(Writing this whilst in my new room with ‘For All We Know’ on repeat blaring through my speakers, sorry new neighbours…)
NAO, the East-London raised singer-songwriter, released her debut album ‘For All We Know‘ last week. The 28 year-old’s distinctive sound has been described by herself as ‘wonky funk’, others describe her style as soul, R’n’B and even electronic like.
Over the past month, NAO has released a three-part documentary about her album journey, her influences and what the future holds for her. The grainy, retro imagery gives the documentary that old school vibe, in contrast to NAO’s refreshing new sound that is played throughout.
“This is my first trainer, I’ve never done a trainer before. I’ve done boobs!” she says innocently whilst signing a fans trainer at the start of Episode 1.
Episode three is where NAO goes into more depth about herself as an artist. She describes the inspiration for the album title ‘For All We Know‘. We see a reflection of her on her laptop screen, tentatively listening to Donny Hathaway’s ‘For All We Know‘ on Spotify, she proceeds to explain:
“So for me, that kind of just sums up everything, it’s such a lovely message. ‘Love me, love me tonight, tomorrow was made for some, tomorrow may never come, for all we know’.
Tomorrow’s not guaranteed, so anything we want to do has to happen today… That kind of sums up this journey for me.”
Earlier on this year she won third place on the BBC Music Sound of, 2016 list and has had continued support from BBC Radio 1/Xtra DJs including Annie Mac and Trevor Nelson.
Her own official singles including ‘Bad Blood’, ‘Fool to Love‘ and her latest single, ‘Girlfriend‘ ‘have plummeted her to the top, amongst some of the best female vocalists right now. Although she is a fairly ‘new’ artist, you may have heard of her before, 2015 was the year of successful collaborations for NAO, featuring on Disclosure’s Caracal in ‘Superego‘ and ‘Firefly‘ with Mura Masa.
Her musical influences were exposed to her at a young age, her dad frequently listened to Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye, singers with strong powerful voices, whereas her brothers and sisters listened to a lot of hip hop, R’n’B, garage, UK jungle and drum and bass. New sounds from the London music scene also inspired her, she loved music more than TV growing up.
Producers she has worked with on this album include, Royce Junior, GRADES and Jungle.
The 53 minute album features 18 tracks with 2 collaborations, A.K. Paul’s vocals on ‘Trophy’ and Abhi Raju and Dijon Duenas on ‘Get To Know Ya’. Short, little voice memos are also included on the album and give us an insight into NAO’s creative process.
In her documentary, she explains that people often ask her how she makes her music, she describes the process as “just jamming and improvising until something clicks, and that’s what happened, we got ‘Happy‘.”
“It’s funky, with a touch of R’n’B, something different about it that I can’t really quantify” she says about one of her favourite songs on the album – ‘Inhale Exhale‘.
So far this year, NAO has performed at festivals across the UK including Field Day, Parklife and Glastonbury. She will be embarking on a tour across the US, UK and Europe. She’ll be kicking things off over here in Manchester in October and ending in London in November.
The future for NAO looks extremely promising, she wants to continue to grow as an artist and plans for a second album are discussed:
“I feel like the next album is going to be quite live, this one’s quite homemade, quite electronic, but I don’t know what the sound will be.”
With hopefully more collaborations and velvet textured, ‘wonky funk’ sounds, we have not heard the last of her dreamy vocals.
You can find For All We Know on iTunes, Spotify and in HMV stores now. To keep up to date with all things NAO: