Written By: Melody Charles
You can’t exactly tell from his youthful look, buttery croon and playful demeanor, but Donell Jones is a certified veteran in the music game. With gold and platinum-selling CDs in his catalog and an enviable arsenal of pop and R&B hits (“Where I Wanna Be,” “You Know That I love You,” “Love Like This” and his signature take on the Stevie Wonder classic, “Knocks Me Off My Feet“), Mr. Jones has been a favorite for nearly 20 years and has no plans of slowing that roll anytime soon.
With his latest album, FOREVER, Donell takes a different approach from his last CD, 2010’s LYRICS, by confessing the contents of his heart rather than living vicariously through scenarios and situations.
In an exclusive chat with Knowshi, the now 40-year singer, songwriter and producer breaks it down from his home base of Atlanta about the motivation behind his new sound, what that milestone birthday meant and the ‘first’ that the FOREVER record accomplishes that no other urban entertainer has up to this point.
Knowshi- Glad to have you back in the mix Donell, the CD sounds as smooth as usual and we’re glad to have you in the mix again.
DONELL JONES- That’s what’s up! I got some really great fans that have stuck with me from day one. I really appreciate that, it’s made me feel welcome and that’s beautiful.
Knowshi: Your new CD, FOREVER, is number 7. How do you keep the sounds from overlapping or getting weary of the process?
DJ: To be honest with you, every one of my albums represents a time in my life so, it’s really just about whatever I’m going through right then, That’s why it can still sound so fresh. Every moment is new.
Knowshi: How would you describe what makes 2010s’ LYRICS and your new album FOREVER so different from one another?
DJ: A lot of of the songs that I write come from personal experiences, but a lot of them have elements of fiction in them too. But this album doesn’t really have a lot of that; Lyrics was talking about cheating, kicking in somebody’s back door and all that kind of stuff, and this new one is about love and respect, finding that someone.
Knowshi: Because of your recent engagement, I take it?
DJ: It’s a natural evolution and that life change, I would say. For many years, I really didn’t think I was that type of man [to settle down], but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve really found someone who’s very special to me and I just wanted to profess my love for her. Love is just a beautiful thing, and I express that through the outlet of my music.
Knowshi: Congratulations! Have you set a date yet?
DJ: Not as of yet, but even when it happens, it won’t be a thing [a ceremony] that will be really, really big, it will be just about us two.
Knowshi: It doesn’t have to be, it’s the love that counts. Besides the ‘settling down’ part, has hitting 40 changed much for you? You haven’t aged much as far as I can tell.”
DJ: (laughs) 40 is something different, you know? Ain’t no more playing, you know what I’m saying? It’s just like now or never—it’s bout doing, forget about the past and just starting over from where ever you are right now. And that’s where I am in my life.
Knowshi: Let’s get into a couple of songs here, besides the lovey-dovey ones like the title track…..”Sorry I Hurt You” is pretty deep, did that one hit close to home?
DJ: (laughing) Sometimes you have these relationships with girls to where….you know, they just run out of patience and they’re tired, they can’t take it anymore [when you messed up]. Some people can’t realize that it’s over: stop pressing the issue. Just find somebody else who you can treat right, but some guys can’t take the hint that ‘sorry’ ain’t enough sometimes. I’ve even been in that situation where I’ve had to say ‘sorry’ more than a couple of times, so I just really appreciate the fact that I have someone who was really able to stick in there with me. Relationships are really about trust, once you lose that trust it’s hard to come back and maintain it, so I’m happy that she stayed with me through all the craziness and watched me become better person in the end. It says a lot about her character and it makes me love her even more. It’s about making a choice.
Knowshi: I knew it was getting kinda deep for a reason. What about “I Miss The King,” your tribute to the late, great Michael Jackson?
DJ: For sure, he was like family: from the very beginning, the first song I ever earned to sing was a MJ song, “Lady In My life. All the girls used to love to hear me sing that, who didn’t want to be MJ? I used to enter talent shows with my “Billie Jean” jacket on, wearing the curls in the front… He and Stevie wonder were huge influences in my life, but he was the biggest. As far as his character, Mike’s way of taking chances musically and being able to excel at everything, I really appreciate what he brought to the world as a musician and as a person. I did the song of love for MJ and it was just crazy to me that no other artist had done a recorded tribute to him yet. So I figured I would do something special by making the kind of song that he might have created today, but it make it sounded like him at the same time.
Knowshi: It’s certainly overdue, no doubt. What about this saltier cut,”Step The F*** Off”? What led to that one?
DJ: Well, sometimes, a lot of brothers think you’re trying to hit on their girl, but actually it will be the other way around. I just wanted to write a song saying ‘Yo, you better be careful with these women man, because a nighttime pleasure could end with a life of disaster and somebody could really get hurt.’ And then I tried to add a little humor (to the lesson).
Knowshi: Well, you’ll certainly get your point across, since you’ve maintained a loyal fan base for so long. What’s your secret?
DJ: I got into music when I was very young, and each and every step of the way, I tried to learn something new, like how do I mix my unique sound with what’s going on today, how to be consistent, yet elevate from where I am….I’m a student in the art of music and maybe that’s what’s helped me with the longevity. I’m always trying to find out what I haven’t done musically and go from there. My daughters (21, 19, 17, 13, 5) also keep me in the right lane, so to speak, so I definitely involve them to get their input and see if I’m on the right track.
Knowshi: Well there it is. When will we see you live?
DJ: We’re getting dates together now and I’m sure that Dallas is gonna be one of the stops. I’ll be happy to get back down there, so if you all will just hit me up on Twitter, that’s where everything will be posted.
Knowshi: Looking forward to that Donell, thanks for giving Knowshi the heads-up and for discussing “Forever” with us. What do you want listeners to hear when they get the new music?
DJ: I want fans to really listen to the album, especially the lyrics, maybe get some inspiration from some of the songs….I also want them to know that I appreciate them rocking with me for a of these years, and I’ll never stop making the music as long as they keep listening. That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. Anything that makes sense and is real will shine through, so I feel that “Forever“ is a great album and a great body of work.