Joss Stone: Love Change, Pt 2

AHHA: So what happened with your management?

Joss: My management just disappeared. I never spoke to them. They didn’t even tell me [they weren’t managing me anymore]. They kind of uninvolved themselves without mentioning it. So I had to work it out. A week before Christmas, they decided to disappear. I was like, “Maybe they’re on a holiday?” I’m like calling and emailing…nothing.

AHHA: Why would they step away from you though? That’s ridiculous.

Joss: I will never know the reason why. I guess I will have to find out, but I tried. I guess they’re just embarrassed because they didn’t do their job properly or whatever. I had to go and renegotiate my deals myself and I was so scared. But it made me grow. It forced me to grow. I was nervous like, “Shit I should have my management here. Oops! Don’t have any.” [laughs] But I figured it out as you do. Nothing scares me anymore. Why? Why waste your time being scared? Something scares you, do it, just to find out. Then you can grow and move on in life. It’s a much more fun way to live.

AHHA: How did you link with Raphael Saadiq?

Joss: I love him. He’s f*cking brilliant. I just met him one day and was like…the first time I met him I didn’t like him. I thought, “Raphael, you are a miserable f*ck.” He was just so quiet! But he’s not at all. When he talks you can’t shut him up. But I didn’t know that at first. I just loved his music. I heard some things he had done, for like Mary [J. Blige] “I Found My Everything” and he did my favorite Erykah Badu song “Love of My Life.” Oh my God, oh my God. Love that song.

So anyway, I go in there thinking, “Ok. Musically he’s brilliant. Now, what’s he going to be like in person?” It’s all about people. There’s two songs I just took off my record a couple days ago because the person who was involved with it was being an ***hole because the energy was wrong. They taint it with bad energy, and I’m like, “Why would you do that? This is my child. Don’t f*ck with my child.” I love the song. It will be heard. It’s been leaked once. The whole album has been leaked. I’m like whatever, it’s been heard. It will be heard. It’s all good. As long as the world hears it, it doesn’t bother me.

I don’t want [the song] on my album because the energy of that man – his name is Dave Gates – I don’t know if you know about him. He’s a manager for Dallas Austin. He cursed me out on the phone and just was…he wouldn’t give me the splits and I needed to give them in. That was my part of the deal. I needed to give them in before a certain time so everyone could get paid. I don’t care, give me 1%. I know I wrote those songs. You know who the songs are about. One of them is about Beau, the other is about my friend Alex. It doesn’t matter, take it all, give me 1/2%. I just need the splits so that I can give it in. He deliberately kept it back so he would get me to that point because I really should have equal, but I’m just really not bothered.

And then he just cursed me out on the phone. I cried and I was all upset. I had bronchitis. I was like, “He’s so mean to me.” I was such a girl. I got so upset. He was just so nasty. I was like, “Why are you so nasty?” He was like, “I’m talking to you like a manager to a manager. If you wanna f*cking manage yourself, I’ma talk to you like a f*cking manager.” I was like [gasps] “Honey you shouldn’t talk to anyone like that. You’re just mean now.” I actually thought he was nice before, and he told me I was just nice because that was my way of hustling. That’s my manipulative way. I’m like, “No actually I’m just a nice person. I just kinda like you right now so I’m being nice to you.” In the end he kind of forced me to hate him. I don’t know why. But anyway, energy’s wrong, take him off the record. I’m all about energy.

The album, this for me, is my first real child. I got to make it. Every note I love. Every word I’m saying I believe. There’s nothing on here I don’t like so why would I taint it with that energy? So he just f*cked himself over basically. Silly bastard. The songs will still be heard; I can play them at the shows. Spreading the music. That’s what I’m about. I don’t care if people take it for free. It’s not about money, but with those motherf*ckers it is about money. That’s the shame of it. They just make [the music] feel bad and I don’t want that. I’m telling you what though, this album has a good energy. I made sure of it. It’s very important that every person involved is a beautiful person.

So back to Raphael, he told me that he didn’t believe it. He thought that it was too good to be true. He said, “You know they told me that you wanted me to produce the whole record and nobody does that.” I asked him, “Why were you such an ***hole the first day?” Because now we’re like best mates. I feel like I’ve found my spirit with music in him. He’s like my vessel. I’ve been playing this record for years in my head, and he was the only one who could bring it out of me. Nobody else heard me, and nobody else wanted to hear me. If I said to Raphael, “I don’t like that bassline, can you do this?” He’s like, “Ok sure. Let me figure out something that you’d love.” If I said that to someone else, they’re like, “No no no. It should be like this.“ I’m like, “Ok that’s fine but we need to work together.” Like I will suggest something to [Raphael] like with my [album] artwork. I love it. It’s so cool.

AHHA: The cover of your album with the body paint is beautiful.

Joss: Thank you! I just wanted it to be odd. I didn’t want it to be just a girl with her make-up done. That’s what it was before we did a whole photo shoot. We did it, I looked at the pictures and they bored me. They didn’t inspire me. I really wanted it to be perfect and wanted it to be art. I want every part of it to move somebody; not just the music. I worked so hard on the music, the artwork has to be just as stunning. It has to say things, and it can’t just be a piece. [On the new artwork] I made myself black and white, and the only thing that’s color is the art…and the pink in my hair.

