Naomi Sharon On Her Otherworldly Music And Fashion Choices

Brandon Bowen

It’s a warm spring afternoon when I arrive at Baby’s All Right In Williamsburg to meet the soul-centric artist Naomi Sharon hours ahead of her Obsidian tour stop. There’s a warmth that she exudes through her demeanor and also an infectious, calm energy. We exchange small talk about the weather but then we immediately begin ruminating about her upbringing in Rotterdam, Netherlands. This is the city she says molded her into who she is–her parents and members of her family had a voracious appetite for jazz which became somewhat of a guiding light for her. 

“They’re very much into jazz, and my dad was doing the bass guitar and my whole family sings and dances, so it was inevitable for me to join, but it was something that I was drawn to myself. No one really pushed me to do that,” she tells me. “It was coming from the inside.”

When tasked with divulging an early memory that aligns with the Dutch-Caribbean singer being an innate and instinctual performer she obliges. At four years old, she jumped on stage at a talent show where an older cousin was singing and dancing. 

“We were watching it, me, my mom, and the rest of the family, and [my cousin had] already won,” Sharon explains. “She was doing her last performance, and then all of a sudden my mom and dad lost me, and in a few seconds they saw me on stage.” 

The soulful singer and songwriter says she had rushed to the center of the stage and was singing. This moment is etched into her memory–it was also an early and exciting realization that she was drawn to stages and performing for audiences. 

Naomi tells me that in high school she was expressing herself creatively through music, but also through fashion. “Every year I [had] a different kind of alteration to my style,” she notes. These passions consisted of creating and designing clothing while also taking vocal training seriously. During these years she was learning about her voice and participating in musicals while in school. 

Post-high school she decided to continue studying her craft and went on to study as a part of a drama college in Rotterdam. “From the age of 18 I was very into monochromatic style,” Sharon added. “So only black, only white, and it kind of lingered until now. I only wear black or blue shades or maybe gray shades, white, of course, but you’re not going to see me in a red dress or something.”

Auditioning for The Voice was also a part of her journey at 21–and it was a defining moment that taught her that she wasn’t quite ready for superstardom at this level. “It kind of pushed me into a direction where I was learning to accept that I was not ready. I was not ready for it, to have The Voice behind me and then probably sign a contract,” she shared. Next, she landed roles in musicals including The Lion King, Dream Girls, and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical. Each of these opportunities has molded her into the performer she is today. 

Sharon is largely inspired by acts including Sade, Sting, and the former girl group Destiny’s Child. This fusion of sounds is heard tremendously on Obsidian, her debut album under OVO where she is the first woman signee. The project was produced by Alex Lustig and Beau Nox–their touches lend the album to feel seamless and also progressive. Sharon’s version of rhythm and blues is enmeshed with soul in a way that is dynamic and hard to compare to anything else in the market at the moment. Her songwriting is earnest–in each song on her first album, she passionately shares lived experiences. “I think that as long as I am doing something that is close to me, or as long as I am doing a truthful story, that’s the key to resonate with people,” she said on her music. 

There’s an emotional openness in tracks like “Time And Trust.” The vulnerability on display is essential to the dynamic feel of the song. Throughout it, she distinctly details notions of trustworthiness. At Baby’s All Right on Tuesday evening, when she performs this track, the crowd is immediately enraptured. Fans sing along and they lose themselves as they recant the catchy chorus. “Definition of Love” also evoked a similar response from the audience. On this song, her otherworldly vocals are tied to lyrics that delve into tales about a love-ridden relationship. 

At one point in the show, she shares that Obsidian is about overcoming heartbreak and other instances that might bring you down, like a relationship. She confidently shares these key facets while donning a black skin-tight latex dress by Atsuko Kudo. Her choice of attire is a futuristic and interesting choice for an artist who reveals startingly open music. Especially so because she says that her fashion choices largely are her decisions–she’s doing what she feels is best for her and her budding career as an OVO artist. It’s all a part of the packaging that she believes are various means of self-expression: her tour looks, her nearly perfect Instagram feed and press appearances are all largely important to Sharon.

