In some ways, talking with singer/songwriter Norah Jones is a bit like catching up with a good friend.
Jones chats about her recent move from Manhattan to Brooklyn, and says she's enjoying Brooklyn "because it's a little mellower." She loves Texas, where she grew up, but in the Big Apple she doesn't have to drive everywhere ("I hate being stuck in traffic.") She recently read the book Geek Love, and it stuck with her so much that she can't wait to pick it up and devour it all over again.
And then Jones mentions things like touring and interviews and negotiating with her label, and you're reminded that the woman on the other end of the phone is a multiple Grammy Award-winning, triple-multi-platinum-album-selling musician, at just 31.
Last month at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, music producer Quincy Jones (of no relation) said Norah "has a young mind, a young body, and an old soul."
Ask Jones if she agrees, and she laughs. "I think I do, but I think my soul's been getting younger. You know what I mean? I feel like I'm playing catch-up in the middle.
"I think I had an older musical soul about 10 years ago. I mean, certainly, I was younger, but my tastes [lay in a] much different kind of music — old music. I listen to old music all the time. And these days I really just listen to what sounds good, which is not limited to old music. So I'm catching up. I'm getting younger."
For Jones, some of that "good music" that's been influencing her lately, and in particular during the recording of her most recent album, The Fall, comes from acts such as Okkervil River, Santigold and Cat Power.
And The Fall is a departure from Jones' first three jazz-inspired and piano-focused albums, both in the production of more heavily rhythm-based songs, and in how she's approached touring with it this time around. It's the first tour for which Jones has strapped on a guitar and taken center stage, with a brand-new band by her side.
"It's more variety for me and I feel a lot more connected to the audience this time around," she says. "And I don't think it's because of the audiences, I think they've always been great. But I used to hide a little bit, behind the piano, and now I'm kind of out front and I can feel them a little bit more."
Variety keeps Jones going, it seems. She still plays small gigs in NYC (which she says helps nurture her creativity while leaving room to make mistakes) even as she ponders a variety of future ambitions (including a "real country record," perhaps with "Gillian Welch and Ryan Adams and whoever — or nobody," as well as a true jazz album, "for my mom").
"Right now I'm inspired to chase a couple different things," she says. "Maybe follow what I did with this record with something similar. But someday — I don't know. There's a lot of stuff to be done."