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Newcomer Norah Jones breaks through with jazzy debut

Jones has played piano since she was about 7 years old.  

(CNN) -- Smooth and sultry; two words that sum up the voice of Norah Jones, a 22-year-old jazz singer/songwriter tipped for stardom after the release of her elegant debut album, "Come Away With Me".

Daughter of veteran Indian musician and composer Ravi Shankar, Jones was born in New York but grew up in Dallas, Texas, where she studied piano and jazz and chilled to the likes of idols Ray Charles and Miles Davis.

Jones' own mature, simple style was quick to catch the attention of Blue Note Records, which signed her in January 2001.

Her album, which is a mix of soul, pop, jazz and country, was released in February this year and jumped 20 spots this week to No. 52 on the Billboard charts in the United States.

TMR review: "Come Away with Me" 

The Music Room recently caught up with Jones to talk more about breaking through and bringing "Come Away with Me" to the music scene. Here's what she had to say:

TMR: Tell us about the first single released, "Don't Know Why", from your album. What is it about?

Jones: Songs are about whatever you want them to be about. For me it might mean something completely different than what it means to you. So I'd say it's about whatever the listener thinks it's about.

TMR: What attracted you to including a cover of Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart"?

Jones: (It's a) great song and I've known it for a long time as a Hank Williams song. Then I heard Dinah Washington do it a few years ago and I thought, 'Wow, that's really cool, that's just a great song". It can be done in any way. When it came time to record songs for the record we thought, 'Why don't we just try it?' So we did!

TMR: There's been lot of buzz over your new album. Are you excited about that?

Jones: It's exciting for people to like the record and talk about it. It just kind of puts a lot of pressure on people when people are saying, 'Oh, you're great, you're the next big thing'. It's like hold on, let me do what I do. Don't put that kind of pressure on me because I don't want it. It's cool but I just want to play music. I don't want to be the next big anything. I just want to play for people and that's it.

TMR: Who were some of your influences growing up?

Jones: I listened to a lot of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Stevie Wonder. I love Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Joni Mitchell, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, John Coltrane. I can't be asked that question without trying to put in everybody because they really do mean that much to me. You don't want to leave anybody out!

TMR: And you got to open for Willie Nelson?

Jones: I had the pleasure of opening for Willie Nelson for four nights in San Francisco, and I got to sing on stage with him for the last night. It was quite a thrill because I've always loved him and listened to his music since I was a little kid. It means a lot that I get to do that.

TMR: How hard is it as a new jazz artist to break into the record industry with it being so pop influenced. Did you feel you needed to do something different to break out?

Jones: It sort of happened very fast for me. I was very fortunate in that I didn't have to work very hard. I mean, I didn't have to work hard to get their attention. I'm on Blue Note records, which is primarily a jazz label, but they just love music. The pop world is cool, but I never really thought of myself as part of it or wanting to be a part of it because I'm on a label that's not really like that. They're not trying to dress me up, they're not trying to do things like that. I feel like I'm sort of separate from that, actually.

TMR: What advice would you give to really young kids -- like 5- or 6-year-olds -- who play piano and want to make it big in music?

Jones: Just play music you love and you'll stay happy.

TMR: What's in store for Norah's future?

Jones: I'm excited because we're going to be touring quite a bit this year and that just means playing lots of different places. That'll be fun.

TMR producers Dan van der Kooy and Shanon Cook contributed to this report

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