Last year Donell released a compilation of previously unreleased tracks, The Lost Files, but has not issued a full studio album since 2006. Hopefully he will release a new album soon that displays his gift for writing R&B with old-school and hip-hop sensibilities. Despite his talent, Jones has yet to experience massive crossover success, and it will be fascinating to see if future albums will finally earn him the recognition he deserves.
Hailing from Chicago‘s South Side, Jones escaped a life in gangs to focus on his music. According to AllMusic‘s biography, he eventually met former Heavy D and the Boyz member Edward “Eddie F” Farrell, and the two formed a partnership with LaFace records (L.A. Reid and Babyface’s influential label). Jones began his career as a songwriter, penning hits for Usher (1994’s “Think of You”) and 702 (1997’s “Get It Together”). But he wanted to perform his own material, and he got that chance in 1996 with his first effort, My Heart, scoring a modest R&B hit with a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Knocks Me Off My Feet.” But Where I Wanna Be proved to be a greater success.
While still writing songs for other artists, he produced two more albums: Life Goes On (2002) and Journey of a Gemini (2006). Both continued to display Jones’ knack for creating a street-smart groove, writing interesting lyrics, and including a catchy melody.
In this exclusive interview with UrbanBridgez.com, Donell talked to Aries about his upcoming album release, starting his own label and why he felt it was important, writing songs for other artists and much more!
UrbanBridgez: What’s the latest on your new release, who are some of the people you’ve worked with or will work with?
Donell Jones: I plan to work with Ryan Leslie on this joint! Naturally I’m going to do a majority of it myself. That’s pretty much going to be it. I really don’t ever use alot of producers on my albums, ever.
UrbanBridgez: What’s going to make this one different as far as direction than the last one?
Donell Jones: What’s going to make it different, is I’ve been away from the scene for like three or four years. To me I think it’s going to sound like a breathe of fresh air, compared to what’s out there! I really won’t change my style because I don’t feel like it’s broken. We’re just taking it to the next level! Being with Jive, I don’t think they ever gave me a real push, so now that I’m on my own label, the team I have is so much stronger so you’ll definitely see a difference.
UrbanBridgez: When can fans at least expect the first single from the new album?
Donell Jones: I’m looking at March!
UrbanBridgez: You recently released “The Lost Files” what was your motivation behind releasing those previously unreleased songs?
Donell Jones: It has been a couple of years since I’ve put something out. When I was on Jive, Arista & LaFace, I recorded alot of records that never really got the chance to be heard. So I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for me to grab those records. And since I hadn’t been out for awhile, you know I just decided it would be a great prelude for my fans to get back familiar with me. I know it’s been a minute since they heard from me.
UrbanBridgez: You mentioned starting your own label, what was your motivation behind that & what’s the name of it?
Donell Jones: It’s called Candyman Music! The motivation behind it was basically just not being a priority for the other labels I was at. I think my most successful album was “Where I Wanna Be,” and I still think that could of did alot better than it did. Just never really being a priority to my label and I don’t think I ever was. So that was my motivation for starting my own label.
UrbanBridgez: You’re also a successful songwriter, will you be writing for any artists in the coming future?
Donell Jones: Definitely! I wrote a song for a new artist named LC. I’m going to be working on Cece Peniston’s new album, I’m just getting my work out there period you know. Like I said I just had to take a little hiatus from the game for awhile. Because I felt like my sound hadn’t changed and music had changed. So I didn’t feel like it would be a great time for me to come out because the sound was so different. But now, I feel more confident in music today and I feel like, the sky is the limit!
UrbanBridgez: Who are some of the current acts you’re currently feeling?
Donell Jones: Definitely Ryan Leslie! I worked with him on my last album. I think he is a great producer!
UrbanBridgez: What would you personally like to see change with the current state of R&B music?
Donell Jones: Some of the things I would liked to see change is and I’m not knocking anybody when I say this. But I don’t think there is enough love for the music. I think mostly everybody is talking about how much money they got and who they wanna bang out. And I think that those songs are very easy to write. You know it doesn’t take alot of thought. I wanna do something meaningful, put something out there that people can actually get something from. Like if you’re in a relationship and something is going wrong. Just make songs that people can actually sit back and listen to and get some type of guidance from.
UrbanBridgez: Outside of your new album, what’s next for you?
Donell Jones: Right now man, we’re just touring. Just getting out and seeing my fans. I appreciate my fans who have stuck with me so I definitely want to repay that by getting out here and doing as many shows as I can.
UrbanBridgez: Any last words for your fans?
Donell Jones: Definitely! I wanna say thank you for supporting me throughout the years! If they want to check me out they can hit me up on Twitter, MySpace & Facebook! And I am actually the one you responds to them and I talk to them. And again I want to say thank you for supporting me throughout the years and I promise I won’t take that long again putting out a record (laughs)!