Joss Stone: ‘I just want to be barefoot and pregnant’

She dressed as a sausage on primetime TV and spent millions to be free of a record deal. Maverick music star Joss Stone’s goal now is the pursuit of happiness – and that means having lots of children, she tells Julia Llewellyn Smith.

Joss Stone
Kristin Burns

Singer Joss Stone never stops smiling. Despite ‘still feeling really feverish’ from a nasty bout of Covid, she’s beaming as she describes her daughter Violet’s recent first-birthday celebrations. ‘She knew it was her birthday. I made her a Cocomelon cake – it’s a children’s character – and kept singing “Happy Birthday” to her. You can see she thinks, “that song’s for me!”’

Her plan, says the woman who’s sold 15 million albums, is to move from her home in Nashville back to Devon, where she grew up, to be near her three siblings and their children, in time for Violet to start school. ‘I want at least seven children. Though some I will adopt. I’ve done a lot of things and though I’ve loved them, I’m over it. I like doing babies more.’

Joss has certainly packed a lot into her 34 years. Having won BBC’s Star For a Night aged 13, she left school with three GCSEs, and at 16 released her debut album The Soul Sessions, which made her an international superstar. She sang at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012 and attended Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. (‘I’m not in touch with Harry now,’ she clarifies.) She’s much better friends with Mick Jagger, with whom she was briefly in a supergroup called SuperHeavy. She’s so close to another of the group’s members, the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, that she chose to move to Tennessee ‘to be just down the road from him’, renting a farmhouse where she’s currently living with her partner Cody DaLuz and Violet.

She and Stewart collaborated on her latest album, Never Forget My Love, and together wrote the score and lyrics for the upcoming West End musical adaptation of the novel The Time Traveller’s Wife. Joss also hosts a podcast on the pursuit of happiness called A Cuppa Happy. So while she clearly has no intention of stopping working, motherhood is now her priority. ‘Sometimes I feel like I’m supposed to be born in another time, because it’s really not fashionable to say I just want to be barefoot and pregnant,’ she says. ‘It’s awesome to be the CEO of a massive company, but it sounds exhausting to me. Violet is exhausting – but she’s also rejuvenating.’ Her ‘not cool’ decision comes as less of a surprise when you recognise Joss has always been a maverick.

Last month saw her return as a judge on the final of ITV’s The Masked Singer, a show she won in 2021, six months pregnant and disguised as a sausage. Worth an estimated £11 million and having duetted with James Brown and Smokey Robinson, why did she want to compete against the likes of Lenny Henry and Glenn Hoddle? Joss chuckles, ‘I thought you just sang in front of the panel, then took your mask off and you’re done. It was only when I got there, I realised – no, they’re saying which one they like best. Then I felt instant pressure: “Oh my god, I’ve got to be really good!”’

Still, she has no regrets. ‘I decided a few years ago to make decisions based on happiness and how much fun something’s going to be. Seriousness is great… but to choose that every day makes for a stressful life. As an artist, you can easily go down that rabbit hole of everything has to be soulful and credible. I was like that for a few years because I thought it was the right thing to do. Then I realised how boring it was.’

Joss Stone on the Masked Singer
Joss as ‘Sausage’ in The Masked Singer – she won the show last year while six months pregnant. Image: ITV/Ruckas Pictures

In 2011 Joss put her money where her mouth was when she paid her record company millions of pounds to escape her contract. ‘I had this massive deal with EMI but I was so unhappy. People were telling me they wanted everything about me to be different. I realised the most important thing to me was my voice and nothing else. You can’t take that from me, and I don’t give a s*** about the rest.’

Joss attributes her determination to put her own needs first to her parents: Richard, who runs a fruit and nut business, and Wendy, who let holiday cottages and then became her manager. Joss says the (now divorced) couple always told their children, ‘“You do not have to do anything you don’t want to do.” I knew I had a responsibility: if you’re unhappy, it’s on you, because you have a choice.’

Since then Joss has lived life on her own terms. In 2014, without fanfare, she embarked on her Total World Tour, an attempt to sing in every country, including Syria, Iraq, Libya and even North Korea. ‘We were very much tourists in North Korea, being taken around by our tour guide. It was impossible to sing publicly, so all the guides met secretly, which was crazy and scary, in this hidden part of an old building.’ Joss had purchased a karaoke machine to plug in her microphone and keyboard, with which she performed for just half an hour, ‘because I didn’t want anyone to get in trouble.

‘Everyone’s so sweet. If you talk to them about the idea that North Korea is a horrible place, they’ll say, “What are you talking about?” We’re all indoctrinated in our own way – we like the way we live and they like the way they live. When you go outside [the capital] Pyongyang it may be different, but I’ll never know because I wasn’t allowed and neither are those guides, so they don’t know either.’

Having ticked off all but one of the 200-plus countries listed as ‘official’ by the UN, in 2019 she came a cropper at the final destination – Iran. After landing in Tehran, she and her small team (including her brother Harry, who acted as videographer) were detained overnight then deported. ‘They said I was blacklisted because women aren’t allowed to sing publicly in Iran. I’d been intending to sing privately, like I did in Saudi Arabia, but they said, “We don’t trust you.” It was scary.’ So she didn’t get to sing. ‘Well, I sang in the shower at the hotel as loud as I could!’

joss stone and Cody DaLuz
Joss with her partner Cody DaLuz

Yet the story had an unexpectedly romantic twist when, on leaving Iran, a shaken Joss phoned Cody, 31, a former US Marine. The pair had met a year previously at Belize airport where Joss – still on her world tour – was waiting for a connecting flight having just returned from playing in Antarctica. ‘We got talking and I thought, “God, this man is lovely.”’ At the time, she was in a relationship but the pair stayed in touch, ‘like penpals’, for a year. ‘When I was being deported, I just suddenly thought of him and called and said, “I’m so gutted, can you be my silver lining?” He flew to Barcelona, I met him there and we’ve been together ever since.’

Before this, Joss was getting so worried she might never have babies, she was on the verge of having her eggs frozen. ‘It’s a great idea, if you have terrible taste in men – like I had. I never did it, though, because I read you can get really sick with the treatments and I’d have had to take too long out of work.’

By the time she met Cody, Joss knew what she wanted from a partner. ‘I’ve had a lot of relationships,’ she says, pulling a face. ‘But I’ve learnt from each one.’ Her main lesson was honesty. ‘I told Cody, “I have a fairy-tale complex and people tell me that’s a bad thing as no one can live up to it. But I would like to keep my complex, and it’s up to you to nurture it,”’ she chortles. ‘When you lay it out like that, some people might run away, but Cody makes life like a fairy tale all the time.’

The pair plan to marry soon now Covid rules allow for their families to get together. One of the boons in their early relationship was Cody had never heard of Joss. ‘It helped because people can have a preconceived notion of me as lovely and sweet – more lovely and sweet than I actually am,’ she laughs. I don’t believe that for a moment. She seems content, settled and, yes, happy. Her life is just where she wants it.

Joss’s latest single ‘Oh To Be Loved By You’, from the album Never Forget My Love, is out now.