Coco Jones has established herself as one of the brightest stars in 2022. Along with her acting skills being put on full display as Hilary Banks in the “Bel-Air”, the former Disney star has also showcased her vocals. She most recently released her EP “What I Didn’t Tell You” which has received raving reviews from both critics and fans. She’s also featured on R&B legend Babyface’s brand new album “Girls Night Out” on the song “Simple”. We had a chance to talk to the multi-talented star about her challenges in the industry, her recent success as well as some of the standouts on her new EP.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We last spoke to you in 2015 when you released “Let Em Know”. It’s been a long time coming and seeing your recent success is amazing.
Coco Jones: That’s a blast from the past. Thanks for sticking around and this will definitely be a good interview because you get to see the growth.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Obviously that was a different time from you, so take me back to a young Coco Jones and how she would be reacting to this recent success you’ve been experiencing.
Coco Jones: It would be similar in the fact that it just feels surreal that all of things that you worked for are materializing, but my prayers have kind of changed. Now it’s more like “Help me maintain this and stay grounded and grateful” instead of “Make this happen please!”. I think surreal would be the main emotion, but also I think 2015 me would be less surprised because so much has happened since that year that humbled me and grounded me that I feel like I’m just more shocked that things have turned around so much.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about that journey for you. What was it like finding your sound and discovering yourself as an artist? Back in 2015, you had just left Disney and quickly transitioned into being an independent artist.
Coco Jones: It was hard. I think that because I was a child in the industry, I didn’t know my identity. When kids are in high school figuring it out and having all these real life experiences and going through things way beyond their years, I was on set working. My worth ethic was way beyond my years and business mindset, but personally I feel like I was a little delayed in figuring out my identity. I think that tying into me being an artist made it more difficult to try to categorize what I am because I didn’t know what I wanted to sing or write about because I’m still figuring out who I am. I was still living life, but I think there’s good and bad to that. The tenacity that I gained from being a child actor made it so that I was going to get to this place regardless. Sometimes I look back and I’m like “Wow, I can’t believe I stuck it out”. Some of these days were really scary, but I think because I learned so much about rejection through these auditions and keeping my faith until I got to a yes, it kind of helped me go through this process of finding my artist identity no matter how long it took.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We really loved that we could press play and get into this new EP. There were some songs that made me wish I was a girl! *Laughs* Talk about the title of the EP “What I Didn’t Tell You” and if there was a certain message you had about the whole project.
Coco Jones: Well thank you! Happy that you want to be in the community, you’re welcome to join. *Laughs* I think “What I Didn’t Tell You” is really just my real life stories as I was figuring out who I am. I think people a lot of people that recognize me from “Bel-Air” are completely surprised that I sing well and they just don’t know enough about me. These are stories that are off-screen that were part of my life and journey of figuring out myself. I was turning up, being crazy adventurous and being in my feelings. These are stories that are off camera that I wanted to share.
YouKnowIGotSoul: When we spoke previously, you talked about the type of music you wanted to make. You said that you still wanted to make Pop music but you really wanted to make authnetic R&B. When we listen to a song like “ICU”, it feels like something that you’ve been wanting to make your whole life.
Coco Jones: “ICU” is more of a record that chose me more than I chose it. Like you said, I did want the bops that I could think in my mind like “This could chart!” but that’s not me being authentically me. That’s me being strategic and a hustler. When I heard the music for “ICU”, I couldn’t skip the track and go to the next song that would do numbers. I had to follow the music that called me. That was one of the times where I was being the most authentically an artist because I didn’t care how popular the song was going to be. I just wanted to express myself and match that beauty the music presented to me.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What was it like working with Camper in the studio on that song?
Coco Jones: Camper is such a blast. He’s very humble and creative. Some producers just do what they need to do, but someone like him who can play instruments and really immerse himself in the music and the details, it’s really inspiring to me because I radiate and match that energy. When I can tell that somebody is ready to start an idea off of me opening a soda can or whatever we’re inspired by, I think it brings out the greatness in the room and great things in me.
