If you were to do a Google search of the Hollywood-based singer known as Kasi Jones, you’d come across an array of images, each one different from the first. In one photo you may find Kasi Jones resembling a demure damsel, hands in prayer as if unfamiliar with the ways of the wild world. You can click through more photos and find that same damsel transformed into a rocked out goddess with a swirl of big hair peaking to the sky. As easily as she visually mutates, Kasi Jones is capable of such magical tricks when it comes to her sound.
“I describe my sound as Intergalactic Soul, or, Soul Galactic,” Kasi explains. “It’s soul music, but with no earthly bounds. Undeniably, I am a soul singer, whether it’s pop, rock, or R&B. That’s just my voice, but I definitely blend or bend genres a little bit.”
Since the start of her musical career three years ago, Kasi Jones has been using her versatility to land appearances on television and on stages big and small. Her momentum has been extraordinary for someone who has a relatively short career compared to most artists currently garnering attention. Whether she is featured on MTV or preparing for her role as the character Byrdie Green in the Broadway-bound musical The Boy From New York City, she has successfully attracted a faithful fan base that is looking forward to the release of her upcoming EP, Beautiful Liar.
In this SoulTrain.com interview, we catch up with Kasi to learn about her busy rise to the top and learn what she considers her responsibility as an artist. Finally, we ask about her all-time favorite Soul Train episodes and learn where to catch her online.
SoulTrain.com: Kasi, thank you so much for talking with us today. I hear that you have a new project on the horizon that has been getting some anticipated buzz. Tell us about that.
Kasi Jones: Thanks so much for having me! It’s such an honor to be featured on SoulTrain.com! And, yes, I do have my debut project coming out, Beautiful Liar. Wooot wooot! The EP drops this winter w/ the full length album following up later in 2013, and I could not be more excited!
SoulTrain.com: And we’re excited for you! As an artist who has been performing for awhile but just now really getting attention for your work, what is the impression you want to leave with your audience? How do you want people to perceive you and your music?
Kasi Jones: Hmm. Tough question. I suppose I just want people to see and hear me for who I really am. This seems to be the great quest of humanity, to be known, and I really feel that in seeing and understanding each other we have a better understanding of ourselves. What is art but the ultimate form of communication, a way to express the intangible? What impression do I want to leave? If the audience leaves with a feeling of connectedness then I feel it’s a win for everyone.
SoulTrain.com: Who have been some of the influences that have guided your sound? I caught your cover of Andre 3000’s “Prototype” and find that you have this fusion of all types of sounds. Who influences and inspires you?
Kasi Jones: Influences? Ahhh, there are too many to count! The first one that comes to mind is Tina Turner. I love her. I love her. I love her. I grew up listening to music of that era, but what I love about Tina is her genre-bending ability to reinterpret a song, and reinterpret herself. Other big influences are Louis Armstrong, Judy Garland, Otis Redding–those vocals, aaahhh. Earth Wind and Fire were huge. Stevie Wonder, Minnie Riperton, Gil Scott-Heron, the Gap Band, Tower of Power.
I grew up with my dad’s amazing collection of records, and there is something about the live instrumentation, that full band sound, those insane harmonies and raw vocals that got in me deep. Everything about the 90s–from Mariah Carey to Ace of Bass…I definitely miss that more natural vocal sound that disappeared somewhere in the last 10 years or so. However, I do love me some bubblegum pop when it’s good! Good music is good music, and that is what influences me. More recently I would say, Gnarls Barkley, P!nk, Kelis, NERD, Gwen Stefani, The XX, Lianne La Havas, Connie Lim, and, of course, Andre 3000– artists that have found their voice and fearlessly represent themselves inspire and influence me.
SoulTrain.com: One question I like to ask those I interview is, “As an artist, what do you think is your responsibility when you create music for your listening public?”
Kasi Jones: Wow. I love this question. To be honest, I believe it’s my responsibility to be honest and share my story. So many times in my life, listening to music other people created has been my saving grace! That Waiting to Exhale soundtrack got me through some stuff, girl! And if it weren’t for TLC’s Crazy Sexy Cool, who knows who I would be today?
And whenever I need to just cry until I laugh, I turn on Coldplay. These strangers shared their stories and made me feel understood. If I can do that for someone through sharing mine….wow…yeah…that would be the ultimate.
SoulTrain.com: For this new project, you had people supporting you in all areas—from conception to production. Tell us about those folks and what has been the driving force behind keeping you committed to performing and staying in the music industry and why?
Kasi Jones: Thank you for asking that question! That so many times people forget or brush over, I’m telling you it takes a village! I have been so fortunate with the people that have come into this project! The title track was co-written and produced by Jesse Owen Astin, front man of the rock band Like Clockwork. He is an incredible talent and person I worked with. The wonderful Dae One Beats on the track “Anymore”–that session went on until probably 4AM and ended with us recording the ” Prototype” cover you mentioned.
“My Body’s on Fire “ was my first collaboration with Baby Dee Beats, and that went so well, we joined forces as a production duo and are now known as The Immigrants. Also, he is co-executive producing the full length album with me. I was so fortunate to have some of the most incredible musicians on the planet play for me: Brandon K. Brown, Stanley Randolph, Adrian Hibbs, Lamont Sydnor, The Regiment Horns…if you have guys like that on your record you know you’re doing something right!
Also, Aja Patrice, Sheree “Pheenix,” and everyone at Fearless Rock Project Inc.–they’ve been shooting a documentary on the making of my debut project and also produced my first music video with me. I love them. The person who kept me and keeps me focused, motivated, and centered, is definitely my mother. But what keeps me in this crazy music industry is that feeling planted deep inside me that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.
SoulTrain.com: As you look at your career from when it first started to now, what has changed and what are you most proud of?
Kasi Jones: I’m definitely most proud that I’m still doing it! I’ve changed, I’ve grown, I’ve learned so much along the way and really found my voice as a person through my music, and it’s exciting to think that I have just barely scratched the surface!
SoulTrain.com: As a creative, what advice would you give to someone first starting out to aspire to be a recording and performing artist?
Kasi Jones: My biggest piece of advice to someone just starting out would be: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! If you don’t know, ask someone who does. Keep it simple. Be yourself. You are the only one of you there is. We need you!
SoulTrain.com: So, as we come to the end of the interview, and since you are on SoulTrain.com, tell us what episode of Soul Train you enjoyed most and who was on it…we’d love to hear it!
Kasi Jones: You know, I recently came across a video of Minnie Riperton performing “Loving You” on Soul Train and it was the most effortless incredible thing I’ve ever seen. I also love the Sly and the Family Stone episode! I always go back and watch the vintage episodes, they are so inspirational! I’m such a throwback girl.
–Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman
Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a longtime journalist and songwriter who writes plays. She is based in Maryland. Visit her at KhadijahOnline.com.