YOU WOULDN’T necessarily think it to look at her, but Joss Stone is the possessor of some of the music world’s most soulful pipes. It’s easy to forget that the voice comes from a quiet, slightly shy teenager, more likely to be listening to Justin Timberlake than Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson or Otis Redding. But the truth is, she was raised on old school soul; the first album she ever had was an Aretha Franklin hits compilation.
Born, Jocelyn Eve Stoker in 1987, the sun-kissed Devonshire blonde grew up listening to American soul and R&B. In time, Stone realised that she possessed an impressive vocal style with depth and emotion, much like her idols, and, at just 16 years old, she emerged on the music scene.
In 2002, Joss took a chance and left her family home for an audition in New York City. It paid off – she wowed S-Curve’s Steve Greenberg with her rendition of Donna Summer’s On the Radio, and landed herself a deal. R&B/soul pioneer, Betty Wright joined her for her first recording and became an instant mentor and friend.
In the studio, vocalist Angie Stone, musicians Benny Latimore, Timmy Thomas, Little Beaver and the Roots assisted Joss for her first album, entitled The Soul Sessions. Completed in only four days, it’s a collection of classics and little known soul gems, alongside some contemporary tracks reinterpreted by Joss and her band. Using each song as a blueprint, Joss sang them in her own way. Even recording familiar songs, Stone and her band were determined to give them their own personal stamp. The reworking of classics by Laura Lee and Bettye Swann, as well as tracks by Wright and Franklin, helped establish Stone as perhaps the most exceptionally gifted vocalist of her generation.
By the summer of 2004, The Soul Sessions had sold more than two million copies worldwide, reached number one on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart in February 2004, breached the US Top 40 in April 2004, and hit the top 10 in 13 countries around the world. Earlier the same year, Stone introduced herself to the MTV generation with the funky Fell in Love with a Boy and, coupled with the huge success of her first album, Joss’s strong, soulful and sensitive voice shot her to stardom. She took on the domination of Britney and Christina with a sound, wise beyond her years, positioning herself among more established, credible stars like Norah Jones, Jill Scott and Nikka Costa.
Her second album, Mind, Body and Soul, was released in 2004 containing dynamic and assured performances, with feverish hits, playful dance tracks and impassioned rock-soul ballads. Joss co-wrote 11 of the 14 songs on her new disc, including collaborations with veteran hit makers Lamont Dozier and Desmond Child.
Her voice soars to a crescendo then sighs to a whisper, belts a soulful, joyful noise that reaches for the heavens, yet it doesn’t fall victim to the showiness of the Mariah Carey/ Christina Aguilera wannabes. Joss won’t use 10 notes when one is good enough, even though she has the ability to do so.
Her increasingly confident and exciting live shows contain original Stone, as well as selections of rarely covered soul gems. Joss Stone is a gifted artist singing great songs. She no longer needs a trendy single, and that is an incredibly liberating place for a young artist to be.
• You can go and see Joss at the Vilar de Mouros festival on July 30. See our What’s On pages for further information.