Norel has been around the music industry as far back as she can remember, but now she's ready to make her own mark. Her father, Steve Salem, ran Motor Jam Records and was instrumental in pushing Snow of "Informer" fame. Norel lost her father to cancer at the age of three and her mother, who also worked in the industry, raised Norel and her brother alone. She credits her mom as her biggest supporter and inspiration.
The R&B singer found her love of music at the young age of five. Although a shy child, it never hindered her when it came to music. At her mother's behest, she always performed at every family event. Norel really hit her stride as a teen. She learned how to play guitar, started writing her own music, and really developed her own unique style.
Now, Norel is ready to show the world what she has spent her whole life working toward. After releasing her last single last year, she's been hard at work crafting an EP. Norel is ready to give her fans a complete body of work, which she hopes to release sometime in the coming months.
For those who may not be familiar, who is Norel?
I'm 23-years-old. I'm an R&B artist based out of New York, Westchester County. I've been writing music since I was in high school. Basically, started there, learned how to play guitar, and then from that, I started working with producers, and at first, I would write music that was very in my bag. I would be upset about something, and I would immediately write about it. That was the best way that I knew how to express myself. And then it just stemmed into me just writing about my life in general. The good and the bad.
What was a young Norel like growing up?
Super shy. As a kid, I was always shy, but I always sang. I always would try out for little plays in elementary school. I was always just trying to sing a little tune, write a little song, even as a kid. Obviously, that's never going to meet the light of day. No one is ever gonna see that. I think it just stemmed from — when I was a kid, I was shy, and then I moved around a lot. I was just always in a different state. I moved to Kentucky for three years. Ohio for three years. Then back to New York. I was always in different types of communities for a little bit. As a kid, I didn't necessarily feel like I fit in, so music was my escape. I would focus on that more than anything. And then, obviously, as I aged, I came into my own, and I was able to become more comfortable in myself.
How did being shy affect performing when you were younger?
You know what's interesting? I think I only got really shy when I was — it was only hard for me when I was in chorus. Like when I was in a group singing, that would stress me out. But I could do it by myself, no problem. I used to literally be in chorus lip-syncing. By myself, I could do it. Literally, when I was a kid, my mom would call me into the room if she ever had a family event. She'd be like, "Guess what, everyone? Norel wants to be a singer, and she's going to sing for you right now." Like if it was someone's birthday or whatever. It didn't really affect it that much. I'm sure before, I would get nervous, but when I was doing it, it was completely fine.
How old were you when you got into music?
Eight? I think I really knew I wanted to do it when I was eight, but once again, I've always been singing. Ever since I was five, I've been singing. But I was like, I really just want to get into entertainment. I want to sing, I want to act, I want to dance.
Who were your inspirations back then?
I was obsessed with Alicia Keys. I would always sing "No One." I even had my own little web show on Kidz Bop. Kidz Bop used to have a thing where you could just post videos as if it was YouTube. Not a lot of people know about that. That was a platform I decided to post my videos on. It was called The Norel Show. So creative as a 12-year-old (laughs).
When did you start taking music seriously?
I don't know. The first time I went to the recording studio, I was like 13. I was singing a song that someone else wrote for me. I guess maybe I didn't take it really, really seriously until I started writing it myself. And linking it. So probably when I was 17. When I was at least able to play basic chords on the guitar. I started writing. I was really trying to make connections with either producers to help me really fully be able to create my music and just go to the studio. And then I also definitely took it seriously when I was in college because that's part of the reason why I chose my major; music industry major. I just knew that was what I wanted to do.
How would you describe your sound to someone who's never heard music before?
I guess if you wanted to compare me to an artist, it would be Kehlani, Jhené Aiko, HER, and Summer Walker. Those are the new-age R&B artists, and that's how I would kind of compare my music to theirs.
Talk about "Counterfeit" with King F.L.O. What were those vibes like?
That was a lot of fun. Basically, we were just chillin' in the studio, and he was playing me beats. We finally picked that beat, and I started writing the chorus to it. And then it was funny because after I wrote the chorus, I was like, "Oh my God, I have this verse that I already wrote that I think would be perfect for this song." So I sang it with the music, and it sounded really good. I love F.L.O. It's always just really chill working with him. He makes me feel really comfortable. It's always fun to work with other artists because he can give his input. I love to see what he creates and the verse that he came up with for the second part of the song. It's a good time.
Your last song came out last year?
Yeah. And the reason why it's been a minute is because I've been trying to put together my EP. I'm kind of tired of releasing singles 'cause I just feel like I want to show people a body of work rather than just a single song. Especially since every time I put out a song, I always wish I did more. I don't know. I rather just really take my time and just come up with a body of work. Probably like five or six songs and put it all out at once. And get it sounding the way that I want it to.
When can we expect that?
I'm hoping within the next two months at least. All the songs are written, and the majority of them are recorded. I just want to go back and tweak a couple things. Change some things, some instrumental parts of the songs. So at least within the next two months.
What can we expect from the EP, and will there be any features?