“I think it’s the era of minimalism, vulnerability as well in fashion, because you can be vulnerable in fashion as well, and staying very close to myself,” she says on how she leans into strictly minimalistic outfits and hues.  “And so, if I want to be in latex, that’s because I made that decision and not a trend for me on a deck,” she adds. 

We caught up with Naomi Sharon ahead of her New York tour stop to discuss Obsidian, her affinity for fashion, and how she built herself up to be one of the most interesting soul acts of the moment.

Naomi Sharon Is The Stylish R&B Girl You Should Know Right Now
Brandon Bowen

Can you talk to me about the early stages of your childhood, growing up in Rotterdam, and what that was like for you?

So, I grew up in Rotterdam. Immediately when I was very young, I was already drawn to performing. I was always seeking attention in that way. My family is heavily music-orientated. They’re very much into jazz, and my dad was doing the bass guitar and my whole family sings and dances, so it was inevitable for me to join, but it was something that I was drawn to myself. No one really pushed me to do that.

Was there anything else like hobbies or interests from your younger years that stuck out to you?

I had some other aspirations as well because I was very athletic as a child, so I [ran] track, was pretty good, and then I had the chance to sign for the national team when I was young, and that’s where I was like, “Well, wait, I need to do something else as well.” I love to do the performing type of stuff as well. So, I had to decide between those two. From that moment on, when I made that decision [to go after music], I went to high school and then I [took] theater classes, and from the high school I [immediately began] studying theater in Rotterdam, and then I did musicals. And from that moment on I was like, “This is nice, but it’s not really my thing, because I want to do my own thing.” And so, during The Lion King, when I was playing in that, I decided to write a song and that was the first song, “The Moon” in 2019 and it got attention from Ebro, from Apple Music, and from that moment on it [kept going].

Can you talk about creatively expressing yourself from a young age?

When I was a child my mom and dad, [caught] me [singing] to Baby Face’s song with Stevie Wonder, “How Come, How Long.” I was play-backing to the song as a four-year-old. And my mom and dad were [struck by this because] my first language is Dutch. [They were saying]: ” How does she know what they’re saying?” It was nice for them to see that I could feel the emotion or the intention that was put in the song. That was also part of me expressing myself in a way. I was always very competitive, not towards others, like I can’t lose or whatever, but I’m just like, “I want to win everything in life,” so [it’s the] same with the music industry. 

Going back to when you decided in high school that you wanted to focus on music, I know you mentioned some plays. Were you doing any classical training while you were in high school?

So we did musicals, and so we had like vocal training, but it was more on the musical technique kind of thing, but since then, you gain a lot of experience on stage and doing all these things and of course acting or whatever and dancing. So, it definitely formed me to make my decision later on where I had to choose a study and I was like, “No, I’m going to do the theater school.”

Has fashion always been something that has been a large part of your life?

Yes, from birth. No, no, no, for real though, because when I was going to school when I was younger, I was like, “Oh, I want to have these jeans, but I don’t have it, so let me make my own version,” just doing weird stuff [in] middle school. 

My mom was like, “This is not going to work, because it’s going to fall apart, but nice idea.” And towards high school, the first year that I did high school, I was sitting in art class, because I wanted to become a fashion designer. That was also an aspiration of me, but when I had that honest conversation with my mom,  I decided after the first year that I was going to focus on theater. But I’ve always been drawn to it. I think every year in school I had a different style. I was just trying things, different eras.

I was watching Fashion TV, which was very interesting, because you could see all the latest trends. I was keeping an eye on everything. It was like this blog, and you could see fall, and winter. I was very into that. It was the Tumblr era, and there were websites where you could just see someone’s style from celebrities. I forgot the name, but it was a huge website, and you could just fill in Kate Moss and then you could see what she was wearing. I was very much aware of the latest trends, and I was also doing vintage shopping at that age.

Do you think creating outfits helped you just kind of come into your own from a young age?

Of course. That’s why it’s still so important to me for this show, for this tour, we’re doing this full latex look. I have different pieces that I switch around and see what I feel like, but everything is Obsidian. So, it formed me into this person who is doing the visuals for my music videos or editing things myself. My Instagram feed is a huge part of it where I’m just like, “No, everything needs to be in this color scheme.” It’s really important to me how an artist looks.

