Norah Jones has made the tricky transition from pop phenomenon to film star. Ben Falk reveals how she is managing to have her cake and eat it.
"Who knows if I'm an actress even?!" laughs singer Norah Jones, at the suggestion she might be stepping away from the piano permanently to become a proper thesp.
The 28-year-old multi-Grammy winner is trying her hand at the acting lark in My Blueberry Nights, a quirky romantic comedy costarring Jude Law and Natalie Portman.
"I had no idea whether I would be any good," she continues. "I'm very strong-willed, so I decided to do the film, but I wasn't very confident."
It was something of a gamble. Though she appeared briefly as herself in the Hugh Grant/Sandra Bullock vehicle Two Weeks Notice, she had never acted before, until director Kar Wai Wong came directly to her and said he would like to cast her in a film.
Luckily, Norah ended up receiving plaudits aplenty when the movie showed at last year's Cannes Film Festival, proving her decision was the right one.
"I didn't search for it, it just fell into my lap and it would have been stupid to turn it down," she says. And anyway, she got approval - kind of - from the one person who matters.
"My Mum saw the canned edit," reveals Norah, tongue-in-cheek. "And she said, 'Well, honey you didn't embarrass me!'."
Norah plays Elizabeth, a young, broken-hearted woman who shares an intimate moment with Jude Law in a diner, before setting off around America on a journey of self-discovery.
"She could be my friend more in certain parts of the movie than others," says Norah of her alter ego. "What I liked about her is that she's pretty strong, she's stubborn and she goes on this trip to find something, not to run away."
The star is facing some heartache of her own, having just broken up from long-time boyfriend (and backing band member) Lee Alexander.
"I think at different points in your life, you'll handle it different ways," she explains of dealing with lost love. "Drinking, crying. When I was younger, I didn't handle it the same way as I probably would in my 30s."
She has just been on her own road trip around the South, however, echoing memories of her youth. "When I was 11or 12, Mum drove us from Texas to Alaska," she remembers. "We moved there for six months and then she drove us all the way back."
Single and starring in an indie film - it would seem that Norah is at something of a crossroads in her life. She's had a whirlwind career - her 2002 debut album Come Away With Me ushered in a wave of jazz-tinged artists, sold more than 20 million copies worldwide and won a staggering eight Grammys, five of which went to the singer herself.
Not bad for a Brooklyn-born former lounge singer, though of course, she had music in the blood. Her father, with whom she is known to have a fractious relationship, is sitar maestro and Beatles' confidant Ravi Shankar.
She subsequently released two more records, both of which have topped the charts and made her one of the most successful female solo artists in the world. Nevertheless, she has remained humble, even reclusive, suggesting all that's changed is owning a bigger apartment (she lives in New York).
"I was very surprised by my success," she says, simply. "I was still trying to figure out what kind of music I wanted to play and then I ended up making a record for 'jazz specialists' Blue Note and we just sort of hit the ground running."
Recently though, she has been seen out and about playing rocked-up versions of her hits, sporting a guitar, sexy outfits and goth make-up, with nifty side project The Handsome Band. It's obviously a chance to dress up, pretend not to be a balladeer and move the music forward.
"I feel like I've grown a lot and I can't wait to continue," she says. "It took me a few years to really take control back and realise that I can do what I want." She shrugs. "I hope the best is yet to come."
But all things musical, for now, are on the back burner.
"I've no plans for a new album," she admits. "I'm taking a break right now. I have some new songs I'm working on, so I'll probably record them soon, but I just finished a really long tour and I'm just at home."
She prefers staying out of the limelight and is chuffed that in Austin, Texas recently, "nobody recognised me".
"I don't get a lot of music video play," she adds.
"I also don't put on make-up. I try to look different when I get my picture taken, that's why I like to dress up. Part of it is I want to look nice, but part of it is that I don't want to look the same as when I am outside, because I don't want to be recognised."
In other words, getting inside the mind of someone else on-screen was ideal, especially since she got to indulge her love of dress-up with some towering high heels?
"Oh, they killed my feet!" she laughs. "I'm not really good with heels, which is sad because I'm really short and I would really benefit from them. I just have to be comfortable. I like the way they look but they hurt me."
But while she could be persuaded to wear stilettos in the future, revisiting another prop from the film might be more difficult. As you can probably guess from the title, blueberry pie makes a pivotal contribution to the film's plot, as Norah and Jude share a slice and begin to fall in love.
"I like it, but I will not make it or order it," states Norah categorically. "There were many, many pies waiting for their close-up for weeks. I had to eat them all!"
* My Blueberry Nights is on at cinemas from tomorrow.