When British R&B songstress Joss Stone started writing material for her forthcoming third album, Introducing Joss Stone, she decided she wanted the disc to feature a couple of collaborations. More than anything, though, Stone wanted to work with one of her favorite artists, the Fugees’ Lauryn Hill. In her mind, the musical pairing just had to happen. So for months the 19-year-old tried to secure a commitment from the seven-time Grammy Award-winning artist, but to no avail.
Rather than stalk Hill’s management or record-label heads, Stone turned to a more intimate source to make the magic happen.
“I called her mum every day for like a month and a half,” Stone explained. “I couldn’t get a hold of [Lauryn], and there was no answer from [her camp] — I couldn’t get a yes or a no. So I just kept calling her mother.”
And Stone’s persistence eventually paid off, with Hill hopping on board to contribute to the track “Music,” which Joss described as her love letter to song.
“I wrote it based off of the Fugees track ’The Mask’ [from 1996’s The Score], but now the track has changed drastically — but the bass line’s similar,” Stone said. “I really think that everybody goes through life looking for love in all the wrong places — in human beings. Unconditional love is impossible to get from a human being, but it’s not impossible to get from music. And Lauryn, I’ve wanted to work with her since the first time I heard her voice. It’s a dream come true for me — a goal I can mark off my list. I love her so much, and she’s just so talented. She’s just a poet.”
When Introducing Joss Stone — which she co-produced with Raphael Saadiq (Mos Def, the Roots) — is released in March, fans will also find a “wicked” collaboration with Common, another of Stone’s favorite performers, on the cut “Tell Me What We’re Gonna Do Now.”
“With rappers it’s difficult, because sometimes you can get all that gangsta rap, which means nothing,” she explained. “Sometimes it’s good to listen to, in certain situations, but there’s no substance to it. With people like Common or Lauryn or Nas [who she did not work with on the album], they’re real poets. They’re really saying something, and that’s why I needed them on the record. … I wanted artists who had something to say.”
Stone began writing the follow-up to 2004’s Mind, Body & Soul back in April and brought about 60 songs with her into a studio in Barbados in September. When it’s finished, Introducing will boast a dozen tracks, including “Girls, They Won’t Believe It,” “Tell Me ’Bout It” (the first single) and “I Wish,” which she said is a “calm ’F— you’ that just needed to be done. I had to get that one out of me, and it was inspired by that feeling of, ’I wish I never met you, because then, I wouldn’t feel anything at all.’ When you come out of a bad relationship, you just kind of wish it never happened in the first place, because you would never have to feel that aftermath.”
Stone, who recently made her film debut in the fantasy epic “Eragon” (see “Joss Stone Gets In Touch With Witchy Side For Film Debut In ’Eragon’ “ ), titled the album Introducing Joss Stone because, for the first time in her relatively young career, “I feel like it’s really my album — like, I made it. I decided who to work with, and what songs to put on there. I wrote the songs. This is what I want to hear when I hear my album.”
She’s a bit less enthusiastic about her first two records, Mind, Body & Soul and 2003’s The Soul Sessions, which goes a long way toward explaining her new LP title. “There were songs [on the earlier albums] there I didn’t want on there and vocal performances I didn’t feel were good enough,” she explained. “I cannot tour for two years singing songs that I really don’t feel. I want to be able to say, ’This is my song that I love, that I wrote, and it means this and that.’ I want to go on TV and be able to say, ’Yes,’ when they ask me if I like it. Before I couldn’t say that. I can’t lie. I just wanted to love my music. That’s the reason why we live — to be happy.”
And working with Saadiq did just that.
“He just gets me, and musically, everything came together when he came along,” she said. “For years, since I was 14, I’ve been trying to tell people what I want to hear. One, they didn’t listen to me because I was too young; and two, they didn’t know how to listen to me, because they really weren’t in the same headspace as me. But he just gets it. Finally someone understands. That’s how I feel with him. He wanted to make me happy, and he gave me everything I asked for — and more.”
Ultimately, Introducing is an album Stone said she can be proud of, and one that truly represents her as an artist.
“This is the first album I did by myself, and I felt I had to prove myself with it,” she said. “I think this is one of those albums that, when it ends, just leaves you wanting more.”