At the core of Naomi Sharon’s album debut, Obsidian, lies a profound connection to the eponymous gemstone—an ancient symbol of protection, transformation, and healing. The obsidian shell, showcased on the album's cover, exudes an aura of conservation from negative energies. This concept of fortification permeates the very essence of the album, guiding the selection of songs and lyrics that encapsulate themes of resilience and self-preservation.
Through the intricate interplay of instruments, the depth of arrangements, and the emotional nuances in the vocals, Obsidian encapsulates a journey of confronting darkness and emerging stronger, a testament to music's alchemical power to absorb and transform negative energy. It is the art of turning life's trials and tribulations into something beautiful, meaningful, and healing—a true sonic embodiment of obsidian's ancient wisdom.
Born and raised in Rotterdam, with roots in the Caribbean, Naomi's musical DNA is both diasporic and constant, formatively cultivated in a household pulsing with the disparate sounds of artists such as Sting, Sade, and Marcus Miller. This rich heritage, combined with a profound connection to spirituality, forms the bedrock of her artistry.
With Obsidian, Naomi reveals an alchemical blend of introspection and catharsis. Naomi weaves a visceral tapestry of bittersweet nostalgia and existential yearning, each track being a testament to the ascendancy of art as a medium of healing, a sanctuary for the soul, and a catalyst for self-improvement. Naomi’s inevitable meteoric rise to R&B royalty will be supported through the spoils that come with an OVO Sound stamp of approval, opening doors to a truly global audience and collaborations that promise to push the boundaries of sound and genre.
A massive congratulations on this exquisite body of work you have released! Obsidian is a commanding exploration of rebirth, confrontation, and healing. How did you approach the creative process to convey these themes through your music?
The themes of rebirth, confrontation, and healing in Obsidian draw directly from my personal experiences. This emotional journey, which includes heartbreak, new relationships, self-discovery, and the challenges of a burgeoning career while traveling across continents, deeply influenced the album's content. You can hear this personal connection throughout the project, even during its most intense moments.
The music served as a shield, allowing me to express my feelings and confront emotional challenges. Take, for example, the lead single and album opener, Definition of Love. It's a hypnotic exploration of love, evoking sun-soaked childhood memories and belief in love. This song became a therapeutic and cathartic outlet during a period of heartbreak, adding a beautiful and vulnerable layer to the album.
Obsidian is described by you as “a protective stone that shields against negative energy.” Your visually striking cover art depicts you encased in what appears to be an obsidian shell ostensibly protecting you from this negative energy. How does this symbolism of protection influence the sonic and lyrical choices on the album?
The symbolism of protection represented by the obsidian shell on the album cover had a profound impact on both the sonic and lyrical choices in Obsidian. This idea of shielding against negative energy guided our selection of songs and lyrics, infusing the album with themes of strength, resilience, and self-protection.
In the music itself, you can feel this sense of fortitude and intensity, reflecting the transformative power of facing life's challenges head-on. The choice of instruments, the depth of the arrangements, and the emotional nuances in the vocals all echo the concept of confronting darkness and emerging stronger.
Ultimately, Obsidian is a testament to the ability of music to help us grow and heal, just like the obsidian stone's capacity to absorb and transform negative energy. It's about taking challenging experiences and turning them into something beautiful and meaningful.
Embracing your inner vulnerability and creating an album as deeply intimate as Obsidian is a bold artistic choice. Can you share how far having someone as influential as Drake backing your sound from the early stages of your career in 2019 helped you find the confidence to explore such personal themes? Did this support from an industry heavyweight help alleviate any imposter syndrome that often haunts emerging artists?
I was truly honored to have piqued his interest, and working with his team had always been a dream of mine. His input was exceptionally inspiring, and he went out of his way to ensure I felt entirely comfortable in every aspect of our collaboration and I feel really empowered by him to explore my own sound and follow my own path.
Being the first female signee to OVO Sound is a significant milestone. How has this partnership influenced your artistic journey, and what can we expect from future collaborations?
Becoming the first female signee to OVO Sound is an incredible milestone that has profoundly impacted my life and creative journey. It's given me a platform to share my music with a global audience and collaborate with an amazing team. Their faith in me motivates me to give my all in return. As for future collaborations, expect more diverse and boundary-pushing music as I continue to explore new sounds and genres.
Your voice carries a unique blend of tranquillity and raw intensity on this LP. How do you navigate between these emotional extremes while maintaining a cohesive sonic palette?
Navigating between emotional extremes while maintaining a cohesive sonic palette is a process that comes naturally to me. I believe in the power of music to convey a wide range of emotions, and I strive to create a balance between tranquility and raw intensity in my songs. This diversity is a key element of the album's depth and richness.
Your connection with spirituality infuses a unique dimension into your creative process. It's fascinating how you incorporate it into your music. You mentioned in an NME interview how “spirituality is flowing in everything that I do. Sometimes I like to use, not a spell but an intention in the music”. Could you delve deeper into how this spiritual practice has provided a sanctuary for your own healing journey?
My connection with spirituality plays a significant role in my creative process. I incorporate spiritual practices into my music as a way to set intentions and infuse positive energy into the songs. Music has been a sanctuary for my own healing journey, allowing me to express and process emotions through sound and lyrics.
