“Yell at me like I pissed you off,” Joss Stone insists, trying to hear me over the poor reception. And then it’s just downhill from there: Her dog is eating her clothes, and an incessant beeping from her wonky phone ends our conversation.
When Stone calls back, she’s not kidding when she says, “Shit is going down.” In her career and personal life, it’s nothing short of the truth.
In June, Stone was the target of a murder plot that involved two men’s plan to rob and attack the performer at her England home. She’s fine now, and during our interview already joking about it. There’s also the messy breakup with her former record label, EMI, which ended in a legal battle and the recent release of a greatest hits package, The Best of Joss Stone 2003-2009, going all the way back to Stone’s breakout debut The Soul Sessions. The singer also has her own project – on her own label, Stone’d Records – that dropped this summer, aptly titled LP1.
Stone recently chatted about her newfound independence, why performing with Melissa Etheridge was “one of the best experiences I’ve ever had” and how she’s kissed girls – but she’s not a lesbian.
Years ago, when you said you’d had it with men, you joked about going lesbian. How’s that working out for you?
That’s an odd question to start with. (Laughs) I’m not a lesbian; don’t worry. I’m fine. I’m still into my heterosexuality.
You’ve been a big supporter of gay people for a long time, performing at Pride parades and for GLAAD. What’s that been like?
Really fun, actually. GLAAD was fun, and then I did gay Pride in L.A. – that was also really fun. They’re the best crowd ever.
When did gay issues become important to you?
It’s always been something that’s been close to my heart, because a lot of my best mates are gay. It’s important that everybody gets treated the same. I don’t like prejudice in any kind of way, whether it’s color or sexual preference. I just think it’s disgusting the way that people treat people who are a little bit different.
You’ve performed with lots of notable gay people, including Melissa Etheridge and Ricky Martin. Tell me about those experiences.
Melissa Etheridge was a wicked one. I love her because she stands for so many things. She stands for strength as a human being, first and foremost. She’s one of the bravest women I’ve come across. For lesbian and gay people, she definitely stood up in front of the world in the classiest of manners and said, “This is who I am and if you don’t like it, tough.” I just love her. I love her attitude about life, and everything she says always comes from a good place. So, to be honest, performing with her was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. She gives me a lot of good advice; she’s a good person to just talk to. Let alone perform with! I mean, that was mad!
What about Ricky Martin?
He’s gorgeous, isn’t he? What a lovely person. He totally welcomed me into his home with open arms. And what a great dad! Those two kids, he loves them – and I love to see that. He’ll drop everything for his kids. It says a lot about him.
Who’s your closest gay friend?
My friend Brian, my hairdresser, is one of my best friends in the whole world. I love him so much. He’s such a good person. But there are many, many, many. I don’t know if they want me to mention all of their names, but I can say Brian is a really close friend of mine and he’s been with me through everything since I was, like, 15. He’s the best friend you could ever have.
How does it feel to be a free woman and have an album out on your own label?
I love the fact that I can do whatever I want. It was always a struggle to do that, and I was always in trouble for doing so. Now I’m happier because I’m doing something that I want to do and nobody’s telling me off for doing it – you know, threatening me with all sorts of horrible things. I can just be who I want to be, and I felt like there was a time where I was being told that whatever I was was wrong, and I hate that. It’s just a very cruel thing.
I’d go off and make some music that I was really proud of, and they’d tell me it was shit. So I thought, “You go find whomever you want to sign that’s going to fit your mold, and I’ll just go be me and be a happy human being.” I’m not interested in becoming this humungous artist selling millions of albums. I just want to be a happy human being and make great music. Now I have the freedom to do that.
“Karma,” one of the songs on the new studio album, references you owning a gun. Do you really have a loaded gun?
(Laughs) I’m going to get one soon. (_Phone starts beeping; Joss hangs up and calls back_) My phone is really creepy. I’ve changed my number because all these noises kept coming through – what you just heard – and they keep happening!
You better get that loaded gun fast.
I should! (Laughs)
Are you tempted to get a gun because of that recent plot to attack you?
No, actually. It’s a great excuse to get more dogs!
You started something when you mentioned Lady Gaga recently.
Oh, shit. What did I say now?
That Gaga’s clothes distracted from her talent as a musician.
It does, though, right? I like to think that was a compliment to her, though. From my point of view, that was a compliment. That might not have come across as one. Oops.
I think she’s a great singer and she plays piano pretty nicely, and it’d be nice if people would talk about her because of that.
With Gaga and Katy Perry relying more on just their talent to entertain, do you think you can be successful today without the frills?
Probably. It’s nice because it gives more of an entertainment value to it, as well. It must be, like, the most amazing show ever. Whereas people that just sing and play, it can be amazing and mind-blowing but it’s a different type of feeling. It’s not bright lights and fireworks, but it doesn’t make it any better or worse. Sometimes when I hear people talk about certain artists that I know are really great singers but they don’t mention it, it’s like shit – it shouldn’t be about the boobs, the bum and the hairdo.
Whatever happened to Snappers, the British film you shot a few years ago where you kissed another woman? Is it ever coming out?
Where I made out with a woman? I did! (Laughs) No, I don’t think so. I think the guys that put it together had some kind of crazy misunderstanding and it never got sorted. It’s mad, the movie was. It’s so funny because some of it was really serious and very professional, and then there’s a lot of it that’s kind of slightly dodge, as we would say.
Do you know how many women wish you were a lesbian?
(Laughs) That’s funny! Aw, I don’t know. But the time I did it for a movie, it was kind of halfway there; it was a local thing that was happening 20 minutes from where I live, and my friend was making the movie and he said, “Joss, will you play a lesbian? It’ll only take a day.” I said, “That sounds fun!”
Was that your first time kissing a woman?
No! I’ve snogged girls before in my time. But I’m not a lesbian; I swear it, I’m not! I don’t think I could go in that direction. But I have snogged girls before when I was little; of course I have. That’s what we do as girls.