Known as the Year of the Tiger, 2022 also was shaping up to be the Year of Joss Stone.
The versatile British soul singer blessed with powerful pipes, a fun-loving attitude, and a rich history of songs from all sorts of styles and genres she tackles with equal ease seemed to be back in the high life again. Not only was Stone settling down in a new home outside Nashville with her partner Cody DaLuz after giving birth to their first child — Violet Melissa DaLuz — on 28 January 2021. But while juggling several other projects to begin 2022, the 34-year-old show-mum also began touring — after a two-year absence — on 23 January with a batch of new songs from Never Forget My Love. Stone will deliver an album possessing the class and elegance she represents while collaborating again with musical heavyweight Dave Stewart on Friday (11 February).
Then on 28 January, during the fourth stop of her US tour, while performing as a co-headliner with Corinne Bailey Rae at the Johnny Mercer Theatre in Savannah, Georgia, Stone met a cruel and unwelcome visitor — COVID-19.
That introduction to the coronavirus became official the next morning when she publicly revealed the sad news, which Stone openly discussed with PopMatters during a phone call from her home. Remaining in recovery mode on 4 February, she graciously adhered to our previously scheduled interview.
The Savannah stop began to celebrate Violet’s first birthday (Wikipedia’s birthdate reference is wrong, Stone points out) led by the radiant, loving mother in a small room filled with bubbles and balloons backstage at the venue. Stone served a Cocomelon cake she had made on the tour bus, along with a smaller one for one of Rae’s daughters (calling her feat on wheels “quite an achievement.”)
“So I played the gig … then I realized my voice was like not available,” Stone offers, sounding chipper while only occasionally interrupting herself with a slight cough. “I was so embarrassed. I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ You know, because I normally sing in a way that is not always soft. It can be soft. But I like to bring power because that creates dynamics, so it gives you a feeling. I tell the story in such a way.
“Then when I got to those parts that were requiring that power, I couldn’t do it. I’m like, ‘Oh, shit! I think I’ve got something wrong with me.’ Then we went back on the bus, and the next morning, that’s when I was like, ‘OK, everyone go home. The party’s over.'”
Vaccinated about four months after her daughter was born, Stone quickly claims, “It doesn’t bloody work,” and confirms she was tested regularly on the tour bus. While previously managing to avoid COVID’s wrath since the pandemic began in 2020, she later maintains, “You can’t always trust the tests. Trust your body, I think. You have to keep testing. The vaccination, I don’t know if it works. It certainly hasn’t worked for us. But I think a test can be helpful, but it also can be wrong.” (laughs)
On 29 January, Stone addressed her “Dear Music Lovers” on social media, saying in part, “I have the bloody Rona! Unfortunately, it’s the risk we take when bringing thousands of people together. We live our lives, we take risks, and hopefully, we spread smiles along the way.”
Remaining upbeat with “fingers crossed”, she hoped only her next three dates would be postponed and that she could return on 3 February to make her debut at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, which is about a 30-minute drive from where she lives.
Unfortunately, she announced on 2 February that the rest of the tour run scheduled through 11 February in Dallas was postponed after another positive test. “I am positively pissed off, but I guess that’s what I get for hugging and dancing with crowds of people. Do I regret it? No!”
Looking Past COVID
After publicly expressing gratitude for the outpouring of affection and well wishes she received on social media last week, Stone mentions in our interview the kindness of folks close to her new home, where she was quarantining with Violet and DaLuz.
“My neighbors, oh my God, they are so sweet,” Stone exclaims. “They came around with cakes and stuff to welcome you to the place, and then, even the other day, even though we have the virus, they still check in on us. I’m like, ‘No, no! Don’t come any closer!’ A lady, she made me some brownies. She’s like, Well, chocolate will help.’…
“We’re staying in. I don’t want to spread it. I’m going to wait until I don’t have any symptoms. And Violet had it as well. Yeah, we all had a fever. It was really scary. I know that babies have to go through this and get their immune system up and stuff, but I was still like, ‘Oh, God!’ And I called her doctor — at God knows what time of night — and she was so sweet. She goes (imitating a strong Southern accent), ‘Yes, ma’am! You’re doing the right thing. Don’t worry. It’s OK.’ I think people think babies don’t catch it, but they do catch it. They just deal with it better. [Violet] definitely dealt with it better than we have. She’s hardcore.”
While planning to make up the dates she missed, Stone wants to return to Savannah after the crowd showed her some real Southern hospitality.
Before arriving there, Stone took two COVID tests that she thought were false negatives. “Maybe I didn’t have [COVID] then, but I think I did because I felt poorly,” Stone states. But she still feels bad about that Savannah performance that included new Never Forget My Love numbers, saying, “I’m trying to sing ‘Breaking Each Other’s Hearts’, which is amazing. I am so proud of this song, right? And like, this is a really big song to sing, and it means so much and it’s so emotional, and then my little voice is like (making a whisper). It was terrible, man! And the audience was so sweet. Oh my God, bless them. They were like, ‘No, you’re fine. Go girl!’ And I’m like, ‘Oh my God! I’m so sorry.’…
“I want them to have a proper show. You know, this is not how it normally goes.” (laughs)
Highly doubting she came down with the omicron variant “because we’ve had a fever” and “it’s still with us” after almost a week, Stone contends, “I think omicron is supposed to be much lighter.” Yet, she can chuckle about how her father Richard dealt with COVID in the early stages of the pandemic: “All that he did is drink wine and smoke cigarettes.”
While wine remains on her go-to list, Stone doesn’t plan to be huffing and puffing in the foreseeable future. “I’ve smoked my whole life, but I give up all the time,” she confesses. “But before the tour, I wanted my voice to be really clear, so I stopped smoking. And I was like, ‘Yeah, my voice is gonna be really clear and I’m going to sing these new songs, and they require a really powerful, clean voice.’ Then, of course, I got the virus. But I still haven’t smoked. So I’m really proud of myself.”
Displaying a fiery, fighting spirit that propels her to overcome this latest obstacle, Stone asserts, “[The virus] will go. It will go in like two weeks. I’m sure it’ll go. Well, it has to go, ’cause it’s not welcome.” (laughs)
Before happily moving on to other subjects in this wide-ranging conversation, Stone delivers a parting shot that could turn out to be her rallying cry for 2022:
“Corona pissed on our fire, but we shall make another one.”