Joss Stone could be your best friend. From the moment she enters a room, it’s like you’ve known each other for years. Stone, 29, is a woman completely comfortable in her own skin, who knows herself and what she stands for, and who isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind.
The singer-songwriter had a shot, early on, at mega-pop-stardom. She won a singing contest in the U.K., similar to “American Idol,” called "Star for a Night" when she was 13.
By age 15, she had signed with EMI Records and recorded her debut album, “The Soul Sessions.” The album reached the top five on the U.K. Albums Chart and the top 40 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.
To the outside eye, the Devon, England, native, was well on her way. But, for Stone, something wasn’t right.
“I didn’t like it. I just didn’t like what I was doing. I didn’t like the feeling that I was in,” Stone told ABC News’ Chief Business, Economics and Technology Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis. “You have to decide, when you are in a sticky spot in your life. Why am I not happy right now? What parts do I not like? What can I get rid of and what can I keep? “
So Stone made a choice, one that would allow her complete artistic freedom over her craft: She cut ties with EMI Records in 2011 by buying out of her contract. The catch? She had to shell out an estimated $9 million to the label in order to leave.
“I realized, ‘You two want completely different things. So just give it to each other.’ They gave me my musical freedom and I gave them their money,” Stone says.
While her bold move invited some backlash at the time, Stone says she is exactly where she wants to be today. Stone believes in success on her own terms, which means making music that’s true to her mission, making the world a better place and inspiring those around her.
She doesn’t need or even want the rest of so-called pop stardom success, she says.
“I thought to myself how much [money] do I actually need to do what I love,” she says. “Because it is expensive, making an album with orchestras and wonderful musicians on it, having a great mixer. That costs thousands and thousands of pounds [dollars] to do. It really does. But it’s not millions and millions of pounds.”
By staying focused on her main and true objective of making music, Stone found success through her own happiness. She is on an ambitious Total World Tour, playing music from her latest album, “Water for Your Soul,” with the goal of performing a show in every country.
Along the way, she is collaborating with local musicians and visiting charities, while learning about the humanitarian and environmental issues affecting each place she travels.
“Success is happiness. This is my way of being happy. I get a little bit of everything,” she says. “You know. It’s not everybody’s way, so it’s hard for some people to understand.”
Stone constantly finds herself explaining her perspective to managers, agents and record labels who insist she would be more “successful” by pursuing a record with a large corporate label. But she sticks to her guns and utilizes the lessons, she says, she learned at an early age:
- Don’t forget why you began and what you are there to do.
- Let go of the outcome and live in the moment.
- You can only affect your own actions.
- Play to your strengths.
- You have a choice, you don’t have to do anything, in any situation, ever.