NORAH JONES AND BRIAN BURTON’S NEW CD
Twelve little broken hearts. Each an exploration of wounded emotions from various perspectives that invariably leads to a place of beauty and uplift.
Nora Jones had known Danger Mouse, aka Brian Burton, since he called her in 2008 to contribute vocals to ROME, his valentine to classic Italian film score music. “I’ve always known about Norah’s voice,” says Burton, “and it was in my mind when doing the parts for ROME. We didn’t really talk about many people, but Norah was the first person we went to. She’s such a great singer.” After those sessions Jones asked if they could work together again, and Burton suggested collaborating on something dark and moody someday. “I remember saying to myself that wasn’t necessarily the record I’m trying to make right now,” Jones recalls, laughing. “But I knew I wanted to do something with him – he has this terrific energy in the studio, and I was open to trying anything.”
So when the opportunity to spend a few days writing songs at Burton’s studio arose, Jones said yes right away. “It felt completely easy, not like working at all. We started from scratch and came up with five rough songs. Our goal was to just try things out, and if they didn’t work, cool. No pressure.”
Then reality intruded. Norah Jones was locked into a heavy touring itinerary for her 2009 album The Fall, and Burton was on tour with Broken Bells and recording many other projects. Whenever the two crossed paths, they vowed to follow up on the promise of those initial songs they’d brainstormed. It took several years before their schedules eventually meshed.Norah Jones rented a house in Los Angeles for two months, and the two established a regular work schedule.
Norah Jones arrived empty-handed – no tunes, no arrangements, just a few ideas in a notebook. For her it was a complete change. Each time she’s entered a studio to record an album – from her debut Come Away With Me through The Fall – she has brought finished songs and at least basic arrangement ideas. Jones says she was initially excited about working in this way, then nervous about coming up with ideas. Once they started, it didn’t take long for her to warm to the challenges of creating on the fly, using whatever resources she and Burton had between them.
It helped that they listened to lots of music, bonding over, among other things, Fleetwood Mac and the Violent Femmes. “It seems that one trick in the studio has to do with inspiration,” Jones says, “and that’s a great thing about Brian – it was really cool to discover his influences, things I enjoy but am not nearly as influenced by. So he’d play something very innocently but you could tell there was a purpose, too, sort’ve a ‘let’s hear this and see what happens’ mindset. I really responded to that curiosity, because everybody jumps off the diving board and lands in a different spot.”