Born and raised in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, music has always been in Naomi Sharon’s genes. “My first memories were in the living room, listening to music with my mom and dad. They were very into music,” she says. “My dad is a producer-slash-DJ and my mom used to sing. My uncle played a bunch of instruments too and my aunt was a singer, then I came along. We used to go to their house and have jam sessions at family dinners.” Of Dutch and Caribbean heritage, her musical diet growing up was diverse and constant – she jokes about being a kid coming home from school to the sounds of Sting, Sadé, Eva Cassidy or jazz musician Marcus Miller blaring in the house. It’s no surprise then that she always knew she was destined for the path she’s on now, signed to OVO Sound with her debut album set to release in September. “As a kid, I was daydreaming a lot and maybe that was a part of the manifestation, but I really believed that I would belong to this world… it wasn’t arrogance but maybe I already knew that I had something to deliver. A belief and an urgency as well, to tell a story. I’ve always been a very emotional being.”
In the early years, that inner storyteller instinct was channelled into theatre, with Sharon going on to attend drama college for 3 years before being cast in roles in productions such as Dream Girls, Lion King and Tina Turner. During that time, she sharpened her tools of performance, stage presence and discipline, as well as expanding her knowledge of production behind-the-scenes. But when she had to undergo vocal surgery due to the stress on her voice, it clicked for Sharon that it was time to break out on her own. “When I was recovering and I had to relearn my voice again. I thought maybe I should use this moment and do this for myself – see what my voice means within a song. And that’s really how ‘The Moon’ was made.” Her debut single, released independently, was a sultry neo-soul introduction that already saw her picking up interest and landed her directly on Apple Music’s radar with an interview snippet for Ebro’s show. The momentum only picked up from there.
With her second single ‘Breeze’, she had garnered international interest and started travelling for sessions. By her third, she’d caught the attention of global superstar and OVO founder Drake who eventually reached out and started discussions about signing. At the time, she was tied to a musical production that had paused as a result of the pandemic, but Sharon took a leap of faith to fly out and meet the team. “For me, that moment was so clear that I had to take a risk and to choose for myself with maybe no way back,” she says. The risk paid off ten-fold as she worked with the team to continue building her name for herself,
over the next few years, before officially announcing as the first female OVO signing at the start of 2023 with her debut album Obsidian set to be released on 29th September.
The project is a thrilling portrait of a singular new soul talent with global appeal, pulling from a wealth of diasporic inspirations to create a sprawling yet soothing sonic palette. At times Sharon’s voice is almost medicinal in its tranquillity, at others she belts with a shattering rawness, unpacking concepts of love, heartbreak, healing while calling on the natural, spiritual and celestial realms for poetic imagery throughout. “I often talk about [Obsidian] as a palette,” Sharon says. “It has different colours, but it’s all family. And it can all belong to each other. And at the end, it has to be a holistic experience. To me, music is still an ancient thing.” Having established herself with sensual, understated vignettes, it’s exhilarating to hear Sharon stretch and expand her landscape with this record into something that feels as universal as it does refreshingly original. ‘Push’ employs signature amapiano log drums for luscious lilting afterparty anthem, ‘Time and Trust’ is infused with afrobeats spirit, as infectious drumbeats and melodic ad libs punctuate her effortless riffs. ‘Holding In Place’ is a cool, calm and collected fuckboy antidote offered over a thumping house beat. “I thought, why not make music that I would dance to in the club? Because I love afrobeats, I love amapiano, I love dancehall, I love real music to dance to. Why not implement that in this album and see what I can do to try to make it my own,” she asks. “At the same time, the emotional side is still my thing,” she smiles.
Going through bouts of heartbreak, new relationships, self-discovery and a burgeoning career while travelling between continents, Sharon conjures an emotional intimacy throughout this project even in its peaks, with a haze of nostalgia and yearning for simpler times seeming to remedy the volatility of adult life. “For some reason, I always have that feeling of nostalgia. And my memories are very vivid, I can see them as well, which I think does a lot to you and for you. So I think it’s a longing to revisit some of these moments in my life where I felt very happy.” Lead single and album opener ‘Definition of Love’ is a hypnotic
exploration of love that does feel like a sun-soaked childhood memory – searching for and believing in it – with rich, soulful vocals that pay homage to Sadé, who Sharon already receives comparisons to via online chatter. “At that time, I was going through a heartbreak and the last thing I wanted to do was sing about love, the thing that hurt me the most. But how we were writing was such a healing process that I remember crying and it was a very beautiful, intimate and vulnerable moment in the studio. And we figured out that this song was about hope after a heartbreak.” ‘Another Life’ sees her interrogating the wicked game of love even further over a woozy, floating production, while ‘Myrrh’ seems to tackle its cruelty head on as she sings passionately, ‘now you got me you want someone else, time to put my heart back on the shelf, good times turn into goodbyes’. ‘If This Is Love’ is a flat out rejection of the concept; ‘if this is love, I don’t want it.’ If Sharon had to define love now, she’d say it’s “something that comes from within and starts with yourself.”
“[Obsidian] is just me being very vulnerable and that’s something that I’m missing in the industry right now. And the artists that are doing that are my favourites, like Yebba, for instance. You see an instant shift in the way it touches you. I can listen to many songs and many incredible singers but the ones that are honest are the ones that get to the core of me or trigger something in me.” Even the title of the album, Obsidian, is inspired by that power that art has to transform. Named after the jet-black volcanic stone, known for its intense and protective qualities, Sharon had her own accidental encounter with the rock where she wore it on a necklace unaware of its reputation and was overwhelmed by it: “after a day I didn’t want to wear it anymore, it felt so heavy!” Said to hold powers to block, absorb and transform negative energy by confronting the darkness within you, it felt fitting for the journey of growth, healing and rebirth that the album chronicled for the singer. “This album taught me that it’s very beautiful that life has two sides. Whether it’s a very stormy period in your life or everything goes well and it’s all abundant, it’s all there to teach you something. I think that we’re very scared to experience pain and these confrontational moments within ourselves or with different people, but it’s so important,” she explains. “It was a very beautiful process where I got to learn so many things about myself and think, okay, that was one of the most heartbreaking moments in my life where I was very, very vulnerable, but I made it. And it’s beautiful that I could do that with music as the thing that helped me get through it. It’s funny because I see songs as pages of your diary, and a diary can be shadow work. So sometimes this is also life giving you an opportunity to make something beautiful out of something… very intense.”