Furthermore, do you view your music as a transformative platform, a means to engage in a therapeutic dialogue with yourself, allowing emotions to cascade into the realms of sound and lyrics?
Yes, I view my music as a transformative platform. It's a means to engage in a therapeutic dialogue with myself and with my listeners. The process of creating music allows me to explore and confront emotions, making each song a personal and healing experience.
In relation to this, you mentioned in the song Hills how you trust “my God and my faith”. How far does your faith inform your creative vision and artistic choices?
My faith plays a substantial role in my creative vision. It provides me with a sense of purpose and guides my artistic choices. I believe that music has the power to connect people on a deeper level, and my faith is intertwined with that belief.
Your description of your personal style as “romantic, minimalistic with an edge but above all comfortable” beautifully encapsulates a sense of intimacy and ease. In contrast, the music in Obsidian presents a rich tapestry of textures, almost a maximalist approach. How does this dichotomy play into the album's theme of romanticism, and do you feel a newfound sense of security in embracing the grandiose within your artistry?
I'm not entirely sure if I would categorize my music as 'maximalist.' While I do experiment with the richness of specific sounds, these productions don't involve a multitude of sonic layers. It was a natural process working with my producers, Alex Lustig and Beau Nox, and we adopted a minimalistic approach to production, which allowed certain sounds to have more room to shine. In particular, we gave the pad sounds we worked with this breathing space, creating a warm sonic blanket that results in a sound that is both lush and minimal at the same time.
You've previously shared that you're a perfectionist. In the creative process of Obsidian, a project so evocative and tastefully mixed, did you encounter any challenges in letting go and relinquishing control to bring it to fruition? How did you navigate that delicate balance between striving for perfection and allowing the organic essence of your artistry to shine through?
While I can sometimes be a perfectionist, I do recognize that the creative process is one of chaos. But having this great team around me gave me the confidence the creative process was in good hands, making it easier to let go while still being in the lead.
Push, featuring Nigerian singer-songwriter Omah Lay, stands out as a personal favourite on the album for its compelling fusion of afrobeats. The genre has seen a significant rise in the Western cultural landscape, indeed partially thanks to artists on the OVO roster such as Drake, who have championed its integration. Could you share your experience collaborating with Omah Lay and shed light on how your association with OVO has influenced your choice to incorporate more afrobeat elements into your music on this album?
Collaborating with Omah Lay on Push was a fantastic experience. It allowed me to explore the fusion of afrobeats and create a compelling blend of musical styles. Where I'm from this genre is really popular and has influenced many artists. I find it challenging to incorporate any inspiration into a sound of my own. For me that's never ending process.
Entwined in the enchanting realms of musical theatre, you graced stages in productions like Dream Girls, Lion King, and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, refining your artistry in performance, discipline, and stagecraft. However, it was during your recovery from vocal surgery that a significant shift occurred. Can you share how this pivotal moment, where you had to relearn your voice, sparked a desire to explore your individual musical expression? How did this experience lead to the creation of "The Moon," back in 2019, and how has it helped you navigate uncharted sonic territories in your newest work?
The transition from theatre to music was quite a turning point in my journey. It all started during my recovery when I had to relearn my voice. I thought, "Why not use this moment to do something for myself and see what my voice could mean within a song?" That's how 'The Moon' came into being. It was my debut single, released independently, and it was a sultry neo-soul introduction and a reflection of an internal journey I was going through. What do I want to be and what kind of music do I want to make? Interestingly, it garnered a lot of interest and even found its way onto Apple Music's radar right from the start. This unexpected journey has been quite the ride, and it's opened up doors to exciting musical territories in my latest work.
As you embark on this new chapter with Obsidian, what message or emotion do you hope your audience takes away from this project? How do you envision it resonating with people on a personal level?
With Obsidian, I hope the audience takes away a profound sense of self-discovery, healing, and the power of vulnerability. I envision the album resonating with people on a personal level, offering a musical journey that mirrors their own emotions and experiences.
Your music draws from a rich tapestry of diasporic inspirations, stemming from your roots in both Rotterdam and the Caribbean. Growing up in a musical family further enriches this diverse palette. How have these contrasting cultural localities and identities shaped the essence of your creativity, and to what extent does a profound self-interrogation play a role in the narrative of your music?
My personal history and current experiences certainly play a role in shaping my future. However, it's crucial to acknowledge that we're living in a globalized era. I have the privilege of accessing music from any corner of the world and from any point in history, thanks to recordings and the internet. This makes my musical journey not solely rooted in my own past, but also deeply connected to the global musical heritage. In this context, I don't see any boundaries or limitations.
Self-reflection and self-exploration will always be integral aspects of my creative journey. In this ever-changing world, I don't intend to remain stagnant, and that means my creative output will continue to evolve alongside me.
What’s next for Naomi Sharon? What can we expect from you in the future?
In the future, you can look forward to more exciting music, collaborations, and artistic exploration. I'm committed to pushing boundaries and creating music that resonates with a global audience. Moreover, there will be live performances in both Europe and North America, allowing me to connect with fans in person and bring the music to life on stage. There are countless more stories to tell and emotions to convey through my artistry, and I can't wait to share this ongoing journey with you all.
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