First Look Friday: JONES Interview
First Look Friday: JONES Interview
Photo by Vince Ballentine for Okayplayer.

First Look Friday: Submerge Yourself Deep In London Soul With JONES

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

Do you remember your first time you went somewhere exciting and new? For budding indie-pop star from London, JONES, née Cherie Jones, her inaugural visit to the United States was jammed back with interesting and introspective experiences. Those who haven't been hearing the beautiful, electronics-glazed soul of JONES — one of the UK's hottest new talents — might have been subliminally force-fed her tunes without knowing it.

The 25-year-old singer, whose DNA is fueled with Luther Vandross and Stevie Wonder riffs, was shooting with talented photographer Vince Ballentine. Before the two met to traverse the New York City populace, JONES ventured into an H&M to check out some clothing and see the sights when she heard a familiar sound—herself. JONES was hearing her popular single, "Hoops," inside the store and much to her surprise was experiencing a first-time-in-New-York-surreal-moment.

Such events was one of many while the passionate performer was in the Big Apple, as JONES was beginning her press run for her debut album, New Skin, which will be out in September this year. With press flooding to be one of the first to declare her the new "IT" singer, everyone has Sam Smith to thank for building hype, as the Grammy and Oscar Award winning talent declared her latest EP "fucking beautiful." After working with Ninja Tune's Raffertie, Jai Paul's brother A.K. Paul, XO and Josh Record — JONES unpacked her luggage on American soil to interview with us before heading down to Austin, Texas for SXSW.

In speaking of firsts, a bit of a humblebrag, as OKP debuted an acoustic track from JONES which propelled her to audiences stateside. Now, we're happy to share the soft-spoken East London chanteuse with new listeners in an attempt to spotlight her entrancing sounds, star appeal and vocals from her Indulge EP. While traveling around the SoHo area in New York City, JONES chatted it up with Okayplayer about the "scary and exciting" London music scene, how frustration with a young boy helped her craft her first-ever song and why "Hoops" was so personal to her as an artist.


Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact. What is it that Londoners are seeing and hearing that the world has yet to discover?

JONES: [Laughs] Thank you! I would say the full spectrum of my music, so far, is a small bit. A slice of it has been shared with people, but I'm very much looking forward to putting out the next piece of music. It brings a whole new energy to the world and really represents what I am about as a person.

OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?

J: I would have to also say thank you to all of the female voices that I used to listen to growing up. This would include the likes of early Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and The Ronettes. As I sang along, I was learning to sing and their passion inspired mine. I paid attention to the pen games of songwriters like Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams, Lykke Li and Chris Martin. Those legends inspired me to write and be creative.

OKP: Your song, “Hoops,” is very dope sounding and has placed you on the radar of music fans who have a heavy presence in the industry. Can you talk about how life was for you while developing as an artist in London? How did you react to your first bits of press?

J: Life has been and continues to be one giant learning curve, and I'm constantly trying to push myself through the boundaries of my comfort zone. I am always thinking what is next and how can I do this better? I was overjoyed with the positive reactions I've received so far and I'm extremely and eternally thankful! I am very happy with the progress I've made recently, but I'm still aiming to grow with each step and climb higher than I did the day before.

OKP: Can you also talk about the importance of the music industry scene in London and where you see it evolving in the next five years?

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

J: I think the music scene in London is amazing because now, for the first time, I really feel like people can achieve anything – any genre, any style, any fusion. In fact, the more creative and original you are the better. I feel like there is a place for everyone as long as that person is themselves. I believe that pure talent is surpassing a stereotypical physical/superficial image, and that's a great thing. Of course, record sales are down in comparison to the way things were – but now with the internet and social media there are other ways to have a presence and this is ever evolving... it is both scary and exciting.

OKP: There is a strong lack of diversity in the entertainment business, so how does being an artist of color fit into your musical narrative?

J: To be honest, I don't identify myself as "an artist of color." I simply see myself as who I am and what I am by my words, my voice and what I chose to say. I don't think people should put these boundaries on themselves. We are all cased in some kind of skin, some kind of color and these are purely genetic markers. They have no hold on who we chose to become as people or artists. I'm very proud of who I am and how I look, but not because I am any certain color, but because I'm just another human and I think all humans are born beautiful.

OKP: What are some elements that you’ve learned about yourself that comes out in your music?

J: I have learned that I am an observer of thought, of patterns in life and of people. I guess I have discovered that it is in my nature to never give up... and I am hopelessly optimistic.

OKP: What was the first song that you ever wrote entitled? Can you talk about what it was about?

J: [Laughs] Yes... the song was called "I Wish" and it was about my infatuation with a boy that I didn't have the courage to ever speak to. The feeling was so that I had an entire relationship with him that existed entirely in my head.

OKP: How can your music speak truth to power in an age where people are so quickly digesting sounds and disposing of artists in a nanosecond?

J: I think that if you have a central message, an identity, which is consistent throughout–and if it comes from an honest place then–that will stand out. If you keep referring to a true compass then that will always be unique. Getting wrapped up and being concerned with chasing current trends or fads would be exhausting and totally confusing and would force one to dilute themselves. I love the phrase "be yourself, everybody else is taken."

OKP: Collaboration is uniquely a key to the success of certain creative individuals who wish to change the game. Who would you want to work with and why?

J: A dream of mine would be to have the chance to work with Kevin Parker of Tame Impala. For me, collaborations are most exciting and game-changing when people of totally different musical worlds and genres work together, creating something totally unique. I'd love to one day create something that's completely unheard of and unexpected.

OKP: What is the overall message that JONES is trying to present in her music?

J: Again, I feel that only a small part of what I do has been shared so far, but what I want to spread is love of oneself, happiness and the belief that everything is going to be okay. This feeling is what's behind an unreleased track, "Wild," which is on its way very soon! It's the feeling of not giving up on something you love and feeling very alive. It's definitely one to listen out for, Okayplayers!

OKP: Can you break down the inspiration behind your “Hoops” single? Could you speak on the creation and production.

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

J: "Hoops" is a diary entry moment from the past, recalling a time when things were out of balance and when I needed to self-evaluate. It's therapeutic to write about such things, but my thinking was that maybe hearing my thought process or struggle could help another to realize something in their own life and help in that way. Being honest with yourself is the first step to positive change. Aside from the lyrics – I just loved the melodic journey and drum beat.

OKP: How do you see yourself changing the music industry for the better versus all of the bad stuff that goes on within it?

J: I don't know what the future holds, but I hope to inspire honesty in people. To show that it is supremely okay to be who you are. I'd like to think that there is a sense of purity in my music.

OKP: If the reader’s learned one thing from this First Look Friday chat with JONES — what would it be and in what octave would it sound like?

J: It would be to keep an ear and eye out on more music, which is coming really, really soon.

Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for more from JONES (and us!) by following them on Twitter @iseeJONES.