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Exclusive Interview with Norah Jones

November 18th, 2009 by Rebecca Harper Editor

This week marked the release of five-time Grammy Award-winning artist Norah Jones’ latest album, The Fall. Billed as a bit of a departure for the jazzy singer — she collaborated with alt-country singer/songwriter Ryan Adams and Okkervil River’s Will Sheff, among others; Jacquire King (Tom Waits and Kings of Leon) produced the album — it features tracks like Chasing Pirates and Back to Manhattan.

This week also signals the beginning of a new partnership between Hulu and EMI, and to kick things off, we’re bringing you a new page devoted to Norah Jones. It features music videos and concert footage from The Fall, as well as all the essentials from Jones’ previous releases, Not Too Late, Feels Like Home and Come Away With Me; and live performances such as her 2004 show at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, where country greats Dolly Parton and Gillian Welch joined her on stage. But before you dig in, find out what Jones had to say about shooting with Elmo and working with The Lonely Island guys in our exclusive interview below. — Rebecca Harper (), Editor

Hulu: We’re talking about the new collection of your videos and concerts here on Hulu, but I also wanted to ask you about your new album, The Fall. What’s the story behind the name?
Norah Jones:
Well, I just really like that it has some different meanings, so it can be kind of interpreted. For me, it relates to the album with all the meanings. I don’t know, it stuck in my head one day and I couldn’t think of anything else.

And I love the cover. Is there a story behind it? It looks like something you’d see in Vogue.
That’s funny. [Laughs] It was the photographer’s idea. She wanted to use a bunch of dogs because she likes working with animals. I thought it sounded fun. We ended up just loving the Saint Bernard so much that we got some shots with just him. He was so beautiful. So yeah, it’s meant to be kind of playful and theatrical.

Norah Jones - The Fall

What influenced some of the sounds of The Fall?
A lot of different things. I really wanted some heavy drum grooves on this album. Listening to stuff like Tom Waits, but also younger bands like Santigold. I don’t know, I did a song with Q-Tip last year that had me kind of wanting some heavier drum grooves in my own music. Just a lot of different things.

You collaborated with a lot of great people on this album, like Ryan Adams and Will Sheff. How did all of that come about — did you approach them?
Well, Ryan’s been an old friend of mine for a while. We were just hanging out, and I ended up playing him a song that I wasn’t able to finish, that I couldn’t come up with any lyrics to. And he just took it and made it great.

It’s nice to have friends like that.
Yeah, it’s fun. I mean, he’s so quick creatively. He finished the song in like five minutes — he wrote all the lyrics and changed them all around. He’s amazing.

Now that we have a lot of your older material on Hulu, are you planning to go back to look at any of it?
I might someday, but I’ve seen it so much. But yeah, it’s always like walking down memory lane, like a photo album or something.

You know, last week happened to be Sesame Street‘s birthday, and they hand-picked a collection of clips from the last four decades for us. Your appearance with Elmo was among them.
That’s cool. It’s so funny, because having done that, whenever people come up to me and tell me anything about my music that they like, or whatever, more than anything else, I’ve gotten comments about that Sesame Street performance.

What was it like working with Elmo?
It was amazing. It just happened during my first album when everything was really big and crazy. When we got the call to do Sesame Street, it was a no-brainer. Everybody’s grown up on that show. It was so amazing being on the set, too, because it’s exactly the street you remember from when you were a kid. They were so welcoming to us, and they let us take pictures on the set and everything.

This was a little bit of a surprise to me: you collaborated with The Lonely Island [the Andy Samberg-Akiva Schaffer-Jorma Taccone group behind “I’m On a Boat“]. What was it like working with them on “Dreamgirl” one of their tracks?
Oh yeah, I love those guys. It was great. They’re super-nice guys, and they’re just really fun. They asked me if I’d sing on it, and they were super-sweet about it. They’re just funny, you know?

Given that connection, are we going to see you on Saturday Night Live any time soon?
I would love to, I love that show, but you know, they don’t have a lot of bookings — so we’ll see.

We’d even suggest that you should be the next musical act to crossover as a host.
Yeah, right.[Laughs] I would love to do that someday, but I don’t know if I’m big enough for them anymore!

If Taylor Swift can do it…
Well, Justin Timberlake was so good. He’s got a whole other career if he wants it — he’s so funny. I don’t even really know his music that well, but he won me over just by seeing a sketch on SNL.

You never know, you could be next! Thanks for your time, Norah — good luck with the new album.