Naomi Sharon On The Vulnerability Of “Obsidian,” Her Purpose, Signing To Drake & 40’s Mentorship

Even though their flagship artist happens to be the most streamed artist on Earth, OVO Sound has benefited from obscurity. PartyNextDoor, Roy Woods, and even DVSN emerged from the shadows of the Toronto area, helping fortify and develop the distinctly eerie R&B sound that emerged from the city in the past decade.

Although it’s no secret that the OVO sound largely caters to women, Naomi Sharon became the first woman signed to the label. The futuristic R&B star hails from Rotterdam, Netherlands, where she got her start in theatre. However, Sharon became a breath of fresh air in R&B since the debut of singles like “Celestial” and “Another Life.”

Much like how PartyNextDoor helped expand Toronto’s R&B sound, and Roy Woods’ intrinsic ability to fuse Caribbean production into his music helped usher in a new sound of pop music, Obsidian felt like it strengthened another era in OVO’s history, one where Drake leaped out of his comfort zone to release, Honestly, Nevermind. As Naomi explains, it was more of a coincidence than a deliberate sonic in-house decision. This is largely due to the contributions that her producers, Beau Nox and Alex Lustig, had on Honestly, Nevermind.

Like Sharon, Nox and Lustig are both European with fundamental understandings of the electronic genre overseas. However, their expertise ultimately helped Naomi Sharon create a body of work that feels timeless. Obsidian strikes deep emotional resonance through her heavenly vocals and trance-like production choices. A primary influence was the sounds that shaped her growing up. Her father was a DJ who spun plenty of deep house. At the same time, her household was filled with plenty of jazz and global sounds, which formed her foundation. These sounds evoke a warm sensation of nostalgia, a delicate emotion she describes as equally complicated and beautiful.

I grew up listening to Sting, a lot of jazz, and a lot of world music, so I try to put everything that I have from that era of my life into my music because it gives me this nostalgic feeling which is very important for me when I make music,” Naomi Sharon told HotNewHipHop in February. “Because whenever I listen to music from back then, it does a lot for me. And where nowadays, we have a lot of songs that kind of sound the same. No disrespect, but I think that people hold this like formula, and they want to make music with that only in mind, you know, instead of really creating something. You can craft something and you can create something and I love to create something.”

As Sharon prepares to kick off the 7-city Obsidian Live tour, we caught up with the OVO songstress to dive into her latest project, spirituality, 40’s mentorship, and why she chose to perform in smaller venues on her first-ever headlining tour. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

HotNewHipHop: What about the production on Obsidian made you open up emotionally in such a way? The songwriting and vocals are very intimate yet the production itself is very inviting.

Naomi Sharon: I think, you know, whenever I make songs I create it for people that hold that space as well. You know, like a vulnerable, safe setting where we can talk about life. And so the people that were on the production, they’re my friends, and they know what I like, I know what they like, and we have our own kind of like world or something. We tried to make something timeless, minimalistic. And I think that by doing that, you have a lot of room for vocals and all these important things. I mean, at least to me to build on, and, you know, to create.

How does having that group of trusted collaborators around you help you strike a balance between indulging in this safe space you created emotionally and delivering songs that feel a bit more danceable?

Like I said, when you have a safe space, you feel way more comfortable [sharing] things about your life. And, of course, when you know these people already, it’s easier to just talk about anything in general. I think that we did a really good job at making timeless music. I just hope that this music reaches a lot of people of every age. It’s beautiful when that happens. Also, the more danceable songs were all kind of inspired by the early 2000s and things that I grew up with. And yeah, they hold so much nostalgia.

Read More: Naomi Sharon Is Madly In Love On “Nothing Sweeter”

Can you describe some of those sounds you grew up with? Popular music in Europe is obviously different than in the States but the European vibes are prevalent across this album. 

