‘We Think We’re Different, But We’re Not’ – Joss Stone Talks Happiness And Her New Podcast With Grazia

We caught up with the singer in the Bahamas

Joss Stone

by grazia |
Updated on

When I was fifteen years old, I went to WHSmith after school and bought The Soul Sessions, the debut album from Joss Stone. Her face on the cover was obscured by a large microphone, the top half of her face bathed in purple light. It was as if this young woman’s identity – a teenager, white, from the West Country – was being hidden to fit with her voice: soulful, scratchy, older than her years.

Her contradictions served her well. She became an overnight star. She cracked America, nominated for Grammys. She performed Angels with Robbie Williams at The Brits. Even Tom Cruise was a fan. But somewhere along the line, she stepped back, and while she still tours and performs, has found happiness in a life that’s slightly less loud than the one thrust upon her when she was barely an adult.

Joss picks up the phone after a few rings. She is in the Bahamas. The morning after we speak she will start trending on Twitter after some Good Morning Britain viewers take umbrage with her for calling from the Bahamas. She is publicising a new podcast – A Cuppa Happy – which explores the idea of happiness. Some did not enjoy being advised on such an emotion by a woman sitting in the Caribbean.

‘It’s a nice place to be’, she conceded to me. ‘A lot of people are under the impression that they can’t go anywhere, and that’s very stifling for people. They feel stuck. But actually it’s not true: it’s a conception. Look online where you can go, what the rules are, what you need to do in quarantine, and then you can free yourself. You just have to work within each country’s parameters.’ Joss is, it should be added, in the country for work: she is songwriting, and will return to the UK soon. But the podcast has also taken up much of her time lately. She came up with the idea after years of exploration.

‘I have travelled to every country in the world,’ she says. ‘And I have had more experiences than I thought I would ever have.’ She is not exaggerating. Last year she embarked on a world tour of every single country, performing in all but one. Iran, unfortunately, deported her. Women are not allowed to perform in public in the country.

‘I've noticed certain things are the same everywhere, wherever you go’, she explains. ‘You can get into a cab in Turkmenistan and ask the driver what he thinks of the government, he’ll say they’re bastards and they hate them. Same in Switzerland, same in Britain. Humans don’t like the man. And that’s just one example. Another one is love. When I talk to women in Chad about their husbands, they say the same thing than we do in Britain: the frustrations, that he didn’t come home last night. It’s funny to me how similar we all are. We think we’re different but we’re not. I thought, "let’s look into that!"’

The result is her new series, the first episode of which features Derren Brown and analyses the nature of happiness. ‘People are all looking for this same thing but not taking the opportunity to be happy,’ she opines. ‘Why don’t we take it, and how much sadness and irritation and anger do we need to recognise happiness? I thought, “bloody hell, let’s look into that.” I can’t believe how interesting it is, I love it more than music right now.’


Music has, after all, been a complicated industry for Joss. In 2009, reports estimated that she had spent £2 million to escape her contract with record label EMI, dissatisfied with how she fitted within their plans. A few years later she was the target of a horrendous - and thankfully unsuccessful - kidnapping plot. It was undoubtedly tough, but Joss sees herself as optimistic, at her core.

‘I would call myself a happy person,’ she says. ‘But it’s different from day to day. Happiness isn’t something that you always have, if you’ve got it it doesn’t stay forever. You need to have methods of getting it back. So if you’ve been unhappy for three days, you need to sort it out, you need to do that thing – a run, laughing at yourself in the mirror – you need to be conscious and recognise that it happened so that you can do it again. It’s all a choice, I believe. And some days it’s harder to make it happen.’ For her, songwriting is often the answer.

Good Morning Britain viewers perceived the location of her interview as proof that happiness is easier for the rich. But Joss says happiness is relative.

‘Somebody in one situation may have a really bad day because they went to the office and some girl talked shit about their handbag, something that some might find very silly,’ she explains. ‘But that person could be so hurt over something that seems small. We can’t take that person’s hurt and make it nothing. But someone else, in Chad, could have seen their best friend chopped up to pieces. That is bad. We can’t even fathom that sadness. And yet that person is still managing to be happy. What is that about?’

Soon, Joss will get on a plane and head back to the UK, seeing her family again after a long time away in lockdown. She has many, many more questions about happiness and could, she tells me, talk about it for hours and hours. Future series, then, seem inevitable. Whatever happens, and despite the day’s grumblings, it is good to see that, more than fifteen years after she first came into my life via my Discman headphones and after plenty of tribulations, Joss Stone seems truly happy.

Find Joss's podcast A Cuppa Happy on Acast, [ Spotify](https://open.spotify.com/show/1pxPCppAUHTJ1QXqZ1yofy?si=_a0WG87xTvScEmqvbQswHwqvbQswHw) andiTunes.

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