Mystic and meditative — Naomi Sharon, the alternative R&B singer/songwriter born in the Netherlands to Dutch and Caribbean parents, knew from early on that she’d dedicate her life to music. Surrounded by a family of artists, Babyface records, and soulful jazz music, her inner world was primed to seek out the more elusive side of human experience: the deeper emotions, the deeper questions. What most try their best to shy away from, Sharon explores in her small but mighty discography as a form of shadow work.
“From a young age, I was drawn to people older than me. I felt like I could have deeper conversations emotionally,” the artist shares over the phone with NBGA, from where she’s based in LA. “And that’s also how I make music: Emotionally. There’s always emotion in my songs. It’s never just a song. I can’t do that.”
Sharon’s most recent single, “Daughter Of The Sun,” — produced by Marnix de Heus — is a smooth, sultry ode to her own transformative powers. “It’s not easy. It’s fiery, like a phoenix rising out of the ashes,” she explains. At only twenty-six years old, she has a perspective on pain that often takes decades to arrive at and her music has been a key asset when it comes to alchemizing her emotions, good and bad, and saying yes to life in all of its fullness. NBGA spoke with Sharon about the pain of shedding old selves, the ownership of her sex and sensuality, and the projects you can expect from her in the future.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FIRST MEMORY OF FALLING IN LOVE WITH MUSIC.
This might be strange to say, but I think I was four years old. Three, even. My parents caught me singing along to Gone Too Soon by Babyface with Stevie Wonder. Another song I was always singing along to was How Come, How Long by Babyface. It was funny because I didn’t know the lyrics. My parents caught me singing to the song in my own language and they were amazed with the level of emotion I was trying to express. To this day, music has such healing powers for me.
MUSIC HELPED YOU FROM AN EARLY AGE.
It really helped me. I was always making up my own lyrics and unconsciously learning about creating melodies before I knew what a melody was. Also, my family is heavily musically-oriented. Everyone was making music. My dad is a producer. My mother sang and she’s also a dancer. My grandfather is an audio engineer. Everyone around me played an instrument. It was almost destined that I would end up in the music scene.
IT MUST HAVE BEEN SO NICE TO GROW UP IN AN ARTISTIC ENVIRONMENT. I CAN SEE HOW IT PAID OFF IN YOUR LIFE.
It helped me so much. I think if you have an artistic family, it gives you more freedom to be yourself. I had a lot of jazz influences. Jazz felt like such grown up music but I loved having that early introduction to it. It shaped and influenced my taste, my relationship to music, my perspective. My family let me improvise. They let me do all those things to find my own song which was so fun. I still look back at those moments and I’m like, “Wow. That was so beautiful.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THAT EARLY EXPOSURE TO DEEPER EMOTIONS THROUGH MUSIC INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU NAVIGATE YOUR EMOTIONAL LIFE?
That’s such a funny question because I hear this a lot. Yes. From a young age, I was drawn to people older than me because I felt like I could have deeper conversations emotionally. And I’m very emotional. I’m a Pisces. So, I needed that. Whenever I was with people, I was choosing people who could feed me on that level. That’s also how I make music: Emotionally. I have to feel it. There’s always emotion in my songs. It’s never just a song. I can’t do that.
YOU SHY AWAY FROM SUPERFICIALITY. I FEEL THAT WHEN I’M LISTENING TO YOUR WORK. IT SOUNDS VERY HEARTFELT, VERY GENUINE.
Thank you! Yes. It’s very important for me to tell my story through music. When I’m committed to doing that, I’m able to tap into my higher self, almost, because for me, writing songs feels like doing shadow work. Or like writing in a diary. I can look back at my songs and think, “Oh, that’s interesting.” And recognize that I was going through this, or this, or that. I grow along with my music. I can sometimes say, “Oh, wow. This song resonates more with where I’m at right now than how I felt at the time I was writing it.”
I LOVE HOW YOU CAN IDENTIFY THE DEEPER MEANING WITHIN THE PROCESS. SPEAKING OF YOUR MUSIC, DAUGHTER OF THE SUN FEELS SO NATURAL, MYSTICAL, SOFT AND EARTHY. WHAT ARE THE EMOTIONS BEHIND THAT SINGLE IN PARTICULAR?
