Interview- Job security: Sharon Jones just wants a place near a lake
It's funny how Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings became today's preeminent funk and soul ensemble without really caring one iota about the "today" part. Jones and her Daptone Records bandmates, an energetic array of characters with names like "Bosco Mann" and "Binky Griptite," look back at the legacies left by James Brown and Otis Redding with such affection that they can't help but blow off all the newfangled digital trickery to make their music the old way: by recording killer performances. It's an approach that has helped producer Gabe Roth (aka bassist Bosco) land them a number of higher-profile gigs delivering the same for albums by Amy Winehouse and Al Green. But surprisingly enough, Jones, now 53, is just as eager to look forward as she is to reminisce.
The Hook: There's this prevailing theme at Daptone that digital recording and pitch correction and obsessive micromanagement can suck the life right out of modern music, but I've read elsewhere that you're a fan of Beyonc©, Alicia Keys, and even Fantasia from American Idol. All of them use Pro Tools and Auto-Tune. What is it that makes their version of digital pop work when others don't?
Sharon Jones: It's played a lot.
The Hook: Do you think your age has helped legitimize what you do? Younger artists doing throwback soul–- Winehouse, Duffy, Adele, Joss Stone–- are sometimes dismissed as fraudulent.
Sharon Jones: I've been considered less marketable all my life–- too dark, too fat, too old. I don't have that gleam in my eye like I did fourteen years ago when we were first starting.
The Hook: Well, you're certainly still energetic.
Sharon Jones: I'll tell you man, it's just that this is my job. Every time I get on stage, it could be my last time, so I gotta give you everything I got.
The Hook: So you really do think about it all ending, then?
Sharon Jones: My concern is just my security. I was born poor, I've been poor all my life. I don't want to die poor. I have nieces and nephews that need to go to college.
The Hook: What has changed as the band has become more successful?
Sharon Jones: At first Gabe wrote a lot of the music. Even with Gabe mixing and producing, if you wrote the song, he'll call you during mixing to get your input. And Daptone is a business now; we have a payroll, and we're an LLC. And we picked up fans from Amy, and we picked up fans from Phish this past Halloween.
The Hook: Speaking of Phish, I hear you like to fish.
Sharon Jones: That's my leisure, believe it or not; that's one of the reasons why I want to get [financially] comfortable. I don't need a big ol' yacht, I just want a little home near a lake.
The Hook: So "Fish In My Dish," easily one of my favorite Daptone tracks, is actually kind of a personal song?
Sharon Jones: It's a good leisure song.
The Hook: It's hard to envision you working at Riker's Island as a corrections officer.
Sharon Jones: It was tricky because they had me working with the men, not the women.
The Hook: So then when I learned that you were born in James Brown's hometown, I couldn't help but wonder if that disciplinarian ever comes out with the band. You know, all those stories about how he used to fine his musicians if they flubbed a note.