NORAH JONES RECORDING SESSIONS HISTORY: May – June 1999

Sony Music Studios (Demo Studio), New York, NY

Band members: Norah Jones (piano, vocals), Jesse Harris (guitar), Lee Alexander (bass)

Set:

  • [X] All Day Long I’ve Been Crying
  • [X] I’ve Got To See You Again
  • [X] I’m Alright
  • [X] Where Are You Now
  • [X] Right Beside You
  • [X] Hard To See
  • [X] If You Ever Slip
  • [X] The Long Day Is Over
  • [X] It’s Your Fault
  • [X] What Makes You
  • [X] I Miss The Sky
  • [X] Another Place
  • [X}The Only Time
  • [X] I Don’t Want To Change Your Mind
  • [X] World of Trouble
  • [X] Holding On
  • [X] One Flight Down
  • [X] High On a Hill
  • [?] others

Notes: Freshly arrived from Texas in May 1999, Norah met Adam Levy at 55 Bar on her first night in the city and decided to start playing shows with him. After playing a car showroom gig, Levy got Jones in contact with Lee Alexander (1), who joined Levy and Norah at their first Sunday brunch gig at the Washington Square Hotel. After a few performances with Norah and Lee, Levy moved back to California and Jones was now without a guitar player. She then re-connected with Jesse Harris whom she had met a year earlier.

Harris had been in a tight spot as of late—Nathaniel Krenkel from Sony/ATV Publishing notes that prior to running into Norah again, Jesse had pitched his songs to established artists, tried to break into Nashville, and pushed his recordings to film and TV. Execs had responded by saying that they could not imagine their female singers doing a song of Jesse’s because his demos featured his male vocals on them. To get past this issue, Harris was able to convince Jones to cut a demo singing some of his songs. (2)

Krenkel accompanied Norah, Lee and Jesse to Sony’s Demo Studio (which Krenkel states Harris had access to via his deal) and the trio cut “a stack” of Harris’ songs with Norah on vocals, Jesse on guitar, and Lee on bass (3).

“All Day Long I’ve Been Crying,” “World of Trouble,” “Holding On,” “One Flight Down,” and “High on a Hill” were all revealed to be on this demo on the basis of a source we contacted that had heard it. The rest of the tracks were all part of the same package submitted to BMI. Notable in this collection is “The Long Day Is Over,” one of Jones’ first properly recorded tracks that gave her songwriting credits. Also notable is the appearance of “What Makes You,” which confirms Harris’ assertion in a 2003 NPR interview that the song was a few years old and was a staple of the band in its early days.

“All Day Long I’ve Been Crying,” was released by Harris’ former collaborator Rebecca Martin on her solo debut around the same time this demo was recorded—Harris and Martin used to play together in a band called Once Blue. As for the remaining songs, thirteen would go on to be re-recorded and see release by either Jones or Harris—or in some cases, both—while “Right Beside You,” “Hard To See,” “I Miss The Sky” and “The Only Time” would not be released in any shape or form. However, we do note that “The Only Time” was attempted again at the October 2000 recording session that gave rise to Norah’s debut EP. It is possible that more tracks were recorded but there is no evidence to support this.

Placing a hard and fast date on the recording of this demo is a challenge. The Ferdinandos released their self-titled debut album on July 6, 1999. Norah came to NY in May. BMI records indicate that the Ferdinandos album was recorded after this session, so it is most likely that this session was recorded in the last week of May or the first few weeks of June, with the Ferdinandos session following a few days afterwards.

"Everyone loved the demo,” says Alexander, "so we started playing gigs as a trio.” On the strength of this session, Harris was able to begin booking the band at the Living Room.

Krenkel, who had signed Harris to his initial publishing deal, noted that the demo quickly began to circulate around the Lower East Side. This might explain why, in 2004, the full demo appeared on eBay and sold for quite a high amount. It was reported to feature “at least 12 songs.” Unfortunately, we have no further details about the auction.

We would like to thank the individuals who were fortunate enough to hear this recording but no longer have access to it for the information. Please contact us at zwfwrestling@yahoo.com if you have any information about or possess this demo.

References:

1.      Adam Levy Biography at NorahJones.com

2.      Getting Signed!: An Insiders’ Guide to the Record Industry by George Howard—Pg. 138-139

3.      Berklee Alumni Profile: Lee Alexander ‘93


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