Norah's official site
Away With Me
some ways Norah Jones' success is due to the 1971 Cadillac
she drove at UNT.
"That car was really awesome," she says. "It was
just perfect — beautiful and huge."
Because she drove a big car, Jones got the assignment to pick up
jazz bassist Marc Johnson and his band from Denton's Radisson
Hotel and bring them to campus for the clinic they were teaching.
Johnson's band included Jesse Harris, Tony Scherr and Kenny
Wollesen, who all had a hand in the creation of Jones' much
lauded debut album, Come Away With Me.
"That short ride from across the highway is, I guess, what
started all of this," she says, "all of this" being
a rather casual allusion to her exploding fame.
from the music industry beginning to surround her before Come
Away With Me was released in February 2002, it's almost
no surprise that before the year was out, Jones had appeared
on Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show With
Jay Leno, or
that she was named Best Young Female Singer by VH1, and Entertainment
Weekly had ranked her ninth in its list of the top 12 artists
of the year.
With a world tour supported by continued acclaim and exposure,
it seems reasonable
that after a year on the shelves the album has sold more than
6 million copies and won eight Grammy Awards.
But for Jones it's still shocking and uncomfortable.
"It feels like I hit my head," she says. "I just wanted
to put out two or three albums and have people enjoy them. I
never thought the kind of music I play would be this popular."
The music she plays is the music of grandparents — wise
and old — and
its exposed emotion connects with the essence of what is human
in each of us.
And that — not
the car — is
the reason Jones' life has taken a fast-track journey into stardom.
New York bound
the guys from Johnson's band tease her about their role
in her surreal escapade, claiming she first went to New York
at their urging.
And just as good naturedly, she says that's not true.
"I always knew I'd end up in New York," she says.
But first she spent two years in the North Texas jazz program performing
with the UNT Jazz Singers and the Zebras, a jazz piano group.
"When she arrived here she already had beautiful musicality
and was aesthetically strong," says Dan Haerle, retired
UNT Regents Professor of music.
And so his job was primarily to act as a proxy parent, he says.
"I never take any credit or responsibility for having influenced
anybody's success," Haerle says. "When they're
here we can guide them and try to positively influence their
attitude about what it takes to achieve their goals, but any
has always comes from their own talent and effort."
Because Jones' goal was to get to New York, she jumped at
a chance to sublet the New York apartment of a family friend in
the summer of 1999.
"When I left Denton, originally the plan was to just go up
for the summer and come back to school — but
looking back, I realize I was ready to leave school and have
my music be more than academic," she
That's why when she got to New York she broke out of the
pure jazz incubator that North Texas provided for her and began
experimenting with playing country and western, pop and blues.
Her album reflects all those influences.
In fact, Come Away With Me is an album that doesn't seem
to exactly fit any genre because it feels beautiful everywhere.
So the songs sound as at home on a Top 40 radio station as they do
on jazz and adult contemporary music stations.
that radio exposure doesn't seem to matter much to Jones.
"I guess it's great that lots of people like the music I make,
but even if only a few people liked it, I'd still make it
just the same," she says. "I make music as a way to
have it in my life. It's what I've always done."
Before she was discovered in 2000 — when a member of the
EMI Music royalties department heard her and arranged for her to
meet the head of Blue Note Records — Jones had decided she
wasn't going to suck the life out of her music by making
a living playing crummy gigs for audiences who didn't care
if she was there or not.
"I played in restaurants and piano bars for about a year,
using my music as my job because I'd never thought about doing
anything else," she says.
"But I was tired of the bad audiences, so I took a job as
a waitress to make my living and planned on playing one or two
gigs each week just before I signed with Blue Note."
These days, she has nothing but good audiences — and just
a little bit of pressure to make a great second album.
"I know no matter what I do, people won't think it's
good enough," she says. "So I'm just hoping to
make a record I like and can be proud of."
It'll probably be fantastic, since those are the same criteria
she used for the first.