Interview: Norah Jones talks The Little Willies and her solo next album

She may be best known for tunes like “Don”t Know Why,” but below that soft, jazzy exterior, Norah Jones is a cowgirl.

Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch, but the New York-born, Texas-raised Jones grew up listening to country music and it”s the genre she returns to when she needs a little dose of home. 

“It reminds me of my childhood and my grandparents and growing up in Texas and spending Christmases in Oklahoma and listening to Dolly Parton on my grandma”s record player,” Jones says. “It just feels good, I guess.”

Given her love of traditional country, it”s no surprise that Jones reunited with her buddies in The Little Willies for a second serving of country tunes. On “For The Good Times,” out today, The Little Willies twang through such tunes as Loretta Lynn”s “Fist City” or “Remember Me,” made famous by Willie Nelson and written by Scott Wiseman.

Joined by bassist Lee Alexander, guitarist Jim Campilongo, guitarist/vocalist Richard Julian and drummer Dan Rieser,  Jones shares lead vocals with Lyle Lovett sound-alike Julian.  She admits that she likes having some of the pressure off of her.  “That”s why I enjoyed playing with this band in the first place,” she says. “We started playing around the time my first album was coming out and it was just fun for me,” Jones says. “It was a nice release to just play music and not have to think about other stuff that I have to think about sometimes with my own albums.”

The Little Willies, whose name -in addition to the slightly naughty play on words- is an homage to their hero Willie Nelson, put out their first album in 2006 after gigging around New York. With everyone busy with other projects, it took Campilongo wrangling everyone back together to make the second album a reality.  “I corralled everyone,” he says. “I booked two gigs and emailed everyone. I knew we had at least half an excellent [album] recorded.” Following the shows, the band rolled  into the studio and recorded “For The Good Times” in a few days. “It”s a continuation of the live experience; we pretty much record live anyway,” he says.

Most of the members have been buddies for more than a decade, leading to a familial relationship. “In the studio, one thing I really noticed is how well everyone works together,” Campilongo says. “There”s a really good chemistry with this group of people. I would hang out and meet any one of them for dinner any time.”

Being the only girl in the band is no problem for Jones. “These guys are like girls to me and I”m like a guy to them,” she says. “It”s like a band of brothers and sisters, for sure…. or sister.”

Though the Little Willies have played a few shows and have a handful of appearances, including a Jan. 10 spot on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” lined up to support the new album, the band”s individual members” schedules may prohibit it from touring on a grand scale. “We all had so much fun doing these small tours that we definitely would consider it more than than we would in the past,” Jones says, “but it just kind of depends what everyone else has going on… we just have to make sure we do it and have fun doing it and not over-schedule stuff. That”s the key with this band, we keep it fun.”

As far as what else she has going on, Jones is at work on her next solo album. She was slight on details, but expect a release in May.

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