Daughter of the Sun is about transformation; shedding old skin, old beliefs about myself and the world, and surrendering to the act of becoming this beautiful being. The song is a celebration of our sensuality and being comfortable in our own skin. It’s a song for women who are stepping out of their shame, but I think for men, this can be just as important. For women, though, we can feel pressured to adapt ourselves endlessly to our environment, rather than showing up as we are.
We’ve learned over the years how to adjust ourselves to outside opinions and, I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel like I’m caged. In order to be whole, you have to embrace everything. So, that includes your sensuality. That includes your power. That includes everything you are. You can’t hide that for anyone.
WHAT HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH TRANSFORMATION BEEN LIKE IN YOUR OWN LIFE?
I feel like I’m transforming every week. It’s a never ending process for me. I also feel that transformation is never soft. It’s fiery — the phoenix rising from the ashes. It’s very intense. It’s a blessing but it brings pain sometimes. And sometimes you have to let go of your old thoughts and ways of being because they don’t work anymore in the reality that you’re moving toward. It’s all for the better. It’s all for good.
100%. I LOVE HOW YOU ARTICULATED THAT. IT’S A NATURAL AND NECESSARY PROCESS, TRANSFORMATION, BUT IT DOESN’T ALWAYS FEEL GOOD.
True, because it’s a journey. It will always be a journey, and journeys bring you up and down. And as I’m talking about myself, one of the lyrics is, “She walks on Venus with ease.” It’s just that we are graceful and for me, it’s like a reminder of like, “Yo, you got this.” You don’t have to be angry about this transformation. You got this. Just flow. Just be grateful.
YOU MENTIONED BEFORE THAT CREATING IS A LOT LIKE DOING SHADOW WORK. HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN YOUR FREE AND ENRICHING RELATIONSHIP WITH CREATION? DOES IT EVER GET DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO KEEP IT LIGHT AND REWARDING?
Well, to be honest, I have a tendency to push myself a lot. Sometimes I catch myself forcing things and I have to take a step back, because I don’t think that I should have to do that. Making music is something that I prefer to channel from my higher self. Of course, I can get into the studio and make a song in three hours if I really needed to, but it always feels better when I take a day or two days to sit with it. It can be a challenge to fight against the “work ethic” side of my brain that tells me to make a song right now! I have to tell that part of myself, “It’s alright. You can relax,” because eventually it will come. It won’t come if I’m forcing it. If I’m holding on too tightly, it’s not going to flow.
IT’S GREAT THAT YOU RECOGNIZE THAT. IS THAT THE MINDSET THAT HELPED BRING DAUGHTER OF THE SUN INTO EXISTENCE?
Oh, yeah. I wrote Daughter of the Sun in two hours. The producer I’m working with — who is amazing, by the way — his name is Marnix de Heus. He asked me, “What do you need?” I told him, “I need a beat and I’ll just go with whatever comes up.” The words just flowed. Those are the most beautiful songs because it really comes from the heart.
AND IN THE END, IT FEELS LIKE YOU.
Exactly. It’s about having patience with yourself and trust in what you’re doing. When you listen to yourself, your intuition brings you to where you’re supposed to be. That’s why, for me, the producers I choose to work with are so important. I’m not going to work with a producer just because he won three Grammys. That’s not my motivation. I want to feel connected to the people I create with. We’re coming together to channel the same thing at that moment. It has to feel good and reciprocal. Making music is making love. There is a very, very interesting connection that happens in the studio. And it’s not that the other producers are bad at what they do — not at all. But I need that healthy chemistry.
YOU WANT TO WORK WITH PEOPLE WHO YOU FEEL YOU’RE IN ALIGNMENT WITH. WOULD YOU SAY THAT?
Totally. I think that’s something I’d like to say to the younger generation of artists, or to every artist starting out. Of course, there will be times when you take those opportunities that will bring you further, but if they don’t feel comfortable, then pay attention to that. For me, music is a spiritual practice. I like to work with people who make me feel comfortable and safe, rather than just going for someone who has a Grammy but maybe doesn’t allow me to feel truly comfortable. I think if you tap into that more, you will make music that is more bound to your emotions instead of just a quick hit.
IT SEEMS LIKE YOU’RE VERY IN TOUCH WITH YOUR EMOTIONS. THAT CAN’T BE EASY IN AN INDUSTRY LIKE THIS, BUT IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU’RE KEEPING YOUR INTEGRITY INTACT.
Thank you. I appreciate that.
OF COURSE. SO — WHO, WHAT, OR WHERE, IS YOUR MUSE?
I think my muses are the people or places that trigger me.
