Interview: Sharon Jones

Talking style, vocal prowess and the joy of fishing with The Dap-Kings' leading lady

On the heels of her collaboration with Cole Haan, iconic soul singer Sharon Jones—the acclaimed front woman of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings—kindly took some time out to speak with us. Cole Haan tapped Jones and the band for an upbeat rendition of “White Christmas,” and the result is a beautiful reflection of what they do best: make superb, soulful music. This has been a big year for Jones, including her first Grammy nomination (Best R&B Album of the Year category for Give the People What They Want), and the one-time Rikers Island prison guard continues to rise on the waves of her big voice. Jones chatted with us about her Cole Haan collaboration, sustaining mystery and what to wear when fishing—and she’s just as charming as you’d expect.

You’ve been in the industry for years, how does your sound resonate with a new generation?

You know, I appreciate my fans so much. I have been singing and entertaining for a really long time, but there was something magical that happened when I first started working with Gabe [Gabriel Roth aka Bosco Mann, the Dap-Kings’ producer]. And once the Dap-Kings came together, you could just feel that something really special was about to happen. I am just thankful for every day that we are able to get out there and share what we have with our fans.


How have you been able to sustain a level of mystery in this age of celebrity voyeurism and ephemeral success?

I live in the same small town that I was born in: North Augusta, South Carolina. I moved back here from Brooklyn after living in New York for 50 years. Hardly anyone knows about me down there, and I like that. I usually spend my time fishing when I am off the road, and really do prefer a mellow lifestyle.

How much of your time is spent on the road? How does that affect your process and inspiration?

I spend so much time on the road! This year alone I went to Europe three times, Australia, New Zealand, two US tours and tons of festival and shows in between. Throw in photo shoots and TV appearances and all of the sudden you’ve been performing for 14 days straight! It can get tiring. That’s where my fishing comes in handy. Best way to get centered and relaxed.


How did this particular collaboration with Cole Haan come to be?

We were honored to be chosen to collaborate with Cole Haan for their Holiday “Talented and Gifted” campaign this year. I think there are a lot of similarities between the brand and ourselves, which the Cole Haan team recognized. We work for what we believe in and are driven by those that inspire us, qualities that Cole Haan strives for and supports. In that sense, the partnership seemed like a natural fit. They then asked us to create something with soul and spirit, celebrating the holidays, and the end product is the video we are all so very proud of.

How did you select “White Christmas” as the song?

“White Christmas” has always been one of my favorites ever since I was a little kid. When the Dap-Kings and I went into the studio to record some Christmas tracks, we knew we could add our own spin, making it a little more funky and fun to dance to.

When did you know you wanted to be a singer?

I first knew I wanted to sing when I was four years old, cast as an angel in my church Christmas play. I just remember singing a solo, and the whole room said, “Oh Lord, that child can sing!”


Have you had favorite collaborators?

I loved working with Michael Buble. Lou Reed was one of my favorites, too. I miss that guy. And of course, my Dap-Kings.

When you’re home alone, what do you listen to?

Classic soul and R&B.

Do you have a favorite live performance experience?

SNL with Michael Bublé, and most recently, sharing a stage with Stevie Wonder at a tribute show that honored him.


What do you feel when you are performing? How does that translate to what an audience feels?

I get my energy from my music and my fans. Plain and simple. When I am on stage, something comes over me and I just feel this surge of energy. And I can see that the audience connects with me, and it is just the most amazing feeling.

What is your personal relationship to style?

I love my stage dresses, they are usually bright and sparkly and comfortable and fun. My shoes need to have a smaller heel so I can dance for two hours, and straps so I can kick them off when I really start to turn it on. When I am off stage, I love a good pair of jeans, casual T-shirt and if it gets chilly, a warm jacket. It’s important to be comfortable and warm when you are fishing.

Images courtesy of Cole Haan