Norah Jones is babbling like a schoolgirl, which is the first thing to catch a fan of this piano-tinkling sophisticate off guard. ”It’s so cool!” she gushes, taking in the set of her latest video. ”It’s ‘The Wizard of Oz’! I love it!” This was not the original concept. ”I love that great Ryan Adams video where it’s like ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ so I would never consciously do that,” she says. ”Really, we wanted it to be like a school play.”
A school play? Well, now that you mention it, unpolished playfulness makes sense for the goofy, unabashedly passionate, and girlish creature standing on this Brooklyn soundstage, her speech bubbling with ”cool” and ”like,” her sentences capped by exclamation points — a far cry from the supremely smooth Norah Jones behind the most tasteful blockbuster of the past decade. But comparisons to Dorothy Gale work as well, for despite 2002’s very grown-up ”Come Away With Me,” Jones turns out to be something of an innocent, blithely walking the treacherous yellow brick road of international stardom.
Her just-released second album, ”Feels Like Home,” has a lot to live up to. ”Come Away With Me” blew up as big as pop albums get: 101 weeks and counting on the Billboard album chart, 18 million records sold worldwide, eight Grammy awards. ”People keep asking ‘Do you feel pressure?”’ she says. ”It’s a natural question, but I don’t think it. It’s everybody else that cares. I’ve had my success. If I don’t have another one, it’s okay.”
This, of course, is what every artist in her position says. But Jones seems to actually mean it. In all earnestness — because she IS all earnestness — Jones has other things on her mind: settling down with boyfriend/bassist Lee Alexander and reveling in the comfort of her close-knit group of friends (the ”family” of her band, dubbed the Handsome Band).