Yeah, I mean, my dad has always DJ’d and he loves house and deep house and whatever. And I think yeah, it’s such a European vibe, as well, and we really grew up with that. And we have some amazing DJs from the Netherlands, as well, so it’s not that hard to, you know, create something in that world. So we took some inspiration from that and also, [the duo] Everything But The Girl. They have some really crazy tunes that inspired us sound-wise, but then also like, just the aesthetics that it gives off. I grew up listening to Sting, a lot of jazz, and a lot of world music, so I try to put everything that I have from that era of my life into my music because it gives me this nostalgic feeling which is very important for me when I make music.

I think nostalgia is complicated but it’s also very beautiful, almost, like, emotion, you know? And I think that if I evoke that in people whenever I make these types of songs, it’s something that makes me really happy. Because whenever I listen to music from back then, it does a lot for me. And where nowadays, we have a lot of songs that kind of sound the same. No disrespect, but I think that people hold this like formula, and they want to make music with that only in mind, you know, instead of really creating something. You can craft something and you can create something. And I love to create something.

Naomi Sharon via Brandon Bowen

There’s clearly a spiritual aspect to your artistry. From your perspective, how does the songwriting process allow you to unlock and discover parts of yourself and your spirituality?

I mean, it’s kind of like his shadow work. You know, like, whenever I write something, it’s like, it always comes out or it’s like something that I can resonate with. And like, a different period of time in my life. And whatever I’m writing is very truthful. It’s like something that I am going through at that time, or, you know, like, it’s a diary for me, really. And I think it’s important, because whenever I want to tell a story, because I think that making a movie or making music or whatever, we all tell a certain story, right? And I think it’s important that it’s truthful, and that maybe my audience can resonate with it.

Does it get emotionally difficult during that process at all?

I don’t want to say emotionally difficult. I think it’s just part of life to talk about these things. And I think it’s really important to me to talk about whatever I’m going through, and I can do that with my friends or my family, or I can do that on paper, you know? And create something with a melody and give it something special. 

But of course, it’s not the easiest thing when you’re going through a difficult time in your life and you have to write about these things. I would say, maybe, challenging to keep it also positive and lighthearted. And I think with Obsidian, I didn’t want it to be an album with with with [heartbreak as its theme]. I think that whenever you have a heartbreak or you’re going through a difficult time, there’s always a bright side to it or something that you can learn from. 

Was there any particular song that kind of felt like a breakthrough, whether emotionally or musically?

I feel like “Another Life” was a very special one. When we made that in a studio, I remember I was very happy with it. We were playing the song and we were just sitting on a couch listening to it and it got to us. And yeah, there are some other songs, as well. Like for instance, a very vulnerable one is “Regardless.” Like I said,  you know, every song I tried to put my all into it and like, give it a truthful story. So every song has something that can touch me but the songs in particular, I guess. And “Myrrh” as well “Myrrh” is a raw one, as well.

What was the process like recording “Myrrh”?

It was the first song actually that we made for this album. And I was not in a very happy place and I was just sitting with my producer Beau Nox. He writes, as well, and he comes up with this chorus. And immediately, I fell in love with it. And I don’t know, it touches me so deep, that I was like, this is incredible. This is so beautiful. It’s such a spiritual song to me. Right away, I was caught in it and we wrapped it up in like such a short amount of time that day. Whenever that happens, it kind of shows me that it had to be done like that. You know, it was meant to be.

You’ve mentioned how the album’s title is a reference to the obsidian necklace you wore that you felt getting heavier each day. Does the necklace still carry the same weight these days?

I haven’t worn that necklace in a while but I do have an obsidian next to my bed so, I don’t feel like it’s the same energy. I think that back then, I was in a very different place. And right now, I really embrace all these things from life, even when it’s getting darker or whatever, where maybe back then, I was walking away from it. I mean, I’m always very confrontational but I think I am more now than ever. So I think that the obsidian stands for that, as well. You confront your trauma with it. I mean, it’s also a protective stone, but you know, the meaning behind it, it’s going deeper and having this introspective moment with yourself where you can find all these blind spots or whatever. And I feel way more comfortable doing that now.

