Singapore, Sept. 16 (Reuters): Black tresses spilling over piano keys conjure up visions of a jazz siren, but image is not reality for American vocalist Norah Jones, the daughter of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar.
Jones, who was born in New York and raised by her mother in Texas, looked more like a college student in jeans and a black tank-top than the sexy pin-up of her posters and album covers.
“I don’t call me a jazz singer. Everybody else does,” the 23-year-old singer-songwriter told reporters in Singapore on Monday. “The direction I’m going now, I don’t see it getting jazzier. I see it getting, if anything, more country or rock.”
Jones said she grew up listening to jazz icons Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan but was now into country music of Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss.
“I love Ryan Adams,” said Jones, whose debut album Come Away With Me has sold 2.6 million copies since its release in February. “I want to work with him.”
Her collection of ballads — a mixture of country, blues and jazz — is also enjoying chart success, but the fresh-faced singer with the lilting vocals has had her share of setbacks.
Jones has been dismissed as just a pretty face and her record company EMI Blue Note Records, famous for having recorded jazz heavyweights such as Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk, was criticised for signing her.
Jones sang in smoky piano bars before she was signed to the serious jazz label after sending in a demo tape. She comes across as a reluctant star, unlike her sitar-playing half-sister Anoushka Shankar, who was in Singapore for a concert in January.
“I wasn’t expecting to sell this many records,” Jones said. “It’s happened very quickly and I’m not used to it.”
She was tight-lipped about her famous father but emphasised she wanted her music to stand on its own merit.
“I have seen my father on a regular basis and we have a good relationship,” Jones said. “My father’s fame doesn’t really have a lot do with my record or my music, but he’s a great musician.”