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Remarkable for Jones’ emotion-packed voice, ‘Dap Dippin’ with the Dap-Kings’ and last year’s ‘Naturally’ have found great success, followed by quite a few 45 inch releases (Yes, their singles are pressed onto 45s!). Check in with Fly’s Jeremy Balius as he catches Sharon Jones in the middle of shoe shopping in her home town of New York.
Visit the new video sharing site for Fly and watch Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings perfoming ‘Taxes’
JB — Sharon, what’re you doing?
Jones — I’m in the middle of shoe shopping with my friend!
Should I call back?
Honey, if we don’t do this now, we ain’t ever gonna do it.
Alright then, straight into it. I heard that you’ve been heavily involved in gospel choirs your whole life.
Yeah, I’ve been singing in church my whole life. Since I was about 5 years old. It was a huge thing for me. Since I was just a child all the way till now.
How do you think that has translated into the live show?
Oh, I definitely go through the gospel stuff and bring a church thing. Definitely when I shout. When I shout it’s also a reference to my Afro-American and Native American history. The vocals have to be strong. I turn everything into a gospel, blues and R’n’B thing.
To what extent does all this add a sense of spirituality to your show?
It’s a huge thing! I remember there was this one time, we were in Belgium or France, I can’t remember, and we got off the stage and everybody was just like “What just happened?” It was like what we call the Spirit of Anointment in church. That was the most spiritual show we ever did. That’s why I refuse to sing over tracks. It’s gotta be a band.
I was actually gonna ask you about that. You’re taking a huge stand by fronting a band, when a lot of current soul and R’n’B is usually electronic produced or sampled.
Well, for one thing, the other day we played in Kansas and we get on stage and it had been about a month since I had sung last and I forgot the words! So with the live band I can just make them keep playing, I can make them play some solos and then I can jump right back in when I remember.
So there’s a level of just going with it? Lyrically, you alter the words all the time, don’t you? A certain sense of spontaneity?
With the words, you’ve just got to feel it. You know, I don’t know what’s gonna happen, whether I pull someone on stage from the crowd, whether people are dancing, you know, it could be anything. You just feel it.
Yeah, like freestyle.
How does that spontaneity work into writing the songs? I heard that with ‘Damn, It’s Hot’, it got written on the spot when the air conditioning was broken.
Yeah, that was crazy, but I didn’t do any of the writing on those. For Dap Dippin’ and Naturally, Gabriel wrote all the lyrics. He’s just so gifted and I just took those songs and made them mine. I’ve been writing some songs for the new album. Might go with some of them, or with Gabe’s.
Going back to the issue about how you’re taking a stand by fronting a live band. In what sense are you modernizing or updating tradition without being kitsch or retro?
For one, we’re not trying to compete with the kids. We’re not trying to be the Beyonces. We’re just doing our own thing.
As far as updating goes, we’ll take something like an old folk song, like ‘This Land is your Land’ and just funk it up. Put a groove to it. It’s supposed to be folk and we’re making it funk. We’re keeping our sound authentic.
It’s been pretty tough touring the States, right? With expense factors and such. How’s that going?
We barely just started touring in the States last year. It was so much easier to go over to Europe, which is why people know us over there. It’s like, I barely just played my home town of Augusta in February. We had a lot of firsts last year, like going Florida.
And then it’s to Australia next week! First time?
It is. It’s gonna be crazy. They had wanted me to come down before but they never wanted to pay for the band. They were gonna have me sing in front of one of their bands or over tracks and I said “I don’t play unless it’s with the Dap-Kings!”
Then it’s straight on to Europe?
Yeah, I just pray I keep my voice and my health. You know I’m turning 50 soon? Yeah, they’re throwing me a big party here on May 20th cause I’ll be on tour for my birthday. So I’ll get back and there’ll be a big party!
So last question and it’s a really vague one. To the person reading this interview, what would you say your opinion is on how to keep the funk alive?
Just listen to it! That’s it, just listen to it! It’s like when I was first getting together with the band, they’re younger than me and they were pulling out old 45s that I remember my mom used play when I was a child. Just really old stuff. There’s the Isley Brothers and the JBs, Ike and the Blazers, Otis Redding and it’s all just natural music.
Electronic music takes away from all of it. From all the natural music. It’s the glue. You’ve got to feel the funk. You’ve got to feel it inside.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-kings are:
- Sharon Jones (Vocals)
- Homer Steinweiss (Drums)
- Binky Griptite (Guitar)
- Bugaloo Velez (Congas)
- Dave Guy (Trumpet)
- Tommy ‘TNT’ Brenneck (Guitar)
- Bosco Mann (Bass)
- Neal Sugarman (Tenor)
- Ian Hendickson-Smith (Baritone)
Tour Dates Europe:
- 26/04 Lille(fr) “Le Grand Mix “
- 27/04 Bruxelles(Belg) ” Ancienne Belgique “
- 28/04 Strasbourg(FR) “Artefact Festival”
- 29/04 Paris(FR) “Ter à Terre festival@Elysee Montmartre” (+Weapon of Choice)
- 30/04 Bourges(FR) “Festival Le Printemps de Bourges”
- 02/05 Nantes(FR) “L’Olympic”
- 03/05 Berlin(Ger) “Festsaal Kreuzberg”
- 04/05 Wiesbaden(Ger) “Schlachtauff”
- 05/05 Freiburg(Ger) “The Rabeatclub”
- 06/05 Offenbach(Ger) “Hafen 2”
- 09/05 Hannover(Ger) “Palo-Palo”
- 10/05 Köln(Ger) “Gloria Theater”
- 11/05 Helsinski(Fin) “Tavastia”
- 12/05 Goteborg(Swe) “Pustervik”
- 13/05 Stockholm(Swe) “Berns”
For more info, US tour dates and music visit:
Photo: Dulce Pinzon