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Coco Jones’ ‘Childlike Faith’ Powers the R&B Singer to 5 Grammy Nominations: ‘This Is My First Stamp of Approval’

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Coco Jones was 11 years old when she made her first CD. Despite being a novice, the singer/songwriter had dreams of one day winning best new artist at the Grammy Awards. Fourteen years later, Jones, 25, finds herself closer than ever to achieving that feat after notching five Grammy nominations Friday morning (Nov. 10).

“That child-like faith is what kept me going,” Jones relayed to Billboard hours after receiving the news. 

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This year, Jones morphed into one of music’s most formidable double-threats, thriving in both R&B and acting. Her breathtaking vocals on the Billboard Hot 100 hit “ICU” propelled her to platinum status and granted her a feature alongside pop giant Justin Timberlake for the song’s remix. Aside from “ICU,” Jones’ debut EP, What I Didn’t Tell You, captures every angle of the multi-faceted star and is a lush attempt at solidifying her place in the ever-growing R&B landscape. 

“I think this is my first stamp of approval, recognition, and respect on my name,” says the best new artist nominee. “Honestly, I get why it’s now because I wasn’t ready before. As a child actor, I didn’t know myself. So, to me, it all makes sense why it’s right now and why it’s gonna be forever.”

Billboard spoke to Jones about being closer to her Grammy dreams, the beauty behind her mom’s prayers, and why R&B is in an amazing place.

I heard you were on a plane when you found out you were nominated for five Grammy nominations. 

Honestly, I had just went to a celebratory dinner with my tour crew because we just finished the last show of the American leg of my tour. So, when I got on that plane, I was knocked out and I kept feeling this vibration like, “Dang. They driving crazy on this plane.” Then I was like, “What is this vibrating?” And of course, I had my Wi-Fi on so I can get text messages. I just saw all these messages and I knew what it was because I knew the nominations were this morning. I literally prayed with my manager [and] prayed with my mom last night. I knew it was something good and I was just shocked. I still had my sleep mask on, one eye off and I was just shocked. I was like, “How long I got on this flight? I wanna call people back.” It was crazy.

Between being nominated for best new artist versus “ICU” going platinum, which feat resonates with you more? 

Oh, that’s really tough. That’s really tough. Honestly, let me think about that for a second because I don’t know. They both mean something so different to me. “ICU” is about my personal work. It’s something that I took risks to be vulnerable and say, this is my story, but best new artist is all-encompassing. It’s like you as an artist, how you carry yourself, [and] how you present yourself. It’s you. I’m just gonna have to leave it as inconclusive because I don’t know. 

You said last month in an interview with HITS that you wanted to win best new artist. Your manifestation game is pretty strong, since you’re halfway there.

You know what? I really think it’s my mama’s prayers. Ever since I was a kid, she would write them down and I would see them on the wall — the prayers that she typed out for me, my brothers and my sisters. We all had specific prayers that she just stood on my entire life. I think it’s her. 

What are your thoughts on R&B receiving a lot of love this year in the field, ranging from SZA to Victoria Monét and, of course, yourself? 

Everything fluctuates and I love studying the Billboard charts. I tell y’all that all the time. It’s the world. It’s constantly changing, evolving and repeating. I feel like we just hit that rinse cycle and we’re going back to such a hearty type of music that connects. We need connection right now. We need to connect with people. We need those relationships again. We need songs about love again. That’s what the human race needs. As I’m watching R&B have its resurgence, it’s because we’ve been through a lot as a human race and we need connection again. We need passion. That to me is R&B. It’s vulnerability. It’s the pain. It’s the good. It’s sticking through rough relationships. It’s leaving bad relationships, but it’s very honest and I think that honesty is starting to be desired deeply again. I mean, it’s clear in these nominations that me, Victoria and everyone [else] are really putting R&B back on the map in a different way. I just feel like it’s time again. 

I was worried about you being labeled as just “the girl with the ‘ICU’ song.” With your project What I Didn’t Tell You being nominated as well, what does it mean for the overall effort itself to receive its just due versus the success of the single? 

The project in itself was my introductory, renaissance moment. It was my re-introduction of myself into the music industry. The last time they heard me in a big way was when I was 16. So I tried to give them different sides of me. All the capabilities that I could think of that I fit on an EP at that time, I wanted to them to know what they’re getting from me and decide if they like it or not. This is me. I didn’t want them to not just love “ICU,” but to love “Headlines,” where I’m really talking my sh-t. To love “Fallin” and “Plan B” where I’m more sensual. To love “Double Back” where I pay homage to SWV. These are sides of me.

So to me, they’re just giving me my big ups for every side of me, not just the soulful side that I can tap into, but the upbeat [ones] like “Crazy For Me.” To me, it just shows that they see where I’m trying to go and how I’m trying to diversify myself and be in every lane, be in every cadence, be in every tempo, and eat it up my way. They’re giving me my big ups to do that. It’s really motivating for my debut album. This was my freshman EP. I feel like a freshman, you know?

Knowing your journey to get here, do you finally feel vindicated as a singer/songwriter after today’s milestones?

It does feel like that. It kinda feel like [I got] this stamp on my name. As soon as you see it, it’s like, “Oh. Don’t play with her.” Respect her. Open your ears. She’s serious. She’s good. She’s quality. Beyonce has the stamp. She got it like multiple times. I think this is my first stamp of approval, recognition and respect on my name. Honestly, I get why it’s now because I wasn’t ready before. As a child actor, I didn’t know myself. So, to me, it all makes sense why it’s right now and why it’s gonna be forever.

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