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I have become a control freak: Norah Jones

Norah Jones on her much critiqued new album, being a jazz snob and her style.

art and culture Updated:
Jon Pareles (HT Cafe)
Jon Pareles (HT Cafe)

Even though you’ve written all songs on your third album Not Too Late and it’s darker than your previous albums, it’s still quiet and long on ballads. It will probably not change how people categorise your style. How would you say it’s different?
It is funny with every album I think, oh, this is way different from all my other albums and not as mellow. But then I listen to it and I think, hm, it’s still slow! But we did add more stuff to this album. Some songs are still pretty stripped down but there are more things going on. I’m proud of all my albums but I don’t want to repeat myself. I know some people might think it sounds the same, but to me even if they are subtle changes, they are changes.

You say your songwriting is shapedby what you can’t do.
I sang in a bad blues band for a while and when I heard a recording of myself, I didn’t like it at all and decided I shouldn’t even try.

After that I think I scaled back more than I meant to. So its taken me this long to get back to finding a balance.

Come away with me received a lot of backlash. jazz aficionados said you didn’tbelonginthegreatoldbluenote label, rockers thought you were too tame and a lot of people said it was background music. How did you feel about that slotting?

After the first record, I’ve become a control freak, at least on the business end. I don’t trust anyone else to put my image out there or my name on anything. I have a fear of being over exposed.

It was the worst time of my life. I’m very appreciative of everything but it was so stressful. I used to worry that people think of me like this but that’s only part of me. Now, I realise it doesn’t matter what people think of you. Making music, for me now, is not about showing my whole personality to the world. The change in style is visible in the first song Wish I could. I’ve been listening a lot to really early Willy Nelson songs and I absolutely love how he twists the knife at the end of his songs. That has really influenced me. I like songs to have unexpected twists.

There are darker undercurrents on some songs on this album.
I’m not a very dark person. The darkness on this album comes more from just aware of what’s going on around.

I’ve had some dark moments in the past couple of years because we’ve all been watching TV and the news about global warning and Katrina and politics. It’s kind of a dark time.

Even though I’m actually a happy-go-lucky person and I have had a lot of luck, wonderful friends, a great partner, things from the outside can make you go those places.

There are a few songs about separation and break-ups. What was the inspiration for those.
(Laughs) My boyfriend Lee and I are in a good relationship and didn’t want to cause turmoil just for a good song. I got it from other people, a lot of my friends were going through some really rough break ups.

First Published: Feb 23, 2007 12:12 IST