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The SXSW 2010 Interview With…Sharon Jones

Lyndsey Parker
Maximum Performance

The Austin, Texas musicfest South By Southwest is a must-visit destination for young artists searching for their one elusive big break, since it's an annual hub for A&R reps, talent scouts, and other music-biz types. But the many newbies hitting the convention this year ought to look up to one of this year's biggest SXSW acts, seasoned soul belter Sharon Jones, for three major reasons. One: She's one of the finest performers working the festival circuit today. Two: At age 54, she's living proof that it's never too late to become a superstar. And three: Her later-in-life success is evidence that sometimes a singer just needs genuine talent, not the fabled major-label machine, in order to make it big.

Sharon had trouble breaking into the biz in the 1970s--she claims label execs told her she didn't have a marketable pop-star image--but after teaming with the Mark Ronson-affiliated Dap-Kings and releasing music on their fiercely independent Daptone record label, she's unexpectedly found herself at the forefront of a new soul revival. And now she's an in-demand diva, singing with everyone from Michael Bublé on Saturday Night Live to Phish at their Halloween festival and earning comparisons to greats like Tina Turner. Her story is an inspiration to artists of all ages and genres.

This year at SXSW, I caught up with the fabulous Sharon (flanked by her fabulously sharp-suited Dap-Kings) before one of her many hotly anticipated Austin gigs. There we discussed her unusual career path, her fittingly titled upcoming album I Learned The Hard Way, and how she was enjoying her time in Texas. And Sharon even did a little unsolicited Yahoo! yodel, all the while looking like a true star in her Trina Turk cocktail frock. Nope, no "image problems" here:

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