Yeah. Because bad or good, what’s the difference? It’s all one. If it’s triggering, that’s the most inspiring thing. It could be a place. It could be a person. My muse could be any aspect of life, basically, as long as it triggers me. That discomfort is what pushes me to write something. I might hear a melody or feel an emotion or just get this vision of how I want my music video to look, and feel.
OBVIOUSLY IN OUR CULTURE, WE HEAR THE WORD TRIGGER AND WE IMMEDIATELY THINK OF IT AS SOMETHING BAD. BUT IT IS ALSO SOMETHING THAT ACTIVATES ANOTHER LEVEL OF AWARENESS WITHIN US. IT MIGHT FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE, BUT IT’S TEACHING US SOMETHING.
It’s a lesson, that’s how I see it — whenever something is triggering me, I know I have to learn something about it. If I feel agitated by something, or someone is frustrating me, or whatever it is, it’s up to me to figure out why that’s happening. Those feelings are telling me something about myself. I’m pushed to reflect on my life and on how I’m dealing with things. It hurts, of course, but it’s a blessing. It’s all connected.
THAT’S AN INTERESTING PERSPECTIVE. THE WILLINGNESS TO ACTUALLY BE TRIGGERED IS SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE TO BUILD RESILIENCE FOR.
Yes. And then you have to commit to that resilience. You have to say okay, you know? And constantly recognize and remind yourself of your power over those situations that are triggering you. So, it is complex. I understand why people don’t want to do it. I totally get it. But it is worth it in the long run.
WHAT’S ONE THING THAT YOU HOPE PEOPLE FEEL WHEN THEY LISTEN TO YOUR MUSIC?
I like this question. I hope that I can touch people in a way that allows them to grow closer towards themselves. I hope that I can trigger them, in the positive sense. I mean, I’m not a guru. I only want to inspire and be inspired. I’m here to share my story and if anybody resonates with that, that’s perfect. That’s beautiful. I don’t do it often, but sometimes I go onto my requested messages folder on Instagram and I see messages from people who tell me, “You really inspire me, “or, “This song helped me out so many times.” My heart is so happy when that happens. I only make music for myself. And because I’m always making music for myself, from my heart, as a part of my own process, I know that feedback like that is genuine. I know that they really resonate with it.
I THINK THAT’S THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR YOU. IT’S WORKING OUT REALLY WELL. I CAN TELL BY YOUR CURRENT PROJECTS THAT YOU TAKE YOUR TIME WITH WHAT YOU PUT OUT INTO THE PUBLIC.
I do. It’s been so nice to see how people react to the little snippets I share on Instagram. One of them became viral and people ask me about it all the time. Yes, I’m working on it! Haha. It’s not a secret. Although my intention is to make songs for my heart, it’s beautiful to see how the little snippets resonate with my audience. It’s always quality over quantity for me, though.
AS IT SHOULD BE. YOUR ANSWERS ARE GREAT, BY THE WAY. YOU’RE A NATURAL.
It’s so funny you say that. When I was little, I always used to tell my parents, “I’m practicing in the shower because I know that one day, I’ll have an interview and I’ll be ready. For it” I practiced a lot, for real. I’d practice in my room. I would imagine it happening. I think I used manifestations when I was little.
DEFINITELY. IMAGINATION IS ANOTHER FORM OF MANIFESTATION.
One hundred percent. For me, manifestation begins with imagining yourself there already, but it also requires work. You can’t sit on the couch and rely on imagination. You have to stand up and go for it.
IF YOU HAD TO DESCRIBE YOUR AURA IN THREE WORDS, WHICH WORDS WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
The color blue comes to mind. I know we’re not really talking about colors, but it’s a word. So, I’ll use blue. My second word would be sensual. And my last word would be powerful. I feel powerful. Not in a way that’s about dominating others, though, just in the sense that I’m aware of my strength — Maybe I’ll use strong, instead of powerful.
WHEN YOU THINK OF THE COLOUR BLUE, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF?
Mysticism. A mystic sight. I’m very open, but I only tell you what I want you to know about me. Blue is deep, and beautiful. It reminds me of water. You have to be careful with it. You have to tread carefully. There’s levels to it. It can seem shallow but become too deep for you very quickly. Blue reminds me of my spirituality and the peace that comes with being connected to my intuition.
