Donell Jones: A New Journey

Platinum R&B heavyweight Donell Jones has been producing real R&B since his debut album ‘My Heart’ in 1996. Even with his label not throwing the full machine behind his albums, Jones still manages to stay relevant, creating fans all over the world, by creating timeless music. Now independent, Jones plans to give his fans not only more great music but also a glimpse into his personal life, whether it’s on Twitter, video chat, etc. Check out what Donell has been up to. Singersroom: You’re doing your Indie thing now….was your split from Arista/Jive amicable?

Donell Jones: It was…we pretty much was fed up with each other. It was a happy split.

Singersroom: Is this new situation better or worst for you?

Donell Jones: It’s a lot better for me. I mean it’s something I wanted to do for a long time because I’ve always felt like I’ve gotten shafted when it came time to put out my record. It just felt like they never promoted me correctly. Now I’m in position to do a lot of the stuff for myself that I know they wouldn’t quite actually do.

Singersroom: That’s what’s up. So why the ‘Lost Files?’

Donell Jones: I made the ‘Lost Files’ man because in between every album that I’ve created; I usually make a lot of songs for every album and those songs never get heard because when I start on a new album, I just start fresh. So I had a lot of songs that people never heard before and I was hearing a lot of my fans saying “we miss real R&B,” so you know, I needed to let people hear this stuff so I just put together the ‘Lost Files’ and I think it’s a great prelude to my new album dropping early 2010.

Singersroom: Are these tracks material that you own publishing to or do you still have to share profits with your past record label?

Donell Jones: I completely own them myself because this is stuff that they have never heard. As I said before, when I start on a new project, I start from scratch plus I produce my own songs so…I mean…there is nothing they could really do about it; they just own the stuff that I did with them.

Singersroom: Did you produce and write all the records on lost files?

Donell Jones: That’s correct, the majority of them I wrote and produced myself. I also worked with a few producers on this project too from songs over the years.

Singersroom: Is there a lead single off this project?

Donell Jones: To be honest with you, we are pushing the whole album but if I were to pick a single it would be “Superman.” It has all the elements of my first album when I first came out; it just had that particular sound to it. It just feels like that 90’s R&B all the way and the subject matter of the song is pretty much about a guy who pays his bills and that’s pretty much the only thing she wants him for, you know, she never comes through for him. I feel like that subject right there still carries over into today.

Singersroom: That “Imagine That” record is definitely hot. From the music I’ve heard from you as of late, It sounds like your going back to the romancing style Donell is know for. Is this the case?

Donell Jones: Definitely man…I mean the way I see it is I’ve always tried to make music that are based around things that people actually go through. I don’t think I’ve ever really changed that. The “Imagine That” record…that was something I was going to put on the new album but I’m like you know, let me throw that out there so at least my fans could have me on their minds. As far as the “Lost Files,” these are all old songs that have never gotten heard before so you can definitely tell the difference and you can hear the growth throughout the album. If a person played “Imagine That,” right behind this album, they could still see that it’s the same Donell flow but you can definitely tell the music has changed a lot.

Singersroom: Tell me about the new album dropping next year?

Donell Jones: It’s definitely going to be off the chain. I’ve had a lot of time to work on it and I know it’s going to be one of those joints you can play from beginning to end. I tried to approach this album in a way that every song meant something; a strong meaning behind it. I really feel like my fans will appreciate it a whole lot because there is some deep situations on there and its real feel good music. I have those mid-tempo records that you can step to and grove to. I just think it’s going to be a great album.

Singersroom: Who did you work with on this album?

Donell Jones: Right now I just produced most of it myself. I got a couple of joints from Mike City, I’m getting some joints from the Underdogs and Ryan Leslie.

Singersroom: What kind of fan reaction are you hoping to stir with the lost files and the new album?

Donell Jones: I’m just trying to get people back to getting familiar with Donell Jones. Over the years, every project that I’ve had, its always taken me 3 years in between to come back out and I’ve always thought that was too long. It gives a person that chance to forget about you…you know! That wasn’t really my doing, that was because I was on a label that had so many artists and you had to wait your turn. I just want my fans to get back on being familiar with me, hear my sound again and hopefully remember what they loved me for from the beginning. This time around I have my own label and it won’t take me as long to put out records; I plan on putting out records every year…god willing.

Singersroom: What’s your opinion on the state of R&B right now?

Donell Jones: I think its suffering a little bit…the state of R&B is real iffy right now. I think a lot of artists now are trying to be R&B thugs, there is no love in the music. I guess cats are scared to show their emotional side or something …you know. I think that’s what we are missing. This new age of R&B is more driven towards hip hop.

