Lyrics inspired by the news

Norah Jones.

Day Breaks, the sixth album of Norah Jones, helped the singer- songwriter express frustrations she had from watching the news

Multi-Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Norah Jones' new album Day Breaks is a sign of the times - she tuned in to the news to write the lyrics for the songs within.

"There's a lot going on right now and it wasn't a few specific things, it was a broad issue," she tells The Straits Times in a telephone interview from Tokyo, where she was promoting the release.

Without delving into details, she adds: "I don't know, I think everybody feels the same way watching the news these days. It's very disturbing, very upsetting at times."

Working on the new tunes for her sixth album was a way to "express whatever frustrations" she had from watching or reading the news.

I think everybody feels the same way watching the news these days. It's very disturbing, very upsetting at times.

NORAH JONES, on the news' influence on her lyrics

Many of the songs, such as Carry On, the first single released before the album came out, were written on a piano that she had set up in her kitchen at home.

"That was one of those late-night, early-morning kitchen piano songs. I'm not really sure whether it was late night or early morning, I can't remember. It was dark, but some songs come quickly and that was one of them."

Stylistically, Day Breaks sees her returning to the piano-led sounds found on her critically and commercially acclaimed breakout debut album, Come Away With Me, released in 2002.

That album, an amalgam of jazz, country and pop, earned her five Grammys including Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best New Artist.

The albums after Come Away With Me contained songs that Jones wrote on the guitar, and 2012's Little Broken Hearts is especially different from her debut work because it was co-written and produced by Brian Burton, who is better known by his nom de plume Danger Mouse.

Jones says: "His songwriting touch is pretty specific. He goes through a lot of interesting chords that I normally won't go towards so that album was pretty different."

Day Breaks not only returns her to familiar ground, but it also affirms her position as one of jazz's best- selling acts. It made its debut at the top of the United States jazz charts and at No. 2 on the mainstream charts.

Three of the songs are covers, including 1959 jazz standard Peace by American hard bop pioneer Horace Silver. While Jones has covered the song before on her 2001 EP, First Sessions, this new version features saxophones by jazz veteran Wayne Shorter.

"I just love that song," says Jones, whose father is Indian sitar legend Ravi Shankar and mother is American concert producer Sue Jones.

"I really enjoyed playing with Shorter and I thought it would be a nice song to do with him, and the lyrics seemed very appropriate right now - it felt like something I wanted to say."

Other than the influence of jazz artists, the album also includes her rendition of Don't Be Denied by Canadian folk/rock veteran Neil Young.

"I had been doing some shows with Young, opening for him - it was super fun and he was doing that song, so it was just kind of in my head," she says.

Fans who had enjoyed watching her try out acting, in films such as Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai's arthouse film My Blueberry Nights (2007) and the raucous comedy Ted (2012), will be disappointed to know that she will not be reappearing on the silver screen anytime soon.

The mother of two, who is famously protective of her personal life, says: "I am pretty excited to just do music and hang out with my family right now.

"I would love to do something again, it'll be fun, but right now, I don't have anything going on."

•Day Breaks is available in both physical and digital formats. The Deluxe Edition that includes four bonus tracks comes only in physical formats and is available at CD-Rama outlets.

Album review

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline 'Lyrics inspired by the news'. Print Edition | Subscribe