Read More: Drake “Honestly, Nevermind” Review

In the press release for “Nothing Sweeter,” you describe the record as “a vulnerable song that captures the fragility of falling in love. There’s an indescribable magic in the first kiss with the one you love. Regardless of what follows, that initial kiss remains unmatched and unforgettable.” What’s the importance of living in the moment during the creative process? You know, a lot of people exist with heartbreak for so long that it makes them jaded.

You can feel it in your body when you don’t move on. It’s like, you know, you’re keeping yourself hostage, it’s so important to free yourself from that negativity. It’s not that I’m saying negativity is not a part of life, or it shouldn’t be. Because it is. It’s yin and yang. It’s so important to just realize that everything comes to an end, and also, all these feelings and whatever you have. I wanted to just break free from that and live my life instead of looking back at everything and [feeling] sorry for myself. And there’s so much to enjoy in life, you know? So that keeps me really in the moment and present. 

What I just described about shadow work that I mentioned is – it’s so important that if I can look back at it and be like, “Hey, you survived that.” I think it’s important for me to send that same message to other people who go through the same thing. I think it’s a very beautiful thing if you can inspire people to look a little bit deeper into themselves and, you know, break their patterns for themselves.

You can only do that by analyzing what’s going on in your life and analyzing what the situation is and then you know, to figure out how to break the patterns that you have in life and that are holding you hostage because it’s such a waste of your time, you know? Like, of course, you can be sad or mad or whatever but it’s such a waste of your time to be mad for 30 years or something. People hold grudges all the time. So if I can, if I can do that for myself, I hope that I can do that for someone else as well.


FLORENCE, ITALY – JANUARY 09: Naomi Sharon attends the GUESS JEANS “The Next 40 Years Of Denim” launch dinner at Teatro Del Maggio on January 09, 2024 in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for GUESS JEANS)

On that note, what do you think your purpose in life is beyond releasing music?

Making music, to me, is what I need to do for myself because it heals me.  And I think if you’re coming from a healed place, you can do that for others as well. Or, I mean, inspire them, right? Of course, there’s much more than a career. I really believe in a spiritual life or if you want to call it a spiritual career, maybe. But for me, music is spiritual. For me, music is everything that gets me through the day.  

I don’t want to sound – it’s not a cliche or something. I really try to explain why it’s so important because it’s also frequency. It’s so much more than just the things that we put out. Okay, that’s nice, a music video, we look at it. Okay, on to the next one. Or the formulas that I was talking about. People want to make hits. Okay but with these hits, is it another tune that we don’t need to think about and it’s just like a nice melody, and that’s it? Or is it something with a message? And is it something that I can give to people to think about? I don’t want to call it, like, my job but I think it’s something that I need to do in this life. 

I think we have our own responsibilities as well. I’m not a guru, I’m not an activist, I’m not all these things. I’m just me, I’m Naomi, and I sing and I make music and if it resonates and if it heals people, I think that’s a wonderful thing. It’s not something that I need to force. It’s something that happens naturally because it’s meant to be.

Obsidian, in my opinion, sounds like a sonic extension of Honestly, Nevermind in a few ways. I was just curious whether you had any involvement in Drake’s album.

Well, no, but my producers had. They were working for me. And then Drake was listening to the album and he was impressed by Beau Nox, who’s one of the producers, and Alex Lustig. They’re both from Europe as well, you know, they really understand that type of music. And Drake already had like a beautiful, beautiful body of work. But he wanted to have some special things on it with the other people who helped create this album for Drake as well. Alex and Beau really contributed their thing on it, for sure.

Ah, that’s interesting. I thought there may have been an overlap between when both projects were recorded. 

I mean, Obsidian was made, like, two years ago, two and a half years ago. At the same time, he was making his album but it was already kind of finished. He already had like a skeleton of it. I was starting at the time but at the end of my album, that was the time that I listened to his album because we exchanged that while sitting in the room with each other in the studio with 40. But it was like, my album was already kind of done so we were both like presenting each other a raw body of work.

How’s the chemistry like with 40 in the studio? As much as Drake helped introduce you to the masses, 40’s been the mastermind behind the sound at OVO.

