Having weathered the rocky start, Jones attributes her continued endurance to having 'taken control’, drawing a clear line between being a musician and being public property – or, as she puts it, 'it’s learning about how to live normally and make music normally and not get too caught up in the game.’ An essential part of this seems to be cultivating the art of not drawing attention to herself. When Jones walks into the restaurant in London where we have arranged to have lunch, nobody looks twice.Only the fact of her personal assistant and the publicist from her record company taking up their positions at a different table to keep an eye on things looks slightly out of place.At weekends she performed in a local restaurant, playing Gershwin and Cole Porter tunes, 'and made a lot of money’.Determined to make it as a musician, at the age of 20 she dropped out of university and moved to New York, selling her car to finance the trip.
It was these same recordings, with the most subtle dressing from the veteran producer Arif Mardin, that would form the basis of Come Away With Me.
She recorded three further albums, which between them have sold 27 million copies, making her the biggest-selling female artist of the 2000s.
A fifth album, Little Broken Hearts, is released next week, co-written and produced by Brian Burton, or Danger Mouse as he is known ('I call him Mr Mouse,’ Jones jokes), the multi-instrumentalist/producer best known for his work with Gnarls Barkley and Beck.
She performed in bars and cafes, reuniting with an old college acquaintance, Jesse Harris – who would go on to write four of the songs on Jones’s debut album – and broadening her repertoire to include country songs as well as jazz. She met Lee Alexander, who would become both her boyfriend and her bass player.
And she bought herself a 0 electric guitar and started writing songs – 'just three-chord things, nothing jazzy, nothing complicated’.
'I don’t know if it was because she had ambitions for my career,’ Jones says.