Interview: JONES’ ‘New Skin’ Displays Deeper Layers Of The Singer’s Soul

East London soul-singer JONES unveiled her highly-anticipated first album, New Skin, through the label 37 Adventures. Fresh off a debut U.S. tour with HONNE and the release of her late-2015 EP Indulge (which Sam Smith called “f**king beautiful), the timid 25-year-old continues to come alive through her ethereal and melodic tunes, offering a glimpse into her life through her mystifying words in her Oct. 7 release.

With the help of creatives like Justin Parker (collaborator of Lana Del Rey’s), Rodaidh McDonald (mixer for the xx) and Tourist (co-writer of Sam Smith’s), JONES has been able to elevate her sound, through which she hopes to convey a positive message. Much of the dozen-track effort focuses on starting fresh after being put through the ringer with issues such as loss or heartbreak. “Wild” tackles pushing through difficulties for the sake of happiness, despite feeling trapped by life, while “Waterloo” is about finding the strength to leave someone you don’t quite feel the flame for any longer. Two of the songs have visuals pre-dating the album’s release- “Melt” and the hauntingly eclectic “Hoops,” which has garnered praise from many.

VIBE spoke to the musician via the telly for the scoop about New Skin’s gooey center, the difference between fans in the UK and the U.S. and her favorite songs from one of the musicians who inspired her sound and affinity for story-telling.

J’na Jefferson

VIBE: How is New Skin different from Indulge in terms of thematics?
JONES: Well, New Skin definitely covers all bases for me. It has, you know, the love songs, it has ballads, but then it has some up-tempo songs as well. It really has kind of the spectrum of of all of my emotions that I’ve been experiencing the past two years. Indulge EP was something I put out very early on, but New Skin is just everything coming to life, everything amplified. I’m so proud of it.

When I was listening to it, I heard and I noticed that a lot of the songs were about digging yourself out of the mess you’re in and persevering. Has there been a time where you’ve felt your very darkest, and how have you gotten through it through music?
Definitely. I think everybody experiences blues, you know? I definitely sometimes feel sad in life. Sometimes you feel alone or you don’t have anyone to relate to, which I’ve definitely felt through periods of my life, but luckily, I’ve had music and writing, and I definitely use it as therapy.

Is there any song on the album that you feel described that situation or those moods perfectly that you hope resonate with most of your listeners?
The intro track (“Rainbow”) is addressing that sort of feeling exactly. It’s talking about feeling trapped and feeling dark, and then finding the rainbow, finding the silver lining. That’s probably one of the most personal bits of writing on the record. The takeaway from New Skin is that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling, and trust that everything will get better. It will always get better.

Your sound is also really ethereal throughout the album, so when you were growing up, did you seem to just find yourself listening to soulful, peaceful music? What did you usually listen to?
My mother introduced me to soulful music at a very young age, so I grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, [UK soul-singer] Omar, Luther Vandross. There was a lot of soul in the house…things like Bob Marley too. He’s always had such a positive message that has been a big influence on me because that’s something that I wanna do with my words and my music.

What’s your favorite Stevie Wonder song?
Ah, that’s such a tough question! [laughs] Well, I was named after his song “My Cherie Amor,” so I’ll say that one. But, I love “Lately,” that’s such an incredible song, it makes me cry. He’s such an incredible human.

Is there a particular sound or music style of East Londoners?
No, there’s not a particular sound, because the beauty of London is that it’s so diverse and bursting with different cultures and influences and different styles of fashion and music. So, it’s not like one particular sound, it’s kind of…everything loud [laughs].

You worked with a co-writer of Sam Smith’s, you worked with a mixer for the xx, a collaborator of Lana Del Rey’s, so how would you say working with these people for New Skin has pushed you to limits of your personal sound and enhanced it?
It definitely pushed me because these are such established people in the music industry that I felt very privileged and excited to be working with so early on. I mean, I’ve been ready to do this for a long time, I’ve always been very focused, so I was just so happy to work with such great people. I learned things from each. I learned it’s best to keep things simple. Maybe the first thing that comes to your head is the truest thing, rather than trying to overthink it. So, that was valuable.

Were there any challenges with coming up with new material for the album?
Not really, like, great challenges. I think it’s more of solving a riddle. It’s kind of like you start from one part and try to make this fully-formed thing. Sometimes you can get stuck, but I always manage to figure it out. It’s always like a personal challenge, but it’s so exciting and I’m so passionate about it that it never really feels like work. It just feels like fun.

How long did it take from development until finally mixing the album all together?
It’s been about two years since I started writing and I finished it a couple of months ago. Two lovely years.

Are you a perfectionist when it comes to your music, or you’re one of the musicians who likes the raw, unfinished type of sound?
I love both, I’m definitely a perfectionist though. I would have loved to have maybe another six months to work on it and, you know, write more songs and make things even more perfect. But, I think that there’s never gonna be a perfect moment, you just have to listen to the people around you and just let go a little bit. When you’ve spent so much time on something, it’s a little hard to do that [laughs].

I understand, you want to make it to your high standards, but you also just want to move on and relax.
Yeah, let it breathe and let it go, and move on to the next thing and just trust that it’s good.

You received a good amount of praise regarding the material that’s been released, namely “Hoops.” Do you ever worry that it won’t live up to the perception of those who have had you on their radar?
Oh course, there’s always the fear of failure of anything you do in life, but I’ve tried to put my focus somewhere else. I sometimes do get those thoughts, but I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m doing what I love, that I had the opportunity to even make this album and even release it at all- that’s just a miracle to me. I’m so thankful for all of that, and I’m sure things will keep growing and building. It’s not all about one moment, it’s about the evolution of my work and my music. I do get those thoughts, but I think everything will be fine.

How has it been on the road, performing your songs for your fans?
It’s been a crazy year. Lots and lots and lots of shows, but it’s been amazing connecting with people. It’s been great to be able to get out to the U.S. this year. I just finished being on tour with HONNE. We went all the way from Denver to Canada to Philadelphia to New York City, loads of cities, but it was really great to connect face-to-face with all these new fans and with some people who already knew the music. It’s really the best feeling, it’s incredible. I had a lady cry when I was singing “Hoops” at one of the shows, so that’s a memory I’ll always have! So beautiful.

Was this your first time coming to America?
That was my first time touring in America, yeah!

Are there any other places here you’d like to perform at if given the opportunity?
I mean, I wanna get out to every state really, every state that I can, and just connect and share some music. That’s what I hope to do for next year.

Where was your favorite place you performed at here?
Oh, that’s impossible! [laughs] They were all really lovely. It was great to see Chicago because obviously the incredible history there. It was such a moment at the end of the tour being at Webster Hall. That’s such a great venue, so that was pretty special as well.

How are the fans in the UK different from the fans in the United States in terms of their energy? Because sometimes Americans can get a little…
…yeah [laughs], but I love that though! I think that Americans are different culturally to us Brits because we are very reserved and we tend to keep our feelings to ourselves, whereas the American audience is very vocal and very energetic, which I loved. It’s so great to get that energy back when you’re performing rather than people who are not as vocal. I love both! Just different ways of being!

Tags: jones, New Skin