How one whirlwind week in Nashville offered her a fresh start

Joss Stone was in Spain last year, helping a friend repair his boat, when producer and Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart rang with an intriguing proposal: Fly to Nashville and make an album in just a few days. “I thought, ‘Wow, that sounds like a good idea,’ so I did,” the 24-year-old British soul singer remembers. She told her friend, filmmaker and photographer Paul Conroy, “I’ll be back in six or seven days, I’m going to make an album”—and a week later she indeed returned having completed LP1. Stone took a break from baking English muffins and repainting her bathroom to discuss all this and more.

Did you have some songs ready to go when Dave called?

Actually, I hadn’t any songs. It’s funny how it came together. Sometimes if I’m writing with people—other than Dave—it can take ages. Some take two days on the same song, others a half-hour. I prefer the half-hour thing, but that’s because I’ve got attention problems. I get bored. I think, “If it’s not right in a day, leave it. Let it be.” It’s good with Dave, because he shares the same method.

If I say something, he’ll pick up his guitar, say, “That’s great,” and it’s done. Then he’ll walk into the other room and play it for the other musicians, who are brilliant, so quick.

How was it working so fast?

There are so many different methods. I took a year to make [2007’s] Introducing Joss Stone. But I prefer the quick way, because you capture your first thought, and your first thought is the most honest. When you start to think about it too much, it doesn’t end up as good.

What were the Nashville players like?

This was a totally different experience for me. They were never late. Ever. That never happens with musicians. Usually I will stay up until 8 in the morning when I’m making a record. I go to the studio around noon or 1, and work until 8 in the morning, and whoever wants to can hang out and work. This was different. Everybody left at a normal time, and I was like, “Oh. We’re not going to go till 8?” (laughs) It’s a very organized, much better method for somebody who has a family and a life.

How was having creative control?

It was nice. I had taken it before, but I’d never been given it. I’ve taken it and had fights, like, “I’m doing this. I will make it the way I want to make it,” as on [2009’s] Colour Me Free! It’s screwed up to have to fight to be you. I did, and I won. But I don’t like to fight. I don’t want to fight. It’s not about that. It’s about love, the opposite of fighting. So it was really cool to freely be whatever I needed to be, and I didn’t have to watch my p’s and q’s or look over my shoulder.

What did you learn?

Now I give myself a certain period of time then go, “Right, what are you feeling? Let’s do it.” And then you send it to the mix. When you go way back and listen to what I like—the Supremes, Aretha Franklin, James Brown—they did it in one take. If it was out of tune, it was out of tune and they got better. They captured the moment, they miked everybody, ran the tape and just did it. And you hear what the people heard in the studio that day. I find that special.

Eric R. Danton

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