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Joss Stone takes on soul

Joss Stone
Joss Stone

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(CNN) -- A 16-year-old British girl is not what you'd expect to find behind the sexy, smoky sounds of "The Soul Sessions," Joss Stone's debut album.

Stone grew up in Devon, England, listening to whatever was playing at her house -- rock, pop, R&B, reggae -- but it was soul music that made the biggest impression. The first album she owned was an Aretha Franklin compilation.

The young singer landed a management deal out of her performance for a British talent show, and she was signed by Steve Greenberg of S-Curve when she was 14.

Greenberg introduced Stone to soul princess Betty Wright and soon Stone was working with a band populated with some of the biggest names of the '70s Miami Soul scene.

"The Soul Sessions," featuring covers of soul classics, was originally conceived as an EP that would precede Stone's full-length debut. Ten songs later, the recording was released to critical praise as Stone's first album. Expect the original debut in 2004.

TMR sat down with Stone to talk about her music.

TMR: Tell me about your early exposure to music at home. What did you like?

STONE: OK. Well my parents would play loads of different stuff around the house, like rock, pop, soul, R&B, reggae, stuff like that, so I could kind of choose which ones I liked. It wasn't like they played one thing and then I would listen to that. It was just -- I could choose whatever, and I think soul kind of connects with me more than any other type of music. And reggae is also kind of cool. So yeah, I really like pretty much everything.

TMR: So it was kind of an instinctive thing then?

STONE: Yeah, and I love singing it too because it means something when you sing it. It's not just -- I'm not just singing, I'm telling a story, you know?

TMR: How did Aretha Franklin enter your life, and what does she mean to you?

STONE: My first CD that I owned was "Aretha Franklin: Greatest Hits." And I saw the advert on TV and it was just like little clips of her songs. I had no idea who she was -- I was only like 10 so. I said, "Oh yeah, that looks really good," so I wrote it down and I said to my mum, "Can I have that for Christmas?" So she told my friend Dennis, who always gets me good music anyway, and he got that for me. So that was one of my first albums that I loved ...

TMR: What is it that she's got that has made her such a revered figure, in your opinion?

STONE: She has this light around her. It's like she's got this really cool vibe, and it's really spiritual and it's just gorgeous. And her voice is really gravelly, and it's got a massive range and all her melodies are amazing. Her lyrics are wicked too, and she also writes her own songs, and she works with really cool people.

TMR: Do you have an ambition to meet her? And have you thought about what you'd like to say to her?

STONE: Yes, I'd probably just say "thank you." I don't know, I would like to meet her ... but I'd probably be very scared. I'd probably go very red and get really embarrassed and run away. But I'd like to meet her. I wouldn't want to sing with her, though. You're joking me! No way!

TMR: Can you fully appreciate the emotions of the songs you're singing at your young age?

STONE: I think saying that my age defines whether I can feel emotion is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my life. How old do you have to be to feel pain, or to be angry at someone, or to love someone? You don't have to be any age. You have to be alive, of course, but it really doesn't matter. It's really strange, it's a very strange way of thinking.

But I suppose people were kind of shocked because it's a change isn't it? I mean you don't really hear 16-year-olds singing this type of music, I suppose. But, you know, deal with it. It's all good. I think it's a positive thing and people will seem to see it as something that's fake, and it's not fake ...

TMR: Have you been surprised by the attention given to the way you look? Tell me how that's become an issue.

STONE: It's been weird because people kind of diss me because I'm white, which is weird. There was one [magazine article] and it said something like ... if I was black then I wouldn't be successful, which is a shame. I mean maybe that's true -- I hope it's not, but I wouldn't be surprised. People are really caught up in that whole thing. That's why I don't like image.

I hate the fact that image has taken over the music industry because it's so not important. It really isn't important because you can't see music. It's not possible for you to see it, so therefore why should it matter whether you're fat, thin, black or white or tall, short, whatever? It doesn't matter. I don't understand that, that's really weird to me.

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