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Hotstar


12:00 AM Monday, 11/10/03 |   |

Joss Stone is still looking for an agent. We can hear the collective sighs from agencies as they open to this page and immediately look at the contact info. Who landed her?

And one could say she's also looking for a manager Stateside, in a way. The 16-year-old singer from Dover, England, is being managed by Jacqueline Hughes and Brian Freshwater in the U.K., but her mom (defined as either "co-manager" or "interim manager" depending upon who you talk to) has been fielding duties here in the U.S. on her cell phone while she tours with her daughter.

"I don't know, it's kind of insane having your mum manage you," Stone told POLLSTAR. "It's like, she's my mum! And I love her as my mum. And business is weird. I don't like business. I don't like business people, they scare me. You know, not business people but I think people get so caught up in budgets and shit like that. It's so stupid. It's all about greed. I don't like it.

"But I think she's doing a really good job. I mean, for somebody who's never managed anyone before, she's doing a really good job."

This may be the first time we've put an artist on the cover without agency representation.

But things are happening quickly for Stone. She's been in the U.S. for less than a year and she's moved from playing for 10 people at a small club in New York City (even that show had an agent in the audience) to touring with Simply Red.

Now the trick was tracking her down.

"You're calling about Joss Stone?" asked Bill Bragin from NYC's Joe's Pub. When POLLSTAR first tried to find her, we knew only that she was on S-Curve Records and had played the 161-capacity venue. Bragin, who books the club, intuited what the call was about: "Definitely cover material."

He said the show was packed, with agents. He also said the show was a once-in-a- lifetime experience because it included the musicians from Stone's debut album.

S-Curve's original idea was to keep Stone under wraps until February when her "original" debut album was scheduled to come out, using the wintertime to promote her. But a four-day recording session this spring shook up everybody's plans.

Stone was discovered at age 14 on BBC-TV talent show "Star For A Night" by London producers the Boilerhouse Boys (Andy Dean and Ben Wolfe). Here was this cute, blond-haired English girl onstage, but her voice sounded like something between Gladys Knight and Janis Joplin. It was smooth, dark and husky, yet she had the maturity to not over-sing. It was like she was a spiritual "channeler" for a '60s R&B star.

The two immediately contacted their friend, S-Curve CEO Steve Greenberg. He signed and brought Stone to the States where she began co-writing contemporary songs for her debut. She started getting vocal coaching by Betty Wright, famous for the song "Clean Up Woman."

Things started to go off track when Stone recorded a cover of an old Carla Thomas tune. Greenberg came up with the idea of putting Stone in front of a live-in-the-studio R&B group and asked Wright to track down some of her Miami-based cohorts.

In only a couple of days, she located musicians who had not been in the studio for years.

She found guitarist Little Beaver, who had a No. 2 hit with "Party Down" in 1972 and was working for Amtrak. Organist Timmy Thomas ("Why Can't We Live Together?"), who is currently a college administrator, and keyboardist Latimore (1974's "Let's Straighten It Out") were also recruited.

For four days, Stone recorded old R&B tunes with the band (which has been compared to Buena Vista Social Club), and she covered a version of The White Stripes' "Fell In Love With A Girl" (rechristened a "Boy") with The Roots. The result, The Soul Sessions, has a cover that shows more of Stone's microphone than her face, an obvious salute to her mature voice and not her novelty.

The band played at Joe's Pub September 17th for what will probably be the only time.

Stone fronted the band for a while, then joined in on backup as the veterans took turns at the mic.

Every NYC agent POLLSTAR has talked to since was at that show. And there were more at her Troubadour showcase in Los Angeles.

"I don't even know which ones are which anymore," Stone said. "I get introduced to about a million people a day, so I don't want to be mean or anything but I forget who's who. I'll remember the face and think, 'Oh God, what's his name?' And I feel so bad! Everyone else around me remembers, apart from me."

Her mother, Wendy Stoker (Joss's actual name is Joscelyn Eve Stoker), has been handling management duties for about a month, according to her daughter ("Until I turn 18, she's always going to be there anyway, so she might as well manage me"). According to Stoker, they're still talking to a bunch of agents but no decision has been made. Joss said the decision could rest on how well she gets along with the person.

"I haven't gotten involved yet, but I will meet with some of them and see what's going on," she said. "I like to get my vibe off people. I like to surround myself with good people. It doesn't matter how good they are at what they do. If they're good lawyers or good agents or whatever, they have to be nice. And, at first off, I can usually guess."

In the meantime, because of her stint with Simply Red, she said she was close to getting a tour of various House of Blues venues.

"I didn't really know that you needed an agent to get gigs!" she said, laughing. "I really had no idea up until now. I'd say, 'Yeah, well, I've got a gig here and I've got a gig there,' and they're like, 'How did you get it?' And I'd say, 'I don't know! They just told me to go!'"

Stay tuned for further information. Along with the published contacts, Stone's publicist is Shore Fire Media.


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