Strapping her rootsy voice around confessionals about love, life and heartbreak – carved from a nous, which belies her 23 years – Norma Jean Martine first learned her craft singing in blues jams in New York.
Now based in London, she’s honed her sound and written with some notable mainstays; Ed Harcourt, Gita Langley, Steve Booker, Romeo Stodart from the Magic Numbers, Joel Pott of Athlete and Jake Gosling.
Having supported current favourite Tom Odell at The Electric Ballroom, Norma Jean’s next move was to notch up a few more miles on the clock. Following her Nick Mulvey support at London’s Social, she made waves at the Montreux Jazz Festival where she played on the opening night bill alongside Lianne La Havas. She has since supported Gaz Coombes and Lissie on tour and played with such artists as Foy Vance, Nina Persson, Midlake and The Weeks.
But this is hardly surprising coming from someone who wears live performance like a second skin, combining a pop sensibility with classic cool and creating pin-dropping moments of heart piercing emotion that leave her audience breathless.
Norma performed at Dot to Dot Festival 2014, the footage for which you can view below.
Ahead of her performance at Dot to Dot festival 2014, Norma answered the following interview questions.
When and how did you decide to make music?
I don't think making music was a decision, and if it was, it certainly wasn't mine. It was just something that happened to me. I was an angsty teenager, and I started writing songs one day. I don't think I sat down and I thought, "I'm gonna write a song." I grew up an only child, my parents weren't ever home, and I lived on a highway with no neighbors. I think my creativity came from loneliness.
How would you describe your sound?
I grew up in blues jams in smokey old breweries in New York, so I guess even though I've been so many places, and done so many things since, I really want this record to reflect where I come from and where it all started. I suppose you could say my "sound" is a modern take on the blues and classic rock. That's where I come from, and those sounds are what are nostalgic to me. That being said, I'm a total and complete sucker for a pop song.
Who did you grow up listening to?
My mom got me into her music at an early age. I was always into Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Carole King, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Joe Cocker, The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan... you name it. The list could go on and on and on. She also was into things that came out around that time, like Sheryl Crow, Jewel, and Natalie Imbruglia... which at the time I think she thought was better than me listening to late 90's pop music.
What influences you, other than music?
I'm super influenced by my surroundings and people in my life. I like reading. I don't get to do it much, but I normally write a song about every book I read. "No Gold" was actually very inspired by a Janis Joplin biography.
What new music are you listening to at the moment?
I love the new John Legend song "All of Me". I think for pop radio, the minimalism in that track is really refreshing.
Do you associate with any subcultures, or did you ever, growing up?
I went through my tween punk rock black and neon color stage. Too much eye liner, sharpied irony all over my converse sneakers, duct tape clothes, t-shirts of bands I knew were cool but had no idea why... I think most people go through that one. I guess now being a musician is a subculture? Maybe? I wouldn't call my life normal if that's what you're asking. Maybe part of really being in a subculture is not realizing you are in one? Whereas when you are 12 and think you are an anarchist, you are just trying to fit in somewhere.
What's been the best show you've played recently and why?
I really loved playing Live at Leeds. It was kind of crazy because we had no real sound check, and we were just sort of winging it. The audience made it though. They were really receptive. It's funny how in charge they are.
Who are your biggest style Icons?
I'm really inspired by Edie Sedgwick, Blondie, and Marilyn Monroe. Edie for her simplicity and class. Blondie for her edge. Marilyn for her complete and total understanding of her shape.
What's next for you?
Making a record!
If you could have any artist cover you, dead or alive who would it be?