.”
Fans were expecting to get a double dose of these heartfelt songs with Stone and Rae co-headlining the tour.
“Corinne’s show is going to be gorgeous, it’s such a lovely pairing,” Stone said. “She is somebody that I’ve met a few times over the years because of course we’re singing soul music. I sing a different version of soul music than her, but it’s all the same really, you know? We end up on the same gigs because our spirits are very aligned and often times on the festival shows you end up meeting artists that you’re gonna love because it’s the same genre. That’s how the bookers do it so it’s kind of wonderful and that’s how I met her."
Stone said both artists were traveling with their families this tour. Stone’s boyfriend Cody DaLuz and their one year-old daughter Violet were getting a taste of the tour life before COVID interrupted. During our discussion, Stone contemplated motherhood.
“I feel very different now. I’m, of course, the same person but now I feel like everything’s a bit calmer and it’s a little bit less unknown. I know that sounds crazy because I’ve gotten a baby, but I have known her forever. It’s a weird thing. I feel like I’ve been preparing for my baby for 20 years because that’s all I ever thought about. I’m one of those people that just — like if you had asked me at five what do you wanna be? I’d be like, ‘I wanna be a mommy.’ I love kids and I always have, even when I was a kid,” Stone said.
We suggest that there were only a handful of years from the time she was an infant until she was a globally-known recording artist. Has she considered her role as a parent should Violet meet a similar early success and the challenges that come with it?
“Yeah, I do think about that, I do. And it’s such a scary thought, it really is. What do you do? Of course, as a parent you want your kid to have all the good bits that you had and not have the bad bits. So, we have to try and guide them without putting the worries on them,” Stone said. “It’s like I don’t want to say anything negative to her about life, but some things can be a bit shit. Some people are not actually as nice as you might want them to be. I suppose I just have to help guide her through that and nurture whatever it is she wants to do and support her.
“If she wants to go off and be a famous singer — oh my God, what am I going to say?!” she said. “If I could have a dream for her it would be that music is in her life and that she can sing and that she can play an instrument, but she chooses to do something else. I wish that she would choose to be a scientist or a botanist or a gardener or something that keeps you at home. Because the thing that I think is kind of sad about what we do is that relationships suffer so much because of the touring life. And music is such a special thing. It heals us. So, you can’t let go of music, but you have to hold onto it in a way that doesn’t fuck with your relationships.
“I’ve learned that but it took me years to learn that,” she admitted. “So now, I have this wonderful balance where my touring life doesn’t mess with my relationships. I don’t do it as much and I have a special way of working that out that, in the beginning, I didn’t know what to do, I just kind of did everything and then it was a mess. I hope that she’ll miss that mess and be able to do something else.”
It seems Stone has a full plate between recording music, performing live and being a new mom. Maybe she has a hyper-sense of FOMO. She’s also got the Joss Stone Foundation, a podcast and a cooking show on Facebook for fans. She’s even been a "Sausage," her winning character in the UK version of The Masked Singer.
“Oh, I’ve done it all,” she laughed.
Of all the side gigs, we’re intrigued most by her podcast, A Cuppa Happy. Found on the usual podcast platforms, the show is an examination of happiness — how it’s created, how it’s maintained and what it means to us all. She and her guests - scientists and psychologists and fellow artists like Boy George, Shaggy and Dave Stewart — discuss the topic in detail. As she sat on the tour bus, chatting amiably, sipping tea and planning a playground date with her little family for the afternoon, it seems like her own cuppa happy has runneth over. It's a vibe not even COVID hiccups can alter, we hope.
“I hope I have lots of kids. I hope Violet is the first of many. I think in order to be a good grower of people, which is what parenting is, you should study happiness if you want your child to be happy,” she said. “You know what, I think it’s the most important thing in life, of course. Being happy is the point. If we’re not going to try to be happy ourselves the least we can do is try to help other people be happy. That’s the point.”
Corinne Bailey Rae, 8 p.m. Tuesday, February 8, 2022 at 713 Music Hall, 401 Franklin. $29.50 to $69.50.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.