NAO Biography

Neo Jessica Joshua, who was born in Nottingham, England, and was raised in East London, started playing the piano when she was very young. She later became serious about singing as a young adolescent. She studied vocal jazz at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and after graduating, she worked as a singing instructor in South London for a while.

Prior to making her initial moves as a solo artist, Joshua created and recorded music as a member of the vocal ensemble the Boxettes, appeared at Glastonbury Festival with Shlomo’s Vocal Orchestra, and performed background vocals. Labels were interested in Joshua’s SoundCloud uploads in 2014, but she decided to start her own outlet, Little Tokyo, with the release of the EP So Good, which featured an A.K. Paul collaboration as its lead track and title.

The second Nao EP, February 15, was published in May 2015, immediately following the release of the Joshua and Mura Masa duet “Firefly.” Neo Jessica Joshua was happy to stay in the background and teach singing up until the middle of the 2010s, when she and her bandmates started to mix up a collection of light, sentimental ballads and eccentric grooves that sounded forward-thinking and approachable but purposefully deviated from mainstream sounds.

The exceptionally talented vocalist, songwriter, and producer, known as Nao, established a name for herself in 2015 with a pair of well-received EPs and a standout appearance on Disclosure’s Caracal. She describes her hybrid sound as “wonky funk” and calls it “hybrid funk.” Before releasing her Top 20 U.K. album For All We Know, a full-length debut that earned her a spot on the BBC’s Sound of 2016 shortlist and a nomination for Best British Female Solo Artist at the Brit Awards, she had already been nominated for a MOBO.

The 2018 release of Saturn, which was nominated for the Mercury Prize and a Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album, was preceded by high-profile soundtrack placements (two songs appeared on the television series Insecure), featured appearances on recordings by the likes of Chic, and other notable soundtrack placements.

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