Intentional Simplicity Relays Intricate Emotion: Naomi Sharon Interviewed

The first lady of OVO conveys lucid vulnerability on her debut album and accompanying tour...

“It’s a vulnerable way of describing a true story…” Naomi Sharon is an emphatic believer in healing through writing, sharing and performing her music. The Dutch singer-songwriter, signed to Drake’s OVO label, made a substantial statement with her 2023 debut album,Obsidian‘, aptly named after the protective stone. Pouring out her feelings on heartbreak, love and loss, the more personal Sharon is, the more relatable she becomes. “It’s really the dialogue I wanted to have with people, because it means so much to me, and I can see that it means a lot to them as well,” she shares.

Recorded in Toronto, Sharon processed a significant breakup through the album sessions. However, the opening track ‘Definition of Love’, ironically wasn’t in Sharon’s initial vision. Co-written with Liz Rodrigues, Sharon wasn’t particularly open to new writing partners at the time. “I was not really looking for a love song because I was very angry,” she says. “But then we [Rodrigues] had this conversation, which I think was beautiful, about sometimes if you write something it doesn’t have to be something that you’re feeling now, but maybe you want to feel it.” This use of manifestation is present within other tracks too, such as Lucid Dreamer, and seems to have worked given her current relationship. Now one of her favourite songs, it sets the thematic tone of Sharon’s uniquely nostalgic yet contemporary sound. Her ability to pivot during such intensity and create something this poignant, shows both her strength of character and immense talent. 

One of Sharon’s preferred songs to perform is Myrrh. The chorus of “Kiss like myrrh, sweet perfume, ancient love fills the room”, is hauntingly beautiful, relatable and despairing all at once. Sharon is masterful at packing weighty sentiments into a few words, which sounds enchanting in her velvet voice. “If I look at a song like ‘Myrrh’, it’s repeating these things because it’s a ‘what the fuck moment’. You really did this? It’s a powerful statement,” she shares.

Sharon is a confident and humble person in equal parts. She talks with adoration for her core team made up of producer/writers Alex Lustig and Beau Nox, as well as Noah “40” Shebib “hovering above”. For obvious reasons, she feels immense loyalty to them: “We made something very special, and I think if you have that you should work on it a little bit more and grow with each other.” Even as a self-proclaimed “perfectionist”, Sharon found it easier than expected to stop editing the album: “I just know that less is always more with us. There is beauty in simplicity.”

Beyond the core team, Sharon has the highest respect for OVO’s kingpin. “Drake is one example of being an icon and doing the right things with music, because he gets everyone to move in a certain direction, if you like it or not,” she says. Aside from his immeasurable impact on the industry, Sharon also reveres him as a mentor: “It’s nice to see him operate from a different perspective, and to see how his mind works. He gives great advice.” Another core part of the OVO camp are Majid Jordan, whom Sharon collaborated with on the resplendent ‘Waiting For You’. In the future, she has her sights set on working with female artists because “we can do a lot more with each other in this industry…I think it’s something beautiful when we combine our powers together.”

Besides music, part of Sharon’s appeal is her aesthetic. She understands the importance of a visual presence as much as an audio one and far from a marketing team’s agenda, it’s straight from her mind. “I always have this theme of simplicity,” she says, “it’s this little wink to back in the day. The 00s were very interesting style wise, it kind of stuck to my brain.” A single glance at her Instagram grid and it’s clear Sharon is deploying an unambiguous vision that’s true to her. “That’s where I get a little bit psychotic. I can’t really describe it but it calms me down whenever I see my feed sorted out and in colours that I want to see.” With black latex tour outfits, cutting her long hair into a short bob, and adding a full back tattoo in Berlin while on the road, Sharon is utterly in tune with her inner voice. 

This tour, with three dates in North America and four in Europe, is a fraction of the size it could’ve been given the demand. No doubt Sharon will be propelled onto bigger stages soon, but you can’t replace those intimate first shows. “Some songs are about love, one song is about abuse even, and I can see people react to it,” she says. This is realised after the London performance when Sharon and a fan she is speaking with both start to cry. The vulnerability Sharon courageously extends is reaching those who are open to it, and it’s exactly the heart-to-heart she hoped for: “I want to say something to the audience, and maybe we can have a conversation that way.”

At The Lower Third in the belly of Soho, the London date felt like a charged “I was there” moment. Sharon commanded the sold-out crowd before she even stepped on stage; she played every song from ‘Obsidian’, including an acoustic version of Celestial, and her new single, Nothing Sweeter’. As an unexpected encore, Sharon paid homage to her primary inspiration, Sting, with a rendition of ‘Shape Of My Heart’. 

The power of Sharon’s music isn’t just in her lyricism, it’s also in her intention. “[I put music on] because I need something to guide me through. So I just think, if I’m making music, I have to contribute to that as well.” ‘Obsidian’ is just that. By playing a cathartic role in her fans’ lives, Sharon is connecting with them on levels most artists could only dream of. “I can’t really put it into words because I think I’m living my dream,” she muses.

Through Sharon living her dream, she’s making a more beautiful reality for someone else.

Obsidian’ is out now.

Words: Nicola J Davies

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