By BBC Radio
After winding through the sunny streets of Bristol to the O2, Mariella finds NAO fresh from her sound check in a cosy, dark corner of the venue’s bar. As the pair discuss NAO’s female-focused book choices, they uncover interesting themes from her life.
Her astonishing personal story is slowly explored, with NAO discussing her journey from growing up sharing a bed with her siblings, to getting a prestigious scholarship to the Guildhall, becoming a SoundCloud sensation, to starting her own record label - and now having 1 track alone with over 34 million streams on Spotify and a sell out European tour coming to an end.
Many of NAO’s book choices focus on histories which remain untold by GCSE syllabuses, from the rule of Chairman Mao in China (Wild Swans by Jung Chang) to the slave trade of Ghana (Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi), often homing in on the inter-generational female narratives that weave through these stories in particular.
She talks about the effects of not seeing darker skinned female artists on MTV when she was growing up, and how she’s proud that her presence on the music scene has started to fill that void. She is endearingly surprised when Mariella points out that so many of her book choices also feature other women of colour succeeding against the odds.
In short, this interview makes for an illuminating insight to mind and passions of this thoughtful, creative, female fighter.
NAO’s choices: The book that…
… Takes her back a peaceful place: ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2006
... Broke her heart: ‘Wild Swans’ by Jung Chang, 1991
… She could not put down: ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanangihara, 2015
… She feels every woman should read: “Rushing Woman’s Syndrome’ by Dr Libby Weaver, 2017
… Is her all time favourite: ‘Homegoing’ by Yaa Gyasi, 2016
… Started her love affair with the author: ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hesseini, 2007
Presenter and Executive Producer: Mariella Frostrup
Producer: Sera Baker
Music: Matt Clifford at Music and Voices
TBI Media Production for BBC Sounds