Jones was born Geethali Norah Jones Shankar in Brooklyn, N.Y., on March 30, 1979. Her mother is New York concert producer Sue Jones; her father is Ravi Shankar, the famous Indian sitar player who, during the 1960s, had a strong musical influence on The Beatles.
As a young child, Jones moved with her mother to Grapevine, Texas, where she grew up listening to country legends like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Hank Williams. One of her earliest musical memories is dancing in the kitchen with her mother to Williams' "Jambalaya."
"I always thought it was a funny song," she said. "[My mom] used to be a dancer and she would always try to teach me to dance in the kitchen ... She would always get me to two-step with her, and we'd just dance to that song."
By age 6, Jones was already singing in a church choir, and she started asking her mother if she could take piano lessons.
"So one day, [my mom] surprised me. I think I was in the bathtub and I heard a bunch of noise, and I came out and there was a piano there," Jones said.
Jones talked about some of the albums that have influenced her.
Ray Charles, "What Would I Do Without You?"
Though Jones started taking piano lessons like any other child, she soon started listening to Ray Charles and tried to copy his piano playing style. She says it's difficult to pick a favorite Charles song.
"I know one [song] that I always loved, and I loved the way he played piano on it, was a song called 'What Would I Do [Without You]?'" she said.
"It's kind of laid back, but it's really got a great groove. I would try to emulate it and imitate what he was playing to learn how to play it."
Jones had an opportunity to sing with Charles before he died.
"It was incredibly thrilling for me. Just standing there singing with him and he was singing right next to me. And yeah, he was just amazing. So raw and great and he was -- you know, not very well at the time, but he still put his all in his music."
Jones says as she started to sing, Billie Holiday was a huge influence on her. As a teen, Jones would listen to the song "You Go to My Head" over and over.
"There's a line in it that goes, 'like the bubbles in a glass of champagne,' and the way she said the word 'bubble,' she sounded like a bubble herself, and I just thought it was the cutest thing in the world. My mom had a record set of hers, a collection of all her greatest work and everything, and I would try to imitate her," Jones said.
"And it paid off because in high school, I got cast as Billie Holiday. I don't think I realized the heaviness of her life until I got cast in that show at school, actually. To me, she just had a bubbly voice and I liked it. And then the enormity of her life and her trouble sort of hit me. So yeah, I still listen to her all the time."
Dolly Parton, "Jolene"
"I've always loved Dolly Parton because she's just this strong woman," Jones said. "There's a lot of songs that she's written that I love, but 'Jolene' stands out. I mean, it's one of her most famous songs, but it's because it's just such a beautiful song, and it's a really heartbreaking, desperate picture of a moment and an emotion."
Jones says she admires Parton because she's such a well-rounded musician.
"She can play, she can sing, she writes these great songs. I've always been a little bit inspired by her. She's just a great chick to look up to as a female."
Tom Waits, "Hold On"
Jones says she loves any song that makes her want to listen to it over and over.
"There's a song by Tom Waits, it's called 'Hold On.' It's a great song and it has a lot of different characters in the song. And it tells this kind of interesting -- it takes you on a real visual story path," she said.
"I'm drawn to anything that makes me want to just listen to it again. And usually it has to do with something in the melody that catches your ear. I mean, if there's a cool beat under it, maybe that's it. But you don't want to listen to it again unless the melody really catches you."
Neil Young, "Down by the River"
"I've been listening to a lot of Neil Young lately. And I listen to two songs on repeat, pretty much. 'Round and Round' is this beautiful song with all these harmonies. And then, I think the track right after that is 'Down by the River,' which is the epic, you know, nine-minute long -- there's like, the best guitar solo in the world on it," Jones said.
She says over the past several years, she has been trying to improve her guitar playing, and listens to Young for inspiration.
"I keep listening to [Young] hoping that his guitar will just sink into me, somehow. I guess my dream is to play guitar, you know, even half as good as Neil Young some day."