R&B/soul pioneer Betty Wright joined Stone for her first recording, becoming an instant mentor to the young singer while also serving as her co-producer and backup vocalist. Little Beaver, Timmy Thomas, Angie Stone, and the Roots also assisted Stone during those studio sessions, creating material that would soon comprise the track list for her 2003 debut album, The Soul Sessions. A tuneful set of soul classics by the likes of Laura Lee, Bettye Swann, Betty Wright, and Aretha Franklin, The Soul Sessions was crafted in just four days, hurried along by an eager label that couldn’t wait to tell the world about its neo-soul starlet. The album was ultimately a resounding success, selling over 500,000 copies in America and nearly doubling that figure in the U.K., where it became one of the best-selling albums of 2004. The Soul Sessions also introduced Stone to the MTV generation with the funky strut of ‘Fell in Love with a Boy,’ a rework of the White Stripes’ modern rock hit ‘Fell in Love with a Girl.’
Stone’s second album, Mind, Body & Soul, focused more heavily on original content than its predecessor. Of its 14 tracks, 12 were written or co-written by Stone, who became the youngest female to top the U.K. charts upon the album’s release in 2004. Mind, Body & Soul eventually reached platinum status in multiple countries and brought Stone both commercial success and critical acclaim, as well as three Grammy nominations and two BRIT Awards. After performances at London’s Live 8, Bonnaroo 2005, and Superbowl XL, the singer relocated to the Bahamas to record her next album, Introducing Joss Stone, which found her experimenting with more modern R&B sounds. Produced by Raphael Saadiq and released in March 2007, the album sold in excess of one million copies worldwide.
Following two North American tours and an appearance at the 2007 Grammy Awards, Stone launched a publicized battle with her record label, offering to forfeit two million pounds in order to terminate her contract with EMI. The label fought back, demanding that she deliver the master tapes to her next album, and the resulting feud prolonged the release of Stone’s fourth record, Colour Me Free! Eventually released in late 2009 by EMI (who had refused to relinquish Stone from her four-album deal), the album revisited the soulful sounds of her early work, representing a marked change from the R&B modernity of Introducing Joss Stone