Norah Jones reflects on 20 years of ‘Come Away With Me’

NPR Music story by Nate Chinen, Ann Powers, and Robin Hilton

It’s the album you’ve heard a thousand times “standing in line at Starbucks,” as WBGO and Jazz Night In America‘s Nate Chinen jokes in this deep dive into Norah Jones’s 2002 debut, Come Away With Me. Despite the familiarity of this unclassifiable, jazz-steeped classic, a new super-deluxe reissue reveals the stories – and song versions – most listeners don’t know. Discovered mere months after arriving from Texas to try her luck in the eclectic downtown New York singer-songwriter scene, Jones essentially made three versions of the album that would go on to sell more than 27 million copies worldwide. In this special edition of All Songs Considered, Chinen talks with Jones about her sometimes challenging, but ultimately golden, first recording sessions in the studio, and critic Ann Powers and host Robin Hilton join him to discuss the album’s evolution, impact and staying power.

Read edited highlights from Norah Jones below.

On first meeting with Blue Note Records and label president Bruce Lundvall

“When Shell White brought me in to meet with them, I brought in my three-song demos, two of which were jazz standards and one was a song I had recorded for Jesse, one of his songs. Bruce had white hair and a white beard, a full suit — in my mind he always had on a three-piece suit. Maybe it wasn’t a three-piece suit. Maybe it was just a regular suit, but he was always dressed to the nines. And the Blue Note office was beautiful, there was a piano in the lobby and they had this high, arched ceiling. It was beautiful, but I was sweaty. I remember being really sweaty, I think because I’m just sweaty, especially in New York when you’re taking the subway and hustling around town, and you always get hot. But he was just really nice and he listened to the first two songs. He he was really impressed that I sang ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.’ He seemed kind of surprised by that.”

On what Bruce Lundvall thought of Norah’s demo:

“I think he was impressed by it. And the second [song on it] was like an old standard. I think he liked that I played piano. And then I sang a Jessie [Harris] song, ‘World of Trouble.’ I just threw that on there for some variety because Jesse had asked me to sing some of his songs for some demos. And [Bruce] was like, ‘Well this is not really a jazz song. What do you want to be, a jazz singer or a pop singer?’ And I was like, ‘Uhhh, jazz singer!’ I didn’t know what to say. You know, I’d been saying ‘jazz singer’ for so long at that point. Also [Jesse’s] song was not a pop song. Maybe in the ’70s it would have been a pop song, but it didn’t really strike me as a pop song.”


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