WATER IS A GOOD WAY TO EXPLAIN THAT. AND I KNOW YOU’RE A PISCES, THE MOST ANCIENT OF THE SIGNS. I’VE LEARNED A LOT FROM PISCES ABOUT FORGIVENESS, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, AND FLEXIBILITY.
I love that. I think for Pisces, we know how to adapt. It’s a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it can work against you because you’re so in touch with the emotions in your environment, you forget how you feel about things. You end up doing things for other people. We have to remind ourselves of our strength a lot. We are like water. We are very flowy.
WHAT ASPECT OF YOUR CREATIVE JOURNEY ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
The fact that I only have four of my own songs. I only have four songs out. But it almost feels like I drew up four albums — people are so supportive all over the world, already. They recognize my heart. They recognize my music. I’m very proud of my journey because I’ve been releasing music for three years now. That’s a lot of time. I’m proud of my own persistence, my determination, my drive. I’m very driven with my passion and no one can stop me from that.
PERSISTENCE, WOW. THAT CAN BE A DIFFICULT PRACTICE TO MAINTAIN IN THE TEMPERATURE OF OUR CURRENT CULTURE. IT’S A STRANGE TIME WE’RE IN, AND EVEN STRANGER FOR ARTISTS.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE WITH THE PERSON READING THIS?
That it’s okay to think big. It’s okay to think that you’re going to be the best or the greatest at something as long as you’re out there putting the work in. And it doesn’t mean that you forget to be humble. If you see another person winning, give them their flowers.
I just think we find ourselves afraid of saying, “I’m going to be the biggest artist,” and claiming that for ourselves, because people might look at you like, “What? Why? Why you?” Well, because you believe in yourself. I want that for everyone. I want everyone to live with the mentality that they can win. And not only in career. But in fulfilling their purpose. In feeling joyful about the life they’re creating. Think big. Don’t let anyone dim your light. Never. No one. I want everyone to try and continue trying.
THAT’S POWERFUL, AND VERY TRUE. IT’S PERSPECTIVE THAT HELPS CREATE YOUR PATHWAY.
I feel that. For me, I’m twenty-six. It’s been a really fun age. There’s a lot of pressure to have it all figured out by tomorrow, but for me, each day is about being open to what life wants to teach me. I want to use my struggles and transmute them into greater works of art. I want to use everything. Soak it up and learn. It’s kind of like alchemy.
Feeling lost, by the way, can be such a great thing because it lets you find yourself again. It’s good to feel imbalanced. You just need that willingness to try. If you love what you’re doing, continue doing it. If you don’t love it, then sit down with yourself, have that conversation, and move onto something that will bring you a bigger sense of joy and real fulfillment. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to become a new person overnight. Everything good takes time.
RIGHT. OPEN THAT JOURNAL UP, MAKE USE OF THAT MOLESKIN. MAKE PLANS.
Write it all down! Exactly. And we’re in such a vulnerable moment globally, yet we still find ourselves comparing ourselves to people in timelines that don’t exactly exist anymore. People are trying to figure out, like, “Where do I go?” Maybe your parents were married at your age, you know? But we’re in a new timeframe. All of us. We have to have empathy for ourselves but also for each other. Learning to respect the differences in our journey is a big step.
IT’S GOOD TO HAVE CONVERSATIONS ABOUT THAT ASPECT OF LIFE. EXPECTATIONS VERSUS REALITY.
For sure. For sure. And I think that this particular time is asking us to do some introspection. I do hope that this pandemic will end soon because it does feel like a lot of energy is trapped. At the same time, I want to use this time to think and cultivate a larger sense of peace within myself, because as soon as everything opens up we’ll be back to our old pace which is fucking fast.
IT’S TOO FAST.
Way too fast. Looking back, I didn’t always take the time to introspect and reflect on my life and who I am, who I’ve been, and who I’m becoming. The art of reflection is something that this time has gifted me with and it’s definitely something that I’m taking with me into the future. It’s the only way I want to move forward in this weird time.
FINALLY — WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
I’m actually working on an album. I want to drop an album. I’ll take my time with it and in the meantime, I’ll just keep on dropping songs because it’s something that makes me happy. Whenever I feel that a song has to be released, I do whatever feels good. Yeah.
I’M HAPPY FOR YOU. I THINK YOU’RE DOING AMAZING. YOUR VALUES ARE THERE. YOUR VISION IS THERE.
Thank you. I try to live like that. This is my plan and I’m always looking for people who support that plan and right now, I have a wonderful team. So, it’s going to be alright.
THANK YOU, NAOMI!