Noah Gundersen. Photo by Matt Cairns.
Ready for the best show of the year? Noah Gundersen is back in town TONIGHT for a SOLD OUT show at the Mercy Lounge with openers Owen Beverly and Nashville locals The Vespers. Last March, we caught Noah’s incredible performance at Mercy Lounge and have since been haunted by its memory. Without exaggeration, it was unforgettable, and we compare the experience to… well, actually there isn’t much that compares. Noah’s range from jaw gritting intensity to soft tones of tenderness is gripping, and his lyrics smoothly maintain the ability to be both relatable and poetic.
Sometimes life gives us lemons, and other times it gives us an interview with Mr. Noah Gundersen. Yep, life was good this week. For us, we would have been just as psyched to chat it up with Paul McCartney, so we began our conversation with jumping jacks and a swig of eighty proof liquid courage. Follow the jump to find out what happened next.
NO COUNTRY: So, you’re on the road a lot, I figure, and your home is still in Seattle?
NOAH GUNDERSEN: Yeah, I got to be home for a bit this summer, so it was really nice. My parents have a house near Lake Washington, and we got to have a lot of good barbecues and, obviously, got to record a new record, so it was good down time. But I kind of get to the point after a few months where I get itchy feet and I’m ready to get back on the road again
Yeah, I understand that traveller’s bug. So, with the traveling and always being on the road, I bet you have some crazy stories of people you’ve met or places you’ve stayed. Do you have any in particular you want to fill our readers in on and entertain them a bit?
Yeah, man, there are some weird ones. One that comes to mind is that we were in Florence, Alabama, which is, I have to say, the people of Alabama are great, but that state can be a bit odd sometimes. We showed up to this venue and the owner or the guy running the show, showed up in an orange jumpsuit. It was sort of near Halloween, but it wasn’t on Halloween and it seemed odd that he was in an orange jumpsuit.
Like he just escaped from something.
Yeah, and he didn’t say anything about it or give any explanation, it was just like, ‘Ok, the guy who runs this venue has an orange jumpsuit on.’ It was a bit confusing, and we didn’t get to ask him about it because he had to leave for some reason. So, he came in the jumpsuit and then left. And then during that show, I think a knife was pulled on someone who was talking too much during the set by another member of the audience, which was intense, but nice to know that my fans want people to listen. Maybe knife pulling isn’t always the best choice.
We’ll quote you on that to make sure that everyone knows.
Yeah, maybe no knife pulling at any shows would be appreciated, as much as I appreciate the gesture. Then, at the end of the show, there was this lava lamp on stage. It was like a satan head in a red lava lamp. The guy in the orange jumpsuit came back, and I asked if I could buy it from him. He ended up just giving it to me, and we had this huge talk, and it turned out he was Wiccan and he had a meeting, which is why he had to leave. So all this, but then at the end we never found out why he was in the orange jumpsuit. We think maybe there was some sort of theme for the Wiccan party that night, but, yeah. Thats the only time the owner of a venue has showed up in an orange prison jumpsuit.
Moral of the story: Be careful in Alabama and don’t talk too much during Noah Gundersen shows.
Yeah, be careful.
Noted. We’ll be careful at your show. We didn’t know you had such violent fans.
I think the Nashville crowd is pretty friendly and unarmed as far as I have experienced.
We hope so! I haven’t seen anything like that. That’s crazy. Do you have any new stuff coming out?
Well, on this tour we have a new EP that I recorded straight to tape in the studio this summer. It has a couple new songs and a cover called “Twentysomething”. We have that out exclusively available at shows for the moment. Then I also recorded another full-length record, which will be coming out sometime next year.
Next year! Any hints on the name?
I don’t actually have a name yet. I’m still kinda working it out. The first pass at titling was a little melodramatic, so I’m trying to find something that is poignant but not melodramatic.
Recently, I’ve been reading up on your tour journal. It seems like your entries have picked up a little bit in the last couple of months.
Yeah, honestly the reason for that has been because of interviews, surprisingly. A couple of people have asked me towards the beginning of this tour about my journal which I have been doing, I think– I don’t even think I was really journaling on the tour earlier this year. I think it was last year I was journaling and for some reason it came up, and I’ve had enough people ask me about it that I thought I’d give it another shot. It’s actually been kind of nice; rewarding to have a second outlet for expression. And giving people a little bit, or some sort, of insight to tour life.
Yeah, a view into your life. Keep it up! It’s pretty great!
Specifically, I was wondering about your entry from Halloween. Throwing fire? It seems like you had a pretty cool Halloween!
I did have a cool Halloween! We were in Toronto, which is a great city for us. We’ve only played there about three times now, and each time has been a great experience. The crowd is always rowdy, but in the best way. And everything was especially rowdy since it was Halloween. Me and a couple guys in the band have a side project called Sideboob, which is just a rock ‘n’ roll band. So we put on some masks and opened the show as Sideboob for ten minutes, which was fun. It was one of the nights where you feel the electricity in the air. Even at the beginning of the day I was feeling like things were going to get weird that night, but it was a good weird. Definitely.
Awesome! Is there a place where we could check out Sideboob?
Not yet. Right now it’s just been the three of us jamming in my basement, but we’ll see! Its nice to have a totally different musical outlet.
Do you think Sideboob will make an entrance at the Nashville show?
Ah, we’ll see! You never know when Sideboob is going to show up! We’re kind of like Spider-man.
On the songs that you’re working on now, which might mean the most to you? Are there any special ones?
I think they’re all special in a way, because its a lot of autobiographical material again. I don’t know, it’s hard to pick out one song, when I feel like they all resiginate from a specific snapshot of my life.
Right, so you say each album comes from a certain time in your life and maybe some of the old stuff isn’t relevant to you anymore?
Yeah, yeah, which is a tricky thing about performing songs live. I have to find that balance of songs that I can still find meaning in and songs that people want to hear, that maybe I don’t relate to as much, or songs that I have just gotten sick of playing. That’s always a battle, because I want to make sure people hear the songs they want to hear, but, at the end of the day, it’s going to be a better show if I’m enjoying the songs that I’m playing. So it’s a battle. On this tour we’ve been switching up, and adding to some of the arrangements of the songs, just to make sure they are fresh to all of us. Which has been a lot of fun.
I noticed at your last show at the Mercy Lounge, you guys, from my perspective, seemed to have thrown a different spin on “Fire.”
Yeah, and on this tour it’s even louder.
Yeah, we keep progressively getting louder with every tour, and so we’ll all just have full Marshall stacks and the songs will be unrecognizable because we want to play loud.
That won’t actually happen, but it is fun to create dynamics in a set and to be able to rock out a little bit and also bring it down and have a bit of an arc in the musical journey.
So coming back to Nashville, and having a song titled “Nashville,” it seems like this a special place for you?
I love Nashville! Ironically, I wrote that song before I had ever been there. It was written about my perspective of the corporate music world and becoming disillusioned