| Joss Stone: Heart and soul
London, Sept. 20: Joss Stone is an ordinary teenager. She hangs out with friends, chats with them on the phone.
One, who's a bit older, keeps an eye out for her, asks after her emotional wellbeing, proffers career advice. When she was looking for new management a little while back, he offered to check out any candidates. Recently, she went round to his place. Her mum and her friend Amy came too. They got in a Chinese take-away, then went to the cinema.
But since his name is Tom Cruise, it was probably a private screening.
'It is weird,' concedes Joss Stone, that she, a school-age girl from Devon, is friends with the most famous actor in the world. Cruise got in touch after being bowled over by her debut album, The Soul Sessions, last year's collection of covers that was meant to act as a low-key introduction to her vocal talents but has gone on to sell 2.5 million copies worldwide.
For a moment, Stone reverts to what she is: a 17-year-old child, gushing, enthusiastic, giggly. She may have spent much of the past two years in the US, recording and touring, and indubitably she is a golden-voiced and beautiful singer who has established herself as a hugely successful new artist.
But, in many other respects, she's still a child. Little wonder, she says, that Cruise is looking out for her. 'He doesn't want anyone to hurt me, because he knows I'm just starting. He's like, if you ever need anything, just call me up. He's a lovely, lovely person.'
Stone's astonishingly sophisticated, gutsy, soulful voice can have this effect on people. People such as Mick Jagger, who concluded his recent Abbey Road recording session with Stone on his knees before her, a theatrical finale to their recording of songs for the soundtrack of the remake of Alfie that will star Jude Law.
Other musical legends have been similarly overwhelmed by Stone's talents, notably songwriter Lamont Dozier. He's one of several stellar contributors to her first 'proper' album, Mind, Body and Soul.
In her few years, Stone has come a long way from the West Country village of Ashill. Today she's in New York, sitting in a trendy hotel for a rare one-on-one interview; tomorrow it's Los Angeles, to take part in a tribute to Quincy Jones.
In 1999, aged 12, using her given name of Joscelyn Stoker, she sent an audition tape to pre-Pop Idol talent show, Star For a Night. 'I wasn't really thinking I was going to do it,' she says. 'I didn't even know a whole song. I sang half of Amazing Grace, half of Jesus Loves Me, half of This Little Light of Mine.' She won the show.
In many ways, though, Joss Stone is all grown up now.
Buoyed by the power that comes of selling so many records, she knows when to put her foot down. She wants to cut back on her schedule, to protect her voice: she's husky from over-exertion today, and had to endure an antibiotics 'shot' in her bottom to get through last night's gig.
Unlike most teenagers, however, Stone is close to the levers of power. She's met President Bush twice now, most recently at the 'Christmas in Washington' concert.
'We were chatting away,' she says, 'and I'm like, 'Hey, what's up' How's it going, being President' And he said, 'It's great!' And he put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'And when I'm done, there will be peace in the world.' And I'm like, 'Are you for real' It was so funny.' She laughs wildly.
'It's just cheese. He's not cut out to be the President,' says Joss Stone with the moral certainty and sagacity of teenagers the world over. 'He reminded me of somebody I lived next door to in Devon. He's like a farmer.'