I think a lot of artists, when I look at them, I’m like, it’s beautiful to see that they’re comfortable in wearing your clothes and you should not judge that, but I think in some situations I’m like, “I think that if that person had a different stylist that had more guts, it will be a completely different image.”

After high school, were there things you needed to do to get to the next level you aspired to be? 

So, at that time I was singing, but I was not active in writing my own songs. Because I was also doing musicals but [it was] pretty clear to me that if [I] wanted to be on this path, if [I] want to be a musical actress, then [I’d] have to do certain things to get there. And if [I] wanted to be a principal all the time, then [I’d] have to first be part of [an] ensemble, just taking the steps. I think that I was always aware of taking the steps and having patience as well. And then one time I did The Voice, and that was also a good experience, but it was too early.

I was 21. I mean I always love performing, but it was too early in, who am I really? What do I want to do? Because I was doing Aretha Franklin, which is beautiful, but I wouldn’t sing that right now. Who is Naomi and what do you want to tell? What is your story? And I think that around that time, I was just like, “Oh, I just want to sing and do this and that.” And then after that, I just realized, that it was a perfect lesson. I was promised to be in the live shows and it’s such a political thing that, first of all, I think that it wasn’t a good environment for me to be in at that time. And then it kind of pushed me into a direction where I was learning to accept that I was not ready. I was not ready for it, to have The Voice behind me and then probably sign a contract and then I wouldn’t make music like this, and now I was just free.

What came next?

I moved on from that. I did musicals again, and during that time I had a vocal surgery because it was very stressful, the musicals on my body. I had to do a vocal surgery, but fortunately, it really pushed me to find my own voice again, and [realize] we’re not going to hurt that voice again, that’s that. And it was part of me working for someone else as well. I was like, “I’m done with that as well.”

[I thought to myself]: I think I’m ready to take a risk, and if ever it happens that I’m injuring myself, it’s because of me and not a company that tells me that I need to work eight shows a week for a couple years. I did the vocal surgery, I got my voice back again, and I was surprised, because my voice was really injured. And so whenever you do vocal surgery, you’re like, “Oh, this is how I sound?” I could reach higher notes and whatever, or lower notes. So, I was completely amazed by that phase in my life where I was like, “Oh my God, I found myself again,” and that made me write my first real song.

I know you mentioned 2019 was when things kind of began shifting after your song “The Moon” was discovered, so from there, as time began to progress, were you hoping to sign with the record label?

No. I was even saying out loud that I didn’t want to sign myself to any label because I wanted to have the freedom, and to me, that’s very important, if you are an artist who wants to be part of the creative process or you are the creative process, or whatever, you need to have a label that respects that and can facilitate. I had a few offers, and then OVO came and they told their story and the way their narrative is very different from many other labels. It’s like a boutique label, but their reach is global. So when OVO came along, I was very happy to hear that they’re on the same page as me, and still, it’s very nice to be with them and to be the first lady as well. I think that it’s cool for them as well to just navigate through that.

Naomi Sharon Is The Stylish R&B Girl You Should Know Right Now

Your debut album Obsidian came after you signed–did you have a distinct vision of what you wanted it to look and feel like fashion-wise as well as how the rollout would be?

I just love the ’90s and the beginning of the ‘00s. I love the digital switch as well, and the minimalism in it, and all these things were very important to me. So I was like, “I think that the music embraces the nostalgic feeling that I always have,” and so every song that I made was kind of like a wink to something that I heard in my past or whatever, and I was like so style-wise, it makes sense that it’s also nostalgic, but futuristic in a way as well.

What else can you share about this current fashion era that’s accompanying your Obsidian tour?

I just love minimalism that is edgy. Right now we have so many trends, but the whole office siren look, I love that. I would look like that the rest of my life, because I don’t know, it’s so sophisticated and so beautiful and elegant, and it shows your femininity, but also at the same time, it’s like boss ass. It gives edge and you can play with that. I think I am a combination of The Matrix. The looks in The Matrix, they’re to die for still to this day. I think right now we’re trying to recreate it. I think Avellano did a great job. I went to the show in Paris, and they made their suits huge in latex, and they did this homage to The Matrix.

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