For a few reasons -- all of them superficial -- Keri Noble has been compared to Norah Jones at times. Both of them are romantic, piano-playing singer/songwriters who were in their twenties in the early 2000s, and both of them have ties to veteran producer Arif Mardin; he produced Jones' smash Come Away With Me album, and Mardin is one of the executive producers on Noble's debut album, Fearless. But stylistically, Noble and Jones are very different artists -- and truth be told, Noble has much more in common with Sarah McLachlan, Paula Cole, or former October Project singer Mary Fahl. Jones brings a definite jazz influence to the table; she isn't a jazz singer per se, but is a pop singer who has been affected by jazz, cabaret, Tin Pan Alley, and torch singing. Noble, however, is coming from more of an adult alternative perspective; where Fearless is concerned, McLachlan's Fumbling Towards Ecstasy is a much better comparison than Come Away With Me. And while Jones tends to be romantically comforting, Noble's introspective, vulnerable lyrics can be dark at times -- lyrically and melodically, Fearless is not a terribly happy or cheerful album.
Although Fearless has a secular orientation, Noble grew up listening to mostly Christian music. Born in Ft. Worth, TX, in 1977 and raised in Detroit, Noble is the daughter of a Protestant minister. Noble's father was born and raised in Peru before immigrating to the United States; while the vast majority of Latinos are Catholic, Noble's dad was the pastor of a Spanish-speaking Baptist church in the southwestern part of the Motor City. Meanwhile, Noble's mother also had a Christian outlook and taught Spanish at one of Detroit's Protestant high schools. Noble attended a Protestant high school herself, but despite her Christian upbringing, she didn't pursue a career in either gospel or modern Christian pop. Eventually, secular music became her main focus, and one person who can take a lot of credit for that is Joni Mitchell. When Noble was in her late teens, someone gave her a copy of Mitchell's Blue -- that 1971 classic (which was recorded six years before Noble was born) was her first exposure to Mitchell, and after falling in love with Blue, Noble got more and more into songwriting and became quite serious about pursuing a career as a secular singer/songwriter.
Noble began performing her own material at small coffeehouses in and around Detroit, where she usually accompanied herself on electric keyboards. Detroit was where Noble met musician Billy McLaughlin, who felt that she had serious potential and offered her work in Minneapolis. Noble ended up moving to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, which she felt was a better environment for singer/songwriters than the Motor City. McLaughlin introduced Noble to producer Jeff Arundel, who helped her shop a demo -- and in 2003, she signed with Manhattan/EMI Records. Arundel was hired to produce and arrange Noble's debut album, Fearless; Manhattan/EMI executives Arif Mardin and Ian Ralfini became the album's executive producers. Fearless was given a March 2004 release date. ~ Alex Henderson