How does being in your early thirties feel?
Good. I really recommend it.
Way better than the uncertainty of your twenties?
They say being in your twenties is when you’re most stressed, trying to be professionally successful and find yourself. But I think you were okay—I mean, your debut album in 2002 went diamond.
Yeah, with all the stress [Laughs]
How much of a struggle it was dealing with all this early success?
I still get really stressed out whenever things get busy, because they are not always this busy. It’s a special case. I don’t put out a record every few years. I feel like I learned a lot better how to handle things. I know what I like; I know what I don’t like. I know that the whole point of this is because I do what I love and I love what I do and I am happy to share it with people. If it’s not fun or it’s making me miserable, then that’s not good.
Does your label ever critique your music? Do you have to fight to get your message out?
No. Partly because the first record was so successful. It was not a premeditated success. It wasn’t a manufactured-for-success kind of thing. People responded to the low-keyness of it.
Ten million records sold is crazy for a “low-key” album.
Yeah, crazy. I think partly that and partly because I’m on a cool label [Blue Note], which is full of music lovers and not just executives. They kind of trust me and I trust them. I definitely leaned on them for help finding musicians and producers but only the people I really trust—the people who really get it. Other than that, I try to do what I do, not let them put their hands on it when it’s close to done.
You have an incredible talent, but you are a regular person. You are just really lo-fi naturally.
That’s a wonderful description of me. I’m going to use that. [Laughs]. It’s kind of who I am. There have certainly been points, especially early on, when I would get really stressed or picky or really angry or diva-y. I’m pretty much surrounded by people who don’t play into that. I’m not into drugs or anything crazy like that. I don’t have a crazy addictive personality luckily. I can hold my liquor. Some people have a chemical thing that happens when they do stuff—drugs or alcohol. It’s not really even their fault, it just happens. I don’t know. My mom will cut me down to size pretty quick if I mess up.
What’s your biggest diva moment?
I don’t know. I like food. Sometimes when I’m tired and I’m really hungry and I want something specific, I get testy. But I’m not too bad.
You said you just got out of a relationship as you were making the album. Is Broken Heartstotally based on actual happenings?
I don’t like diary songs. I know it sounds like a very personal album, and it is in a way, but it’s also crafted, dramatized and fictionalized. It’s nice to add blobs here and there.
There’s a lot of personal stuff, but you find that core of a song and you build that house around it. Maybe not personal at all—it’s to sort of make a better song. I don’t like diary songs. I know it sounds like a very personal album, and it is in a way, but it’s also crafted, dramatized and fictionalized. It’s nice to add blobs here and there.
Is it hard to date you?
I don’t think so. Yeah, it’s different when the woman in the relationship has a lot of money or crazy success. It might be a little different for a man to have to be a little bit more secure with the woman in that position. I don’t know. I am not a man! [Laughs]
You are not crushing his manhood by buying him expensive things like, “Baby, it’s OK. You can’t afford it.”
No way! [Laughs]. No, I’m not into crushing the manhood. I want him to stay a man, yeah. It’s definitely a balancing act. It’s just nice to be with someone who is interested in their own thing. That’s nice.
Let’s talk about my second favorite song, “Say Goodbye.” It has a different bounce to it than what I’m used to from you. Is that something we can attribute to Danger Mouse?
Definitely. I went to L.A. to work with him and we wrote everything in the studio together. We were in his studio with all his stuff. Part of why I was excited to work with him was a few songs with a different groove like that. He was completely drawn to my creativity. We would just jam. I would play keyboard bass and he was playing drums. We’d come up with a groove first and we would mess around with melodies over that.
On my last record I was trying to experiment with stuff like that too. I love those kinds of sounds and I just didn’t necessarily always know how to get them or have the right vibe of the band. After a certain feel, you either have it or you don’t.
Are you the kind of artist that come in with nothing and pulls things out of thin air?
I always come in with first compositions. This is the first time I ever came in with nothing. I had a couple of ideas, but we worked on them. We kind of did everything from scratch mostly. He had a couple of ideas too. It was mostly just that and it was fun. I presented it to him after we did the Rome record.
Right, which I loved.
Yeah, it was fun. We worked so well. I asked him after, “Would you like to produce something [for my next album]? I would love to work with you again.” He was like, “Yeah, I don’t want to just produce. I want to come up with stuff and collaborate and see how we write together.” I said, “Great, I’ve never done that with anybody.” Finally, last summer we got together. He got really excited to do it and we blocked out two months. He is amazing, versatile, and it was fun.
What do you think your fans will think of your new sound and content?
I don’t know what they’ll think. I think if somebody likes my last record, then they’ll probably like this or understand it. If somebody doesn’t know everything I’ve done between my first record until now, they may not get it. Or they may. I don’t know. I try to give people credit for being open as listeners. Some people aren’t, but a lot of people are.
The title of your last album is The Fall. This one is …Little Broken Hearts. Are you happy?
I am very happy. I went through two hard breakups. I ended up with two sort of breakup albums.
There was no in-between where you could have made it a happy album because there was a new guy?
I was too busy being happy. I am really happy now. I’m happy. I have a boyfriend. I am super happy. I don’t know. You might think I am not a happy person from all this, but I actually am. I am not a dark person. You go through dark periods. Everybody goes through dark periods. For some people, they last longer than others. And for me, they don’t last too long, luckily. I don’t know why that is.
Would you say you are more inspired when you are in a darker place?
Yeah, I think so. I don’t know. What’s a happy record you could think of?
Stevie Wonder’s “You Are The Sunshine of My Life.”
Yeah, that’s a very happy record. Yeah, you’re right. I love that record. God, I don’t know.
You are in a good place now. But I don’t expect to hear Norah Jones Presents: Joy coming from you anytime soon.
You never know! I am not ruling it out.