To describe Sharon Jones as a force of nature may sound like hollow hyperbole. But if you’ve ever seen the pint-size 54-year-old singer perform live with her backing bandmates, the Dap-Kings, you know she packs a gale-force punch. She belts out the notes, and on the uptempo numbers, she dances and shimmies and prances around the stage in a sweat-dripping, non-stop ball of energy. Nothing seems fragile about her.
Yet her songs of heartache sound so personal that you realize she’s in touch with her feelings. Like in the following beautifully shot B&W video for “If You Call,” from the group’s CD, “I Learned the Hard Way,” Jones taps into some stormy emotions. She sings of sleepless nights, sitting by the phone, unrequited love. Uhoh, then that knife in her purse. Makes you wonder who’ll get it if that phone never rings. Told you she means business.
I talked to Sharon a few months ago and she shared some details on the group’s songwriting process:
“Every time when I’m interviewed I would always tell them that when it comes to the record, we just come in and do songs. We band together and however many months it takes us to put these songs down, we really do these songs, make sure the music is right, the vocals are right, and then Gabe [Roth, Daptone Records founder] does the producing part. You got to mix that stuff down. Then once you mix stuff down, you got to throw songs out. From 20 songs or 19 songs, you got to break it down to like 12 to go on the album. A lot of these songs, even now, I’m still learning songs, cause I don’t recall the names or they’ve been named something else. I got to figure out names of the songs, some of the songs I thought made the album didn’t make the album. But that means we have material to get another album out…
We just go in and basically, Gabe tries to ask everyone. Everyone gives their opinion. I tell him just go with it, ‘You’re producing it, you pick the songs, I trust you.’ That’s what I do. Now I gotta go back and see where he’s coming from. I gotta start listening to the songs, the ones that’s definitely on the album. I gotta really learn them, cause we’re going to go out and start performing them soon. I don’t know Gabe set his terms of what he’s going for. A lot of songs maybe a little more mellow. The “100 Days” album was more Motown, Stax R&B/Soul. This one, I don’t know. It’s a little bit more mellow. Vocally I got a chance to sing.”
For fans who can’t get enough of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, the good folks at Spinner have shared an exclusive documentary featuring the following clip of how the band recorded the song “Better Things.”