So far, there's like one person that's featuring on it. I'm not going to say anything on that. It's a producer. It's going to be me and this producer who also does kind of like electronic music. His name is going to be on it. Maybe F.L.O. could be on it. So far, it's mainly just me.
Who are some other people you would like to work with?
Oh, oh my God. I actually wrote this song, and I mention Jack Harlow in it, and I would love for him to hear the song and want to feature on it. I'm gassing him up in a way but describe that I like a man that's confident, and that's what he exudes. It would be cool to have him on. He's literally my favorite rapper right now. Summer Walker would be really cool too. I love her sound. I will literally listen to every album and EP that she puts out straight through. I don't skip any of her songs that she puts out.
How was it having a parent in the music industry?
It was interesting. To be honest, I feel like my mom had had a major influence because she raised me, and it was like when I was three, my dad passed away from cancer. Even before then, I have these memories of him bringing around artists that he was managing at the time. Him bringing us around people within the music industry. We have memories of going to Russell Simmons' house and just things that are really amazing to be a part of, but being that young and not even realizing that it's a really cool thing to be part of. That in itself just influenced me because I was able to see a part of a life that I really wanted to be a part of and see him be successful at. In my apartment, I moved into an apartment with my brother a couple of months ago. I have all of his platinum plaques lined around my apartment. He ran a record label called Motor Jam Records, and he was helping push this artist named Snow, the person that did "Informer."
Just being able to see stuff like that and looking at it like, "One day, I'll have something like that." Not even because I like just being in that scene, but it's also something that I feel really fulfills me. I feel like that's all we kind of want to do in life. We all just want to do something that fulfills us. Unless that's who they are, no one wants to be stuck in a job that's a 9-5, you're sitting in an office, and you're just watching the clock tick, and then you're able to go do what you want after. I want to always be happy in what I'm doing. He was always able to do that. And my mom also just helped instill confidence within myself. Just knowing that if you practice enough and put in the effort into my music, then you'll be able to accomplish that. So that's how she helped me. And she worked with him as well. And she also did other things within the entertainment industry herself. So she just knows the ins and outs as well and is able to give me advice.
What do you want fans to get from your story?
Maybe just what I was talking about before. Maybe just like never really letting anything bring you down. Any hurdles that you may have from what's within or what's external. Like my shyness. Or anxiety, or whatever. I feel like everyone has certain things about themselves that can possibly block them from wanting to do what they actually want to do. But if that's what you love, you can do that. My music — I just love creating. I love having a finished product. I'm a perfectionist in that way. I'll like to get something to sound super sonically right. So yeah, I just want people to take that away from my work: the fact that you can do whatever you want no matter what. And also, I just want them to enjoy what I make. I was listening to this one podcast, and it was like, what made people become a fan or invested in someone else? It's literally just the fact that you can see one thing that you have in common, and it makes them relatable to you. You want to just keep listening and investing and checking in on them as if they're your friend or something. You know? That's what I want.
What do you like to do outside of music?
I like to go out (laughs). I don't know. I like to be social and hang out with my friends. I like to experience new things with my friends. I like to hang out with my boyfriend.
Where's your favorite place to go?
I don't know. That's kind of hard. I don't have a favorite place. The places I go sometimes are out of convenience. If it's close by, then I'd want to go there. Honestly, places in the City are really nice. I like really high-end places. I literally like to feel bougie, so I like to go to nice restaurants like nice rooftop bars. Loungey types of areas. I really value my relationships, either with my friends, family, or boyfriend, so I basically focus on that. And I've been trying to get back into working out, but we all say that and then fall off the wagon.
What are your goals this year?
Drop the EP. I want to perform the new songs that I have coming out live. I just want to be able to travel. Even just outside of music, I want to travel. I just want to be happy in what I'm doing.
Who is a female that had a major impact on your life? It's ok if it's your mom; you touched on that earlier.
It actually is her! Her name is Rose. She's just had a major influence on my life, who I am as a person. She's just amazing. After my dad passed away and just moving around, she's just always been such an independent woman. She doesn't rely on anyone else but herself; I really admire that. She's always made sure that we were always in a really good school district, always made sure we had the best education. And basically all by herself. She's gone through her own ups and downs, and I think that it's just super admirable that she's remained so strong for her kids. And for herself, obviously. I just think she's an amazing person. Honestly, if anyone meets my mom, they see how much of an influence she has on me. People always say that my mom is me but more extreme. She's just like the less chill version of me. She's a great person, a great businesswoman, a lot of accomplishments. That's why I look up to her. I feel like everyone should also have a mom as their best friend, too, you know? I feel that's really important. I feel a lot of the time, either teens or people struggle with their relationship with their parents and having lost one and everything. I just really value the relationship with her.
I want people to keep an eye out for the EP. I've put a lot of thought and energy into it. Everything that's written on that EP is something that's come from a personal experience of my own. It's interesting because it kind of works; it almost has a storyline. Each song goes into the next, and it's because since I've done it over a good enough period of time, there's a progression and then a resolution at the end. Like it starts with conflict, and then it's like it's almost kind of like a love story. It ends with me being in a happy relationship but starting out in a very toxic situation.