Exclusive: Donell Jones Talks New Album ‘Forever,’ Being Independent, Current State of R&B and More



Creating a sense of longevity within the industry is a task that most artists usually fail at doing. With so many chances of being a one-hit-wonder or trying to keep up with the times going wrong, it’s easy to see how an artist – especially in the R&B genre – can fall off and never be mentioned again. Flashback to one of your favorite tracks from the ’90s – can you say that the artist is still relevant today? Luckily for us, we can.

In 1996, R&B lovers everywhere were forced to ask “Who is this guy?” when R&B singer Donell Jones did more than justice to Stevie Wonder’s “Knocks Me Off My Feet.” Arguably one of the best remakes we would hear, it wasn’t until 1999 that the world really felt the wrath of Donell Jones when he dropped one of the more legendary albums of our generation, ‘Where I Wanna Be.’ The album, which went platinum, featured 13 tracks of pure heaven to your ears.

Now, over a decade and 4 albums later, the veteran R&B crooner has released his latest LP and along with it, dropped his record label too. The album, Forever, hosts the sound that we’ve been missing from the impressive vocalist and proves that he has made his mark on ears forever. ThisIsRnB.com recently got the chance to chop it up with the singer to get the details on the new album, being an independent artist and much more.

Get into the exclusive interview below!

Your new album Forever dropped this summer, but before that, you were on a 3-year hiatus. What made you decide to jump back into doing music?

I mean it’s just what I was born to do. It’s not like I really left to not do music again – I just take a few breaks. Maybe something will happen and just send me in the direction to start making music and that’s pretty much what happened.

Sure. What was your thought process behind doing this album?

You know, this is just where I am in my life right now. I wanted to make a love album. You know, just going into parenthood, growing in the relationship. You know, if you do the right things, what will happen in the relationship and if you do the wrong things, what will happen in the relationship. So, I just wanted to try to touch on all of that and that’s when Forever happened.

Is there a specific track that is your favorite?

You know what, all of them are my favorites. I know a lot of people say that. There’s a difference. The way I’m singing each song is different then the next or the last song. I mean, they’re all special to me, but “Forever” is just one of those songs that I wrote for the one that I’m in love with right now.

That’s so sweet! So, that goes into my next question, if there’s someone that you feel like you could spend forever with?

Fo’ sho – definitely.

Aww, that’s a great feeling, man.

Yeah, it definitely is.

Well, as we know, R&B is an ever-changing genre. Many things have changed from when you first stepped on the scene until now. How do you feel about the current status of contemporary R&B?

I feel as if it’s in a good place. When I came up, it was a little different. You had a lot of male artists, but we had different kinds of styles and all that. I think what’s happening today is a lot of these artists out there, they rap and they sing, so that’s an evolution right there. I think it’s in a great place, you know. You’ll still have people like me that do my kind of music and then you’ll have what the new guys are doing and so on and so forth. So, it’s just evolution – that’s all it is. I welcome it, though.

What do you think has kept your longevity in the music industry?

I think it’s because I have an original sound. You know, I have my own sound. I think vocally, I don’t sound like anyone out there so it’s a distinct sound. I just try to make music that makes people feel good, you know – something that’s gone last for a long time. That’s my approach when I do music.

Sure. Being that the Forever album was released this summer, what are your goals around this album?

My goals are just for everybody to get this album and feel good about it. I like the music that’s on there. We had a good first week – I think we came out #2 on the Independent albums. So, I mean we’ve had a great start. Now, we’re just tryna get out here and get on the road and let the fans know I’m back out and to support the album. And you know, shake hands and kiss babies [laughs].

[Laughs] True! So, how has that transition been from having the backing of a record label to now doing it with your independent team.

I mean, it’s a big transition, but it’s  not that big of a transition. It’s pretty much more about now me having more control over the things that I want to happen in my career. But other than the team, it still functions as a record company – they’re still a staff. But other than that, nothing much has changed as far as that’s concerned.

One of my favorite songs on the album is actually “Closer I Get To You”. When you recorded that track, what do you think was going through your mind?

It’s like being in a…some people think it’s about being far away from the person you’re with, but in actuality, I was talking about being in a relationship and you’re close to that person, but it feels like they’re drifting apart. It’s like the relationship is drifting apart and we’re trying to bring it back together. You’re together, but you’re so far apart.

Have you ever been in a situation like that?

Sure, sure. I’ve been in a lot of situations like that. It’s just life in general.

What is your favorite R&B song out right now?

That’s hard to say. I really don’t know [laughs]. It’ll have to be one of my songs. I love my record “Beautiful” – it’s a great R&B record. It has a lot of meaning to it. So, I would have to say that’s my favorite R&B record that’s out right now.

Are there any artists that you’ve looked forward to see grow into the person they are now?

There’s plenty of artists that have done a great job evolving. One of the artists I’ve loved to see how their career has evolved was Usher. I’ve watched him every since he was 15 evolve into a superstar. I mean, great talent. There’s a lot of young cats out there that I’ve watched them mature into where they are today. So, there’s a lot of them out there, but he’d have to be one of them.

Are there any R&B albums that you’re looking forward to picking up this year?

I’m looking forward to hopefully getting a D’Angelo album this year. I wanna see what that sounds like. Definitely gonna get the R. Kelly if that drops this year and I already got the TGT joint. I got Joe too.

Being that you are a veteran, is there any advice that you would give to the new generation of R&B artists that are out currently?

The only thing that I would say is try to stay original. Ain’t nothing wrong with being original. Try to come up with your own sound and do your own thing. I know it’s a revolving door, but at the same time, don’t beat and take the wheel, just add some more spokes to it.

Is there anything you would like to say to someone who is thinking about taking the independent route opposed to staying with a label?

I’d have to say, you have to do what’s best for you. I wouldn’t tell them either route to go because any situation is gonna be different. So, I mean you have to go with what’s best for you and make sure you put you first.

I know a lot of people loved that Where I Wanna Be album. How do you feel as if this album compares what could be easily known as your top album?

I think it’s head to head with it. The only difference is time. That was then and this is now. I feel like this album right here explains where I’m at in my life right now as did the Where I Wanna Be album. It kinda told my story of where I was in my life at the particular time. This album is no different. It just explains everything about where I am in my life right now, so collectively I think they’re both great albums. I can’t choose one over the other. But, this is the one I’m rockin’ with right now.

What do you want people to take from this album?

Um, just…I want them to just put it on and let it play. I think it’s some good music from top to bottom. I think it’s a little bit on there for everybody. That’s what I want people to take away from this album – that “dude went in and he put something for everybody on this album to listen to”. Somebody can find something on there.

-Interview by Ni’Kesia Pannell

Donell Jones new album ‘Forever‘ is available in stores and on digital retailers now! You can pick it up on iTunes here!

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