Sharon Jones of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings on Acting, Lady Gaga, and Festivals

In terms of venues to have Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings play in Phoenix there probably isn't a better choice than the Orpheum Theatre. When you combine the retro late '60s/early '70s funk and soul of Sharon Jones with the historic music venue it could be a little bit like stepping through a time warp.

The group is currently on tour in support of their latest album I Learned the Hard Way and will be making a stop at the Orpheum Theater on September 26th.

Up on the Sun spoke with Sharon Jones about her musical influences, music today, acting and Lady Gaga.

Up on the Sun: You've often been called the female James Brown. You're also both from Augusta, GA. How big of an influence was James Brown on you?

Sharon Jones: With me, coming up with James Brown back in those days the music he was singing, one of his inspirations where he inspired me was coming up I've always been a very dark skinned person so I've always been ridiculed for being black and so when he came out with that song "Say it Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" that gave me the opportunity to hold my head up and say, 'yes I am a black woman but I'm very proud.' That's the influence he had on me.

During the riots when Martin Luther King was killed and how he stepped in and was able to calm the rioters through his music, you know, he continued his show. Those types of influences he had and just his music alone was the main basic where Daptone, the Dap-Kings, Sharon Jones - when we was the Soul Providers that was the inspiration, that's what we started the record label under was that James Brown funk sound. So he had a very big influence on me.

But who influenced me coming up actually was Aretha, who is who I said I wanted to sing and be. That was my inspiration to go out and sing.

Up on the Sun: Who were some of your other musical influences?

SJ: Everyone. Anyone from the late '60s to early '70s, late '70s, you know, Aretha, Otis, James Brown, The Temptations, Patti LaBelle, Mavis Staples, you know just keep going on and on.

UOTS: What about acts today? Is there anyone you enjoy listening to?

SJ: I just, whatever, I mean it's like today you get out and you see and you watch the television, to me the radio - you only hear two or four songs all day long, you know. I mean the way they have it you'd think that there's only ten musicians out here like Usher, you know every time you turn the radio on, every station plays it. You know with Beyonce when she's out they just latch on to certain songs and they play them and that's what people hear but back in the day they played everything, they played everyone's songs. They didn't play four or five musicians, they played fifteen or twenty, thirty, forty musician's songs a day.

Today the people do what they do, they have their music, I'll listen to it and sometimes I turn the radio station because everything starts sounding the same. You know, you're sitting there and every song comes on and everyone's yodeling and screaming or they talking about they hunnies and they bunnies and they grabbing they crotch and they talking about all the money they got and all the b's they can do and what they can do with the gold in their mouth.

It's ok, it's music and that's the way it's always gonna be. Look at rock 'n roll, back in the sixties they didn't want that music to be played. They thought rock 'n roll was bad music. You're always gonna have different ages and different people doing different stuff. Look at Lady Gaga, I don't understand it but someone loves her, she's got fans, she's making millions and she got her own style. If you're not into her style, so what but that's her style, that's what she do.

UOTS: Being that you're obviously not a big fan of music today is it weird when you find yourself playing festivals with acts that are typically considered more "indie rock?"

SJ: Well, no, that's not strange that's the good thing about the festivals and that's what I sort of like because at least now some of those people there to hear their music who never heard me or passed by me are stopping and they're listening because it's all out there. And I'll get to see some of that stuff that I'd never get to listen to.

Festivals are great and when they're out there it's ok. I'm glad they're doing that. You don't want to just go to a festival and they're only playing one kind of music and you only got to listen to that one kind of music. So at least you get different varieties, you get a chance to move around. That's one of the things I like. The other thing I dislike is they're festivals. Outside, the dust, the mud, when it's raining, the porta - that's my biggest thing, the porta toilets. I can't stand porta toilets. Why do they not try to have better toilets for certain musicians?

UOTS: In the video for "I Learned the Hard Way" you show off your acting skills a little. You also had small role in the film The Great Debaters. Is acting something you'd like to do more of?

SJ: In a way a singer is an actor, we're acting and we're a story teller. Every time I sing a song, for people to say, wow, you wrote that song and I could feel you pouring out your heart, no, I didn't write that song, someone else wrote it but if I can sing that song so you think those are my lyrics or that story happened to me then I'm acting. I think that's why some singers do well as actors.

UOTS: How would you describe your live shows?

SJ: I'd just say energetic. I feel like this, I'm singing, that's my job, you're fans, people come to see me, you bought tickets or even if it's free you still wanna see a show. I don't like a bunch of smoke and I don't have 25 - 30 dancers running across the stage half-naked to keep people's attention. The band gets up there and we play, we have to keep that energy going and I feed on my audience, I look at that audience and make them apart of me. When I get the opportunity to call people up to dance and share with me I love doing that. I just describe my show as a crazy woman on stage and just a bunch of crazy guys behind her playing music.

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Mike Escoto