YouKnowIGotSoul: The song “Double Back” has the SWV “Rain” sample. Was SWV one of your inspirations growing up?
Coco Jones: Well of course Coko from SWV, I have to give her the shout out because there’s only a few Coco/Cokos around here. *Laughs* Groups like SWV paved the way for me so I always draw inspiration from them. They’re the blueprint. London On Da Track is who produced “Double Back” and he had this similar producer story with me. They don’t know how well I can sing and what I can do until they show me these beats and I’m like “No. This is what I can do”. Then they’re super creative and they have all these concepts and ideas. That’s how our story progressed and one day I went in the studio and he was like “I have this idea that I’ve been thinking about. I created this track just for you” and it was fire. We knew we made something fire that day, but he started it!
YouKnowIGotSoul: “No Chaser” sounds like it has some of Ginuwine’s “Pony” in there.
Coco Jones: There’s some interpolation up in the there. It was definitely inspired by “Pony” for sure. I think what I was going for in the moment was that I was carefree in the club. I don’t know what it’s about “Pony”, but it makes me feel like I’m on so whatever type stuff. You’re just lit and it’s such a fun song. Every time you hear the song, you get all enthusiastic and it’s energy. It’s very urgent, so when I was making “No Chaser” and we were writing it, I kind of sang the melody and wanted to see everyone’s reaction. Everyone paid attention, so I just felt like it fit the song. It was a fun way to honor the past and also keep that same urgent energy.
YouKnowIGotSoul: With a song like “Headline” and the lyrics on there, you have to have a certain kind of confidence to able to pull off a chorus like that.
Coco Jones: I actually heard the concept before and it was sent to me. At the time, it was a perfect storm because I was already pissed off at a couple of people. Some of my songs have that relationship type inspiration but some of them, I’m just talking to myself or the haters and doubters. I wasn’t necessarily talking about a guy on “Headline”. I’m more talking about people who are doubting me. When I put this one on the EP, it was like “When I get really active, I’m a force to be reckon with so don’t play with me”.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Along with your EP, you were also on Babyface’s “Girls Night Out” project. What was it like being part of this project? It had all the female R&B artists who are at the top of R&B right now.
Coco Jones: I was so beside myself because this project is all the girls. For me, It was just checking off one of my goals to be recognized as a real R&B type girl. That’s what I really wanted for years. I wanted to be considered an artist and not just an actress that sings. Being in this catalog with all these other amazing R&B girls is just what I’ve been hoping for.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What did you take away from working with Babyface on the song “Simple”?
Coco Jones: I really learned how to take my creative choices, run with them and not second guess. I’m such an over-thinker and I just want it to be perfect, but Babyface really just let our song come to him. Even though the song was pretty much done and they had to make due dates, I didn’t feel any of that from him. He’s a legend for a reason. What is for him sonically and musically is going to come to the song. There’s no reason to be pressed and that’s one thing I learned. It’s like “Man, I can have a lot more relaxation and still create a bop” because that’s what we did.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’re really a busy person on the acting side as well as your singing career. How do you balance all of that?
Coco Jones: It’s a hard thing to do because I have two employees. One is my show and one is my music. They don’t care about each other and they both want me there. It’s hard, I’m not going to lie to you. I’m getting what I prayed for and now it’s like “Oh crap!”. But for me, I know what I want at the end of the day, I knew when Hilary was all over the place, I didn’t want people to not have music to listen to. That means I have to be able to compartmentalize and be present when I’m on set and forget of those characters and lines. I need to be me, find me and make music that’s timeless and classic. I do that until I can’t anymore. That day, if I’ve been in the studio for 15 hours, I may not be able to in the studio for 8 hours, but for those 3-4 hours it’ll be like “Let’s do something meaningful”. If it’s not different or authentic, let’s stop and restart or I’ll see you guys tomorrow because I can’t not give my full self to this if I give my full self to my show. It’s about what’s important to me and figuring out ways to do what’s important to me to the best of my ability. There’s no balance to that though, it looks different every day.