By Todd Peterson
February 19, 2004 10:54 AM

As Norah Jones’s “Feels Like Home” sold an astonishing 1 million copies in its first week on the shelves, one thing was clear: It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

It was just two years ago that Jones released her debut album, “Come Away with Me.” The disc went on to sell 17 million copies worldwide (it recently reentered the Top 20 with the release of “Feels Like Home”), and net Jones five Grammy awards.

Despite Jones’s success, “Feels Like Home,” which hit shelves Feb. 10, still shattered expectations, and it’s now the best-selling debut for an album in nearly three years, since ‘N Sync’s “Celebrity” sold nearly 2 million copies in July 2001.

But to hear Jones talk about her music-making process and the way in which she deals with fame, it’s a reminder that it wasn’t always this way for the 24-year-old performer. Even after “Come Away with Me” hit shelves, Jones was in such financial straits that the young singer-songwriter with the oh-so-big voice thought she would have to abandon her already-cheap Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment for an even less-expensive living situation.

When the album really started to take off, the situation did not improve immediately. Her life went from a lack of financial attention to a surfeit of it — overnight. She rebelled by refusing to walk the red carpet at the Grammys and by showing up for a publicity photo shoot in a dress from Target, asserting her individuality.

That individuality is as apparent on “Feels Like Home” as it is on “Come Away,” although Jones still has her misgivings about the new album. “I like this new record, but not better (than ‘Come Away’); it’s just different,” she recently told The New York Times Magazine.

But, she added, “A record is just a snapshot of where you are at any time. Making records is fun. It’s not some big statement. You’re allowed to make mistakes.”