New For 2016: NAO

Posted by Dominic | January 11, 2016 | MUSIC

Online, NAO comes across as reclusive, uninterested, perhaps even aloof. We set out to answer the question: is the ice queen of future-R&B really so mysterious?

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In a word: no. “I didn’t know I came across that way!” she exclaims in her warm East London accent when we ask the question. She puts her online persona down to two things – a dislike of being photographed and having “a hard name to search for.” In real life, she says, she is “really chatty, really sociable – I love laughing.” And she’s not lying. During our conversation she is talkative and politely opinionated, and there’s barely a sentence that isn’t punctuated with a hearty giggle.

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Music has always been a big part of her life (she studied vocal jazz at the Guildford School of Music & Drama), but it’s only in the last 18 months that she has found the courage to release her own material. “I was waiting to find my sound,” she explains, “then suddenly realised it doesn’t exist. You just have to write whatever you’re feeling in the moment.”


“Wonky funk” or “alternative R&B” are the terms that NAO chooses to give her music. She mentions the likes of Sly & The Family Stone, Prince, Thundercat, George Clinton, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder and more as influences, alongside ‘90s music. All given a modern twist, of course. “I’ve got a lot of funk influences in my music, but I like to play around with it a little bit so it’s not dated. It’s my own version of what I think funk sounds like in 2015 – that’s the wonky element of it.”

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While 2015 was, in NAO’s understated words, “quite a good year”, 2016 is almost certainly going to be even better. She’s still writing her debut album, which will be released in the summer of 2016 on her own label, Little Tokyo Recordings. 2016 could well be the year she crosses over into the mainstream, but one thing is for sure – it’ll be on her own terms.

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Listen to NAO’s Deezer playlist below.

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