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Interview: Sharon Jones, from GA to BK and back again

(Hilton Head Monthly, March 2011) Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings do automagically what trained technicians with expensive equipment can spend days trying to perfect in the studio: Capture the rich, sultry sounds of the classic soul era defined by names like James Brown and Aretha Franklin — and they do it with, get this, real instruments. Born in Augusta, Ga., but raised in Brooklyn, Jones struggled with an early music career — which included a brief side job as a prison guard at Rikers Island — before her sultry stage presence and her band’s retro sound found their audience. Since catching on nationwide, the band has been everywhere, releasing four albums, opening for Prince last month at Madison Square Garden and placing a song in the opening credits to the 2009 George Clooney film “Up in the Air.” Jones spoke from her mother’s house in Queens.

Q: Do you ever get back to Georgia?
A: I just bought a home in South Carolina, right over from Augusta. I wanted to get my mother out of these projects. I got my sister, whose spouse recently passed away. I was like, “Look, come on down here, move with Mom. I bought a house. You take care of Mom while I’m back on the road.” Hopefully, maybe another year or two, I can get a place of my own somewhere. But right now, I finally got my mother out of the projects.

Q: What was it like opening for Prince?
A: We did that song “A Love Bizarre.” He had me do a duet with him and everything; he called in the horn section. He had Binky (Griptite, the Dap-Kings’ guitarist) play his guitar. Prince don’t let nobody play his guitar! At the after party, Mos Def got on stage. He wanted to actually rap while Prince was playing. I don’t know anything about rap. When he came on stage, I thought he wanted to dance. I was like, “You played Chuck Berry in that Cadillac movie: Do that Chuck Berry guitar dance!” And he did it. And then I made him do the boogaloo with me. It was cool.

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