SINGAPORE, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- With her long, curly black hair neatly pinned in a severe bun and her little-round black glasses, Norah Jones looks more like a studious student than the rising star on America's music scene.
But this week, her debut album "Come Away With Me" has risen to No. 6 in the Billboard 200, right behind Bruce Spingsteen's "The Rising."
Not a small achievement for the 23-year-old who was virtually unknown a year ago.
Jones is refreshingly candid about her budding fame and confesses she never dreamed of a record deal so early on in her life.
The New York-born, Texas-raised singer was signed by jazz label Blue Note in 2001 and released her first album in February, produced mainly by the legendary Arif Mardin. She also the first one to admit that she's not a jazz signer, although she is often marketed as one. Indeed her album is an eclectic mix of country (including a cover of Hank Williams' "Cold Cold Heart"), blues and jazz.
"It's turned out not to be a jazz album. They (Blue Note) were good enough to put it out for me. They don't call me a jazz singer and I don't call myself a jazz singer. I happen to be with Blue Note, and I know it's just a bit confusing, but my record is more a collection of songs, some are country's, some are bluesy," she says with a soft-voice.
"I have been very lucky. It's all happened so fast. I really didn't have expectations to be in the music world like this," she adds.
"I didn't have a driving ambition to get a record, at least not yet, maybe in 3-4 years down the line. I'd only been in New York for two years and I was still figuring out what I wanted to do. I was making the transition from piano-player to jazz singer and then from jazz singer to song-writing and country music, I wasn't out searching for a record deal," Jones recalls.
Growing up listening to Billie Holiday, Jones studied jazz piano at the University of North Texas. Then, in 1999, she traveled for the summer to Greenwich Village, and never looked back. Playing restaurant and club gigs, she assembled a group and started to hone more seriously her song-writing. Still, she remains quite modest about her song-writing talent, pointing that she only wrote 2 songs on her current album, and that given her current pace of writing, she was unlikely to be able to produce 12 new songs for her next album.
"I'm not that prolific with the writing," she confesses. "I also like the variety of having type of songs of a record, and I like to do covers too," she adds.
Looking to the future, Jones is next touring Europe until the end of October, playing in various venues. She is not yet working on her second album, but in any case, she doesn't anticipate it to be "more jazzier."
"The direction I'm going now, I don't see getting jazzier. I see it more getting more, if anything, country or rock orientate," she says. When asked whether this could create a problem with a jazz label record company, she says "I'm not really worry about. They're a great label that have given me a lot of musical freedom... If they have a problem because it's not jazzy enough, then I'll go to another label, like Capital."