40 is amazing, just want to point that out. He is such a beautiful human being, who is also a genius musically, but also in life, in general. He has such an interesting persona or has such an interesting character. And he is open to a lot of things, you know like he doesn’t really push me into a direction. It’s just like, “Hey, look at this,” or “Maybe, you want to look at that.” And I’m open to that. 

We always have these beautiful conversations about music and what it does. You know, he is definitely a mentor to me. And I’m very glad that he’s part of my world as well because he did so many amazing things. And of course, also for Drake, he had played a big role in his life to get them where they are right now.

Read More: Drake & OVO 40’s 7 Best Collabs

You’re heading back to Toronto during this tour – one of a few select dates. Since you recorded a lot of the album in Toronto, I wanted to know about your first time in the city and how you’re feeling about returning.

Yeah, I mean, I made the album in Toronto so it really is a special place for me. I was there for two months back then, and I love Toronto. It really reminds me of my own city but like on a bigger scale. I think it’s way bigger and whatever, but really reminds me of the city that I come from, Rotterdam in the Netherlands. And I’m so excited. I feel like people over there, the love that I’m receiving from them, and the support is so beautiful. So it really feels like a warm bath, you know, to come there and to play my album for them. I’m really looking forward to it. 

Ottolinger : Photocall - Paris Fashion Week - Womenswear Fall/Winter 2024-2025

PARIS, FRANCE – MARCH 03: Naomi Sharon attends the Ottolinger Womenswear Fall/Winter 2024-2025 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on March 03, 2024 in Paris, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)

I’m looking forward to seeing how your aesthetic with this album translates to the live performance. What colors would you use to describe this album or tour in its totality?

Hmm, I would definitely say black, although it’s not a color. You know, it’s just the stone obsidian and even the latex dresses that I’m wearing right now. To me, when I had that idea in mind, I was like, yeah, I want to have something that resembles the stone. And on stage, latex it’s like a glass stone. It’s obsidian for me. 

Black is a really important color, tint, whatever you want to call it. I think overall, I’m just like a very simple girl, kind of blues and grays. And you know, like, yeah, watery. I’m in a watery team, as always, because it’s my element. No surprise. I think the other day, I saw a comment. Someone commented, “Are you ever going to change your aesthetic to a warmer tone?” And I was like, “No, no, no.”

With this tour, you’re hitting much smaller venues that I think have a capacity of about 150-200. Why did it feel important to hit more intimate settings during your first run?

Because, you know, it’s my first run. Of course, I have some amazing fans, but you never know. You want to take it step by step, at least I want to do that. I just want to take it step by step, and see where we’re going. Of course, I can go to a larger venue but I can say that right now because everything was sold out. I didn’t know that that was going to happen, to be honest with you. It’s beautiful. I’m very lucky that it happened, and now we know that in the future, we can go to a larger venue and do more dates.

I think it’s really important to just take it step by step and see what you can do and know where you’re at. It’s a good thing. It’s not a big tour, it’s like a mini tour and it’s perfect right now. And, also, it’s good to see that people get greedy for the tickets as well *laughs*. You know, it’s a good thing. I’m like, “Oh, it’s in high demand.” It’s beautiful, it’s perfect.

I think it’s dope, especially for where you’re at right now in your career. Once you hit the bigger venues, I think the people who see you now will be so much more grateful for being able to see you play these more intimate spots. Like, I remember seeing Drake 12-13 years ago performing a daytime slot at a festival, and look at him now, you know?

That’s beautiful. Also, you know, in a few years still – I mean, I hope that I’m bigger than I am now. But like, it’s still, for me, so important to have these intimate moments because then you can connect. I don’t think you can really connect with people in a stadium. It’s beautiful but it’s more like – when people are in your face, and you can see their eyes and their smiles or their tears or whatever is going on, that really elevates me as an artist. That really brings my performance to a higher level. So I think aside from being big, or whatever I’m going to be in a few years, I think it’s still something that I would do occasionally to just have that connection because it’s so important to me.