Exclusive First Listen: Norah Jones Jones' new album, The Fall, maintains her jazzy, sultry sound while pushing into more contemporary pop territory. It's a different direction for the singer, but suitable for old fans and newcomers alike.
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Exclusive First Listen: Norah Jones

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Exclusive First Listen: Norah Jones

Exclusive First Listen: Norah Jones

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The singer Norah Jones has been wanting to sound different, a little edgy.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. NORAH JONES (Singer): (Singing) Come away with me in the night.

INSKEEP: Which is not so easy when you have a voice like this.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. JONES: (Singing) Come away with me and I will write you a song.

INSKEEP: Thats the title track of Nora Jones huge hit album from 2002. For her latest recording she stepped away from the band that accompanied her on that and other albums. She broke up with Lee Alexander, her long-time collaborator and boyfriend. She recorded an album called The Fall, which is out today. Norah Jones wants to find different ways to use that achingly lovely voice.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. JONES: (Singing) If all we talk about is money, nothing would be funny, honey. And now that everyones so pretty its making my minds getting hungry.

(Speaking) I think sonically I really just wanted to change things up a little bit and try some different things. I wanted to use heavier drum grooves and experiment with some electronic keyboard sounds, which is I have never really done.

INSKEEP: You have mentioned to somebody that you were inspired in some way by a Tom Waits album.

Ms. JONES: Ive always been inspired by this album called Mule Variations. Its been one of my favorite albums since college. But for this record I really wanted to work with some different people. Ive had this great community of musicians in New York that I play with on my last three records, but I really felt like it was time for me to step outside of that and just try some new things.

And I didnt know how to find everybody, so I needed a great producer to help me put it all together. And I started listening to albums that I love the way they sound, and that was the first one I listened to and looked at the back, cause I never thought to look at who engineered it, who produced it, or whatever, and I found my producer, Jacquire King, cause he engineered part of that record.

INSKEEP: Can we listen to a little bit of one of those tracks from that album? Its called Cold Water, Tom Waits.

(Soundbite of song, Cold Water)

Mr. TOM WAITS (Singer): (Singing) Police at the station and they dont look friendly, well they dont look friendly, well they dont. Blind or crippled, sharp or dull, Im reading the Bible by a 40 watt bulb.

INSKEEP: When people think of Tom Waits voice, maybe Norah Jones voice is not the next voice they would they free-associate to?

Ms. JONES: Well, duh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. JONES: I mean, you know, I love Tom Waits. I dont expect myself to sing like him, but I guess, you know, when it comes to the instruments and the way everything sounds around him, it sounds so creaky and you can hear the dirt on the floor and you can hear the space and the air and you can hear all the instruments. Yet its still got this interesting groove and you can tell they layer stuff and I think he has a lot of fun with recording.

INSKEEP: It does like in that recording we just heard, it sounds like hes somewhere, hes in a room somewhere. You hear that.

Ms. JONES: Yeah, you can hear the room, and I think, truthfully Ive always kind of gone for a rougher sound, but I just never quite it always ends up sounding, you know, kind of more sweet and smooth because when you put my voice over something, its different than putting Tom Waits voiced over something.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. JONES: (Singing) I know you said, cant be misled. Now Im the one whose face is red. Youve ruined me now though I liked it

INSKEEP: I could pick a couple of songs that sound a little more edgier, like Youve Ruined Me, but I wonder if you would want to point me to whats a song that feels gritty to you on this album?

Ms. JONES: Thats funny you would say Youve Ruined Me. Peoples impressions of things, you know, are often different from your own. I guess it kind of has something in it.

INSKEEP: Maybe its more of an emotional edge than a grittiness in the production.

Ms. JONES: Yeah, or maybe its because I had allergies that day so I sang really husky.

INSKEEP: Did you really?

Ms. JONES: I did. Oh, I had them bad. It worked out for a few songs though.

INSKEEP: So which track did you say that feels gritty to you here?

Ms. JONES: I think Stuck has a cool vibe on it.

INSKEEP: Well, lets listen to a little bit of Stuck.

(Soundbite of guitar)

Ms. JONES: And yeah, because I played a little guitar in this one, so I played the rhythm part and its a super Neil Young inspired guitar part, for sure

(Soundbite of song, Stuck)

Ms. JONES: (Singing) Just tell me where youve gone astray. You finally commit, you ask me what Im drinking. My friend (unintelligible) my sleep, ask if I want to leave. What Im really thinking

INSKEEP: That recording also has that quality of - you can hear the room. You hear a little bit of reverb there.

Ms. JONES: Yeah, its nice. We chose a studio in New York where we wanted to get a good drum sound where you could kind of have that feeling. Sometimes you do have to make sure youre in the right room where you can capture all that -sounds, you know, the creakiness and all that.

INSKEEP: Id like to listen a little bit to one more song here. Its called Man of the Hour.

(Soundbite of song, Man of the Hour)

Ms. JONES: (Singing) Its him or me. Thats what he said. But I cant choose between a vegan and a pothead. So I chose you, because youre sweet, and you give me lots of lovin and you eat meat. And thats how you became my only man of the hour.

INSKEEP: Im trying to think of a way to ask this next question without giving away that the man of the hour is a dog, but theres just no way.

Ms. JONES: Well, I want people to know, luckily its not a secret, but because this song is even funnier if you know upfront that its about a dog, so

INSKEEP: Yeah. Where did that song come from?

Ms. JONES: I really wanted a dog.

INSKEEP: But its sort of a song about a breakup, isnt it?

Ms. JONES: Yeah, well, I went through one of those too and it was all around the same time, you know, girl loses boy, girl wants dog. You know how it goes.

INSKEEP: Well, not personally, but yes, I get the idea. Did you get a dog?

Ms. JONES: I did, I got a great little dog.

INSKEEP: What kind of dog?

Ms. JONES: Hes like a manly scruffy poodle. Hes got his shaggy hair and he looks kind of like Fozzy Bear.

INSKEEP: Well, Norah Jones, thanks very much.

Ms. JONES: Thank you so much.

INSKEEP: Norah Jones new album is called The Fall.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. JONES: (Singing) In your messages you said, you were going to bed, but Im not done with the night. So I stayed up and read, but your words in my head got me mixed up

INSKEEP: Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep.

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