Joss Stone weighs in on cultural appropriation: 'I just don't think it's an issue'
British soul sensation Joss Stone is back with her seventh album, Water for Your Soul, released earlier this year through her own record label, Stone’d records.
Water for Your Soul is the follow up to 2012’s The Soul Sessions Vol. 2. The album, which is infused with elements of reggae, “world” sounds, hip hop and, of course, soul, is one of Stone’s most authentic works.
“I feel now that I am free from any kind of ball and chain. I can make whatever sound that I choose,” Stone said during an interview with theGrio. “We have this very eclectic mix of different sounds from around the world on this record. So you could say that it’s a world music record, a reggae record, or a soul record.”
The “ball and chain” Stone references is her former record label, EMI. Stone said in 2012 after ending her contract that she gave away her fortune to reclaim her soul.
“When I left EMI, I left because I wanted to be me and not be told off for being me. I wanted to just be myself and musically say everything that I wanted to say and not have somebody turn up and say, ‘No, you’re not allowed to be that person. Can you just be that person, the one that we signed when you were 16?’ I needed to be free from that in order to be happy, I suppose.”
“All I want is freedom,” Stone added. “Creative freedom is very important to me, and I have that. And what do they want? They want money… so we swapped. They gave me my freedom; I gave them my money.”
Today, one could argue that we’re in the midst of a influx of British soul singers finding success on the U.S. Billboard charts.
Before there was Adele, Jessie J, and the late Amy Winehouse, there was Stone. However, she refuses to think of herself as a “trailblazer.”
“It’s not really me. I didn’t start it,” Stone said. “I was listening to Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and Anita Baker when I was a little girl. They were long before any of us girls. We’re just being inspired by those women.”
Stone also weighed in on the ongoing discussion of cultural appropriation, a term The New York Times recently described as being “associated with the white Western world’s co-opting of minority cultures.”
Stone, who’s been singing soul music since her early childhood, says she doesn’t think appropriation is an issue.
“I listened to the music I like, I sang the music I like and I didn’t really think about any color or creed or anything like that,” she recalled. “Until I came over to the U.S. and people started saying, ‘Oh my gosh your a little white girl,’ it suddenly started to dawn on me that it was not normal for this style of music.”
“I just don’t think that [cultural appropriation] is an issue… We get to walk out into this middle of New York. This is an amazing place where it’s a melting pot full of all different types of cultures. I think that’s a beautiful thing, and it only really creates goodness. We go to restaurants where there’s fusion and there’s spices from all over the world. This isn’t just about music, this is about culture that we’re talking about. So we are sharing.”
Stone uses the world sounds and styles featured on Water for Your Soul as a personal example of how she’s embodied different cultures.
“Saris, for instance, I think they are beautiful. I absolutely love that material, but that’s Indian. So if I start wearing a sari, is that disrespectful? In my opinion, If somebody from India feels that’s disrespectful, they’re being a little too precious… a little too uptight.”
“We live in one world; let’s enjoy what each other’s ideas are and all of these different sounds and tastes and colors. Let’s experience that. That’s always been my opinion, really.”
Stone says hopes to visit every major country in the world with her Water for Your Soul tour and possibly feature some of the artists she meets from around the globe on her next project.