Singersroom: Is that the artists fault, the label or both?

Donell Jones: I think it’s both. It’s the label’s fault because they are looking for a fast buck. Whatever is selling is what they are going to go with because it’s a business to them. They could probably care less what the music scene is, just as long as it’s making money for them. And I would say it’s the artists’ fault because there is not a lot of artist standing up for the music that they want to do. A lot of people are jumping on bandwagons because of what is supposedly hot. At the end of the day, I feel like if you stay true to yourself, it will work out because music goes in cycles. I think it’s definitely time for real R&B to come back because the current has run its course. A lot of people are fed up…they kind of miss the 90’s style R&B. I’m not saying what I’m going to be doing is 90’s R&B because it’s not; it’s going to be R&B with the presence of today.

Singersroom: Anyone particular that you are fond of or not fond of?

Donell Jones: I’m liking what Trey Songz is doing. My favorite artist right now is Ryan Leslie just because he wears so many hats. He plays…he writes and sings as well. It’s not too many artists out there that can do all those things.

Singersroom: How have you managed to stay relevant in a business that’s so fickle?

Donell Jones: I think it’s the music…I really do. When I write records, I try to write timeless stuff. I don’t gear my music towards any age groups, I feel like people play my records when the whole family is around. The funny thing is I have some 18 year olds hitting me up like yo “when that record came out I was like 7 years old and I love it.” It always excites me to see how you can touch people through generations; even older adults are like “yo man, I love that song that you did.” So I just sit back and try to write great songs. I don’t think about what time it is or what’s going on in this era, I just try to write good songs.

Singersroom: For someone that’s been in the game so long…do you feel like you get your just due?

Donell Jones: You know what, to be honest with you, I don’t. I think that has a lot to do with the record company not standing behind my project and I also blame myself in that I think my fans have always know the music but they haven’t had a chance to really know the person. I have to blame myself for that because they probably don’t connect with me personally and that’s something I’m trying to change today.

Singersroom: What’s your plan for social networking and becoming more interactive?

Donell Jones: I’m throwing myself in it whole heartedly man. It’s the new thing. I mean you can connect with your fans and be one-on-one. It wasn’t like this like ten years ago when I first came out. When I first came out, you had to send in your fan mail and now you can talk to your fan directly; you can even do a video chat. It’s crazy how technology have changed but it’s like the best thing for music right now. I think for a lot of people in my position that’s going independent, it’s going to help in a major way because not only is the music business suffering a lot, the record labels are really killing themselves because they are letting go a lot of great artists right now. It’s almost like they don’t know what their doing…like they don’t understand the internet. This is a big marketing tool and they are still going off the old ways they ran business.

Singersroom: Yeah man…I always wondered why these labels don’t create music portals for themselves internally.

Donell Jones: Exactly…I be thinking about how would you let iTunes come in and make a music store and you haven’t thought about doing it yourself. That to me doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

They didn’t think about it and somebody else jumped on it. I guess this is why the deals that they are giving up right now are 360 deals. I think that’s kind of terrible. A lot of these artists really make their money from going on the road and now they want a piece of your shows. So it’s like, is it really worth it being an artist on a label? I mean they have the money to back you as an artist but at the same token you’re never going to make anything because they are going to pad the books so bad that you are always going to be in the red.

Singersroom: So what advice do you have for a new artist that is approached by one of these deals?

Donell Jones: It depends on how much money they are putting on the table. I mean I gotta look at it like this, some of these guys never had money before and the type of money they might give out probably could help someone’s family. Sometimes you have to take it, but as far as a person in my position, I wouldn’t take it. If you already have a fan base and you know how to connect with your fan base, it makes no sense to go get a record deal, not unless they are putting up a hell of a lot of money (laughter).

Singersroom: So outside of music man…how is life? What are you up to?

Donell Jones: I’m great man. I have five daughters’ man and loving life, I couldn’t be in a better situation you know. I really don’t have anything to complain about, just overjoyed about what my future holds.

Singersroom: So, why do you look R&B?

Donell Jones: I love R&B man because when I was a kid that’s all my mother used to play. I mean from 5 years old my father sang R&B. It’s just been in my family for the longest. I grew up listening to Michael [Jackson], the Marvin Gaye’s, the Teddy Pendergrass, Alicia Myers, I mean I could go on and on. R&B is in my heart man, that’s why I love true R&B.

Singersroom: What message do you want to leave your present and your future fans?

Donell Jones: I just want to let them know that I really appreciate them supporting me throughout the years. I really appreciate that they have let me into their world and just look forward to great music in the future.

Hit up Donell Jones on twitter @ —— By: Interview By Gary Gentles


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