AHHA: Love the pink hair, by the way…

Joss: Thank you, I’m glad you like it! Oh my God! My hair…there was a big issue about my hair with the record company…that’s why I went pink. They were trying to make me go back blond. I was like “No.” They were literally calling meetings about my hair. I was like, “Guys, this is ridiculous. I’m a singer, not a model.” So I dyed my hair pink. They were like, “You have to go back blond. Please, we’ll take a picture. You can dye it back to whatever you want.” I was like, “Ok I’ll dye my hair.” And this is what came out. Don’t f*ck with me and my hair! [laughs] No! You cannot tell me what color to wear my hair. That’s not what industry I’m in. I’m not here to look how you want me to. I’m not here to even sound how you want me to. So they let me do what I wanted to.

So the artwork…I basically went to LA – this was the point where I lost my management – I had this idea. I was thinking, “Hmm what do I do? I don’t want the front cover to be my face.” That’s really important for me. I never want it to be my face not once because it’s not about that. I wanted it to say something. And then for some reason it [snaps fingers] came to my head. I took a Polaroid from some photoshoot I was doing and I kissed this mic and it looked like a really nice picture. I was like, “That’s cool. I want to have that graffiti’ed onto a wall somewhere and have that be the front cover.“ It would be a painting. It wouldn’t be a picture of me, it would be someone making a piece of art.

There was a guy at Electric Lady who was a graffiti artist and was working as one of the techs. His name is Joshua Lutz. Sweet. What a nice boy. And we walked around – just me and him – for hours looking for a wall to paint. We kept asking people to borrow their walls, going into cafes and restaurants. I tried to call my management. At this point they weren’t picking up the phone, they just disappeared. I wanted help. I’m out here looking, can you make some calls? So I ended up getting in touch with my management’s assistant and he helped me. What a sweet boy. His name is Michael Colin. Absolutely gorgeous person. He said, “Ok Joss. I found a place called 5 Pointz…”

AHHA: Oh 5 Pointz!

Joss: Yes I love it. The guy who runs it, Meres, he’s the one who painted me. I was walking around 5 Pointz because I got Joshua – my mural’s down there. It’s massive. It’s a picture of me kissing a mic and there’s flowers and it says Joss. So that’s the back cover. We took those pictures and made it into a peace sign. Meres walked me around and showed me his work. Oh my God, the man is talented. Brian, my hair stylist – he’s like my best friend – he was like, “Could you do that on someone’s body?” So I was like “[gasps] Hold the f*cking phone! You’re coming to LA. I’m going to get a photographer.” And literally I had like a couple days to do it. Christmas was coming like three days away, and I gotta be home for my mum. So my management wasn’t picking up the phone, and I’ve gotta organize this photo shoot.

I called Brian Bowen Smith who took the picture. Brian’s a friend of mine, and what a lovely guy. That’s a friend; he came through for me. I said, “Brian I need you to help me. I don’t know what to do. I don’t have management. I don’t have anything. I will pay you out of my pocket; just give me a second to find it. I have an idea and all I need you to do is press click.” He lives in L.A., so I wasn’t going to ask him to fly out to me. I flew Meres out. Mike got me the flight, thank God. We watched Austin Powers, I said “Just vibe on my back, honey.”

Raphael let me use his studio. I said to him, “I have an idea.” He’s kind of conservative. I’m really not. I said, “Raphael I want you to…” [laughs] when I explain this to you you’re gonna be like, “this is f*cked up,” like he was. But he had to trust me. So I said, “Raphael I want to be painted and basically I want my body to be a canvas for this man, and I want you to be part of the picture. So, I’m going to sit on you [laughs] and he’s going to paint us so we look like one picture.” He was like, “Ok I feel what you’re saying but this is going to look real sexual.” I said, “If it looks sexual I won’t put it on there because that’s not the idea. If it looks sexual then we’ve done it wrong.”

I want it to say this: He is 40-year old man. I am a 19-year old girl. He’s Black. I am white. He’s American. I am English. He’s from Oakland. I’m from Devon. Completely different people when you look at it on a piece of paper written down. But actually we’re one in the same. Two minds that just kind of mix together. Musically, I’ve found my same mind. He just had the fingers to make it happen. I don’t know how to play bass. I’ve found him. So I feel musically and artistically, it combines us as one. So there’s this one picture when you take out the CD and it’s just me and him painted together and it looks like we’re kind of connected.

Then there’s a picture of just my legs with big red heels and it says “Love Change” because people are scared of change. God, wouldn’t it be funny if they weren’t? Like the color of my hair? They flipped the f*ck out. Over my hair. They’re wusses. When I was first trying to get signed, some guy told me, “Honey, I’m not gonna sign a white girl with a Black girl’s voice. It’s too different.” I’m like, “Well firstly, how can you call my voice Black considering you can’t see it?” Let’s stop attaching a race to a sound. God gave us all music. But people are afraid. Let’s not be scared no more.

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