Backstage Pass speaks with Joss Stone on would-be burglars, her label and megaband SuperHeavy

Phoning from her native England last week, Joss Stone wanted to get a few things straight.

No, that wasn’t her house splashed across every news channel recently, when two would-be burglars were nabbed on the way to allegedly rob her.

And yes, she was so fed up with major labels so she launched her own vanity imprint, Stone’d Records, on which she just released her Stax/Volt-gritty new “LP1” effort. She’s also already signed her first act, a UK ska outfit she loves called Yes Sir Boss.

And indeed, it’s true that she tracked the record in Nashville with Eurythmics mastermind Dave Stewart, starting from scratch and completing 16 songs in 6 days.

And yes, she sighs, the crazy rumors are true — she’s actually joined Stewart’s all-star side-project SuperHeavy, with Mick Jagger, Damian Marley and A.R. Rahman — their first video, “Miracle Worker,” is currently debuting.

But no, Stone growled — her old company EMI will not be issuing an anthology dubbed “Super Duper Hits.”

“That is not coming out, oh no, it is not!” she said. “They are not allowed to do that — I do have a say, and I have to approve all the songs that they use, all the artwork, and especially the title. And oh my God, I’ve never heard such a cheesy title in all my life! And I don’t know what kind of hits they’re gonna put on there, because I’ve never had any hits!”

Judging by the soulful swagger of “LP1,” that should change rather quickly.

That near-robbery was a real WTF moment — what’s your reaction, in retrospect? Well, that was my neighbor’s house they showed on TV. And my poor next-door neighbors! They think they’re gonna get murdered now! They were so [mad]. But it is very odd, isn’t it?

It didn’t happen, so no skin off my nose. But they were like “Dumb And Dumber” — they didn’t even get to my house. They got lost, and they didn’t have a body bag [as reported] — I think they had a black gym bag or something. But if they’d have come in, then I would be [mad]. If anyone comes in now, I’ll do ’em in. I’ve got a really mean head-butt on me.

And you were a guest of honor at, what was it again? A little soiree called the Royal Wedding?
Royal Wedding! Yeah! That was really fun. I was living in my van in a forest in Brittany at that time, and I just happened to come home because I had to do one thing in my house. And I kept my mail going — thank God — because I got an invite. It was nice, and they’re just nice people, I guess. I really get along with them every time I see them, which is not every week. But they’re just lovely, both of them.

Wait a minute, living in your van?
And your van is named Janis, after Janis Joplin, right? Yes. And I was living in my van for about four months, just driving around Europe and seeing the sights. And then it broke in Bordeaux, so we stayed there for ages, for way too long. But it wasn’t the countryside that I’d hoped for, because I had my two dogs with me — I have a Rottweiler and a poodle, and the poodle rules the roost. But then we ended up in Brittany, and the van totally broke down. The van’s still there now, actually. So it was me, my boyfriend Danny, and the dogs.

What did you eat during your travels? Well, being vegetarian, I turned into a total fat bastard. All I could eat was cheese and bread, and that was pretty much it. Seriously, it was horrendous. And I did turn into a fat bastard — what else could I do? When you’re traveling in Europe, all they eat is meat and fish! But I also ate a lot of salad, which didn’t seem to help with the fatness.

And you were on the road when you got the call from Dave Stewart? Yeah. And the reason why I started the trip in the van was, my friend Paul had been working on this boat for years, and he said “I’m gonna drive down to Spain where the boat is, and I’m gonna fix her up and sand her down.” And I thought “Oh, that sounds fun!” So two days later, I was driving to Spain with my dogs. So when Dave called me, I was on the boat, sanding away. But he said “Do you wanna come over and have a play? There are some really wicked musicians that I know, and they’re free this week. So you wanna come play?” So I did. And then I just carried on with the boat.

Did you have any songs written when you went to Nashville? No. The beauty of it was, it was so quick and spontaneous. We went there, we made some songs up, we went and played them — that was it. And there was no man in a suit sitting behind me with his arms folded, saying “Uhh, are you gonna put horns on that?” All that stupid crap.

You sound like Ann Peebles on barnstormers like “Karma” and “Don’t Start Lying To Me Now.” But then Dave called you with his SuperHeavy idea not long after that? Yeah, he did. He calls me and goes “Joss! I’ve got this really fun idea, and this is what we’re gonna do. … So you wanna be in my band?” And I said “Yeah, I wanna be in your band!” And a couple of months later, I find myself in the studio with all these amazing guys.

What did you learn from Mick Jagger? I learned a lot watching him write lyrics. I write really quickly, like Dave does, and I pretty much just sing what I first think of. When you’re listening to “LP1,” if you pay attention to any of the lyrics, it’s just what I first thought about. Which, on one hand, can be really good and spontaneous and honest. And then on the other hand, you can just end up with [bad] lyrics. So with Mick, he really takes care, and he paints a picture like nobody else. And he’ll have a hundred different ideas, and then pick the best ones. And he’ll use all these descriptive words and he’ll know where the words originate from and all the history. I mean, it’s just mad — he’s a very learned, intelligent chap. So he really taught me to pay more attention to what I’m actually saying, rather than just gibbering away!

artsBackstage PassMick JaggerPop Music & JazzSan Francisco

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