Noah Gundersen on What Led Him to Create His Loudest Album yet
Noah Gundersen has followed the tradition of thoughtful Seattle-bred singer-songwriters by crafting emotionally-charged folk albums since 2008. Often touted as a confessional writer, he’s spent the better part of the last decade swooning over his personal circumstances. His first two albums – 2014’s “Ledges” and 2015’s “Carry the Ghost” – exemplified this perfectly with pleny of acoustic charm. Gundersen recetly returned with something slightly different, something that laments on the abstract and on the greater world around him. September’s “White Noise” not only found the 28-year-old expanding his vision lyrically, but sonically as well and within a louder package.
Before the kick off of the second leg of his two-part world tour, Gundersen spoke with Entertainment Voice about his latest project, his tour and how he envisions his personal growth as an artist.
There’s been a lot said about your growth as a songwriter and musician since “White Noise” was released. But what’s your own personal impression of your creative growth?
It’s hard to say because I’m living in my own dream most of the time. I’ve grown and changed as a person so I think it’s only natural that my creative expression would grow and change. I think that’s very normal and healthy. I’m not the same person I was when I made those songs like five years ago. My tastes have changed and my life experiences have changed and I wanted to make something that reflected that evolution.
With this new album, you’ve managed to make it feel more rock-oriented. Do you feel like this has a bit more edge than your previous works?
Yea, I mean it’s just different. Well, obviously it’s louder (laughs). There’s no questions. There’s not really much of a question whether or not it’s louder. There’s not much acoustic guitar on it.
You’ve talked in the past about being super competitive, how when someone you know puts out a great record you feel obligated to “make something better.” Now that “White Noise” is out, do you find yourself grading your finished work in comparison those people or is that something you try and avoid?
Once it’s out it’s out. There’s always things I would go back and do differently if I could, but we spent a lot of time on this record and I was more patient with it than I was on previous records. I gave myself the time and the room to go in and double-check all those little things on the way that I had maybe some kind of doubt in. We went over with a fine toothed comb and all the choices in there are really intentional. During the process of making it, there (were) definitely records that came out that I was really impressed with and inspired by and there was that really healthy competition thing where I was trying to make something good, if not better.
You’ve mentioned everything from Lionel Richie to Blink-182 to Serge Gainsbourg as having influenced this album in one way or another. Do you normally delve into other artist’s works for inspiration when creating an album, or is it just sort of like you happen to come across this song or that song and something struck you?
This was the first one where I think I was intentionally searching in other people’s work for inspiration. I think I was kind of afraid of that before. There’s this naïve idea that true creativity can only come from some place inside of you, which I think is not true at all. I think we’re all just continuing on this lineage of other music that has come before us. So I was able to finally be okay with that and look to other artists for inspiration. I think there’s always a fear that you’re going to rip somebody off or something. That’s a lot harder to do than you think actually. Even if you do attempt to mimic or sound like another artist, you’re still filtering it through your own voice and lens so it ultimately becomes changed to fit the shape of your own expression.
On “Fear and Loathing” you sing about how the small towns and cities in America are having their identities washed away by things like corporatization. During this multi-leg tour you’re on, you seem to be visiting a lot of the smaller market cities. Did you want to make it a point to visit these often overlooked places?
I make it a point to get to as many places as possible in general. My booking agent send me the routing and I usually just say, ‘Yea, let’s go!’ I wouldn’t say I set out intentionally to visit particular places, but we’re just trying to get to as many cities as we can.
Now that have the first leg of the tour has wrapped, what is going through your mind before embarking on the second leg in January?
It’s been quite a blur. We have this joke that “tour is always somewhere between appearing like a movie and a fever dream.” It leans one way or the other… It’s really fun to play this album live. Our fans are wonderful. We’ve had so many people come, you know, five, ten times before and keep coming back, so I’m just trying to do them the service that they’re doing to us. I want to meet their expectations and hopefully give them the experience that is meaningful, more than just going to see some band play at a bar.
How have you enjoyed performing some of the more abrasive songs on the record live, songs such as “After All” and “Number One Hit of the Summer”?
My voice is definitely taking a beating on this tour because there’s a lot of singing, but yea it’s just fucking fun to play, man. I was just bored playing singer-songwriter music and it’s nice to plug in a guitar and get loud.
You recently mentioned how “it’s nice not being in a box anymore” when talking about the album. Now that you’re outside of this metaphorical box, have you thought ahead about experimenting with your sound even more in the future?
Yea, I’m always working on something. I’ve been writing a few tunes on tour for the next record. I have a few other projects that I’m working on. I just feel creatively really excited for these next couple of years. I feel like I’ve opened a new door and I’m just going to walk down this new path and see where it takes me. And not overthink it, just allow myself to be creative and explore new and different ideas.