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Thursday , February 14 , 2013
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Norah Jones tells t2 about her dad, her sister and her music on the eve of her india debut Feels like Norah

A little over a decade since her meteoric rise to stardom with her classy vocals, Norah Jones has gone on to explore a range of topics –– from the upbeat Carnival Town (Feels Like Home, 2004) to the dark Miriam (Little Broken Hearts, 2012) — but without trying, at least consciously, to explore her legendary father’s roots. She is all about Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Billie Holiday, Neil Young and she doesn’t want to change that.

The nine-time Grammy winner will headline A Summer’s Day, a music festival (to be held in the first week of March in Mumbai; followed by concerts in Delhi and Bangalore) in partnership with Women’s Cancer Initiative: Tata Memorial Hospital, organised by Only Much Louder.

An email chat with t2...

This will be your first gig in India. Your thoughts?

I’m excited to come. It’s also bittersweet because Dad (Pandit Ravi Shankar) just passed away. I’ve never played in India, so that’s one reason to do it, and also Dad always wanted me to play there. It’s always just been a matter of timing, and adding on to tours. It’s just never worked out in the past. I’m usually so tired by the end of a tour that I never want to add the far-far-away places. This time I planned it a while ago and Dad was really asking me to do it, and I thought it would be nice for him and nice for me. It’s very sad that he’s gone now, but I know he was very excited that I was going to play in India.

Your favourite album of your Dad would be…

The album that I really love is The Sounds of India (1968) because he’s talking a lot in it, and it’s a bit of an instructional album for the Western listener. For me… it’s helpful. I don’t really understand Indian classical music; it’s very different. I don’t really understand a lot of things about counting and the timing. I love this album because it explains it all in a very simple, very concise way, and the music on it is beautiful. I love hearing his voice because he sounds so young on it. That’s definitely one of my favourite albums, and that’s the one I’ve been listening to a lot since he passed away.

How big an influence did your father have on your music or on the way you approach music?

I don’t know. I’m sure he has a lot of influence subconsciously because I’ve seen him play and it’s an inspiration to see someone playing great music. I don’t know if I could put it into words. I know that the kind of music I make doesn’t sound very Indian, so that’s that. But there are all kinds of little things –– the phrasing, the melodies that I’m sure has influenced me along the way.

You and Anoushka had written a song for the album Breathing Under Water (2007). But away from music, are the two sisters close?

We’re close. We both have busy lives, and sometimes we don’t speak for long periods of time, but we’re definitely close and we talk about stuff, and we email a lot. We’re good emailers!

Norah Jones with Pandit Ravi Shankar in Calcutta in 2007

How familiar are you with Indian musicians? Do you have any personal favourites?

I’m really mostly familiar with that of my Dad and sister. They’re my personal favourites. I’ve heard a lot of music from them over the past few years that I love and I never remember anybody’s name. I have a really great old Bollywood soundtrack compilation that I listen to sometimes. I do love that old Bollywood music which is so good.

The one person who seems to have greatly influenced you is Willie Nelson...

Yeah, I definitely love Willie Nelson. Over the years I’ve got to work with him a lot and I just adore him.

Finally, Miriam is one of your darkest numbers. It’s about confronting the woman who breaks up a happy relationship. It reminds listeners of Dolly Parton’s Jolene. What was going through your head when you were working on this song?

Well, all kinds of things. Everything is autobiographical to a point, but some things are less autobiographical and more storytelling, and Miriam is the perfect example of that. Nobody does things like that in real life! You just take things that you experience, or see other people go through and you make a story out of it.

(To attend the concert you can book your ticket on

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>Norah and her sister Anoushka Shankar collected Pandit Ravi Shankar’s Lifetime Achievement Grammy on Sunday (in picture).

> Her debut album, Come Away With Me, has sold more than 26 million copies worldwide, making it the highest-selling album in the history of Blue Note Records, which has released the likes of Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock...

> She is also a part of The Little Willies, a band formed in 2003 to explore the group’s love for country classics. They have released two albums –– The Little Willies (2006) and For The Good Times (2012).

> Dev Anand wanted to make a film, “Song of Life”, based on her relationship with her father. This enraged her into saying: “He (Anand) has no idea of our story, and he’s not going to represent it in a truthful way, I’m sure. It’s sad because it’s personal stuff and nobody’s business but ours.”

> She starred in Wong Kar-Wai’s road film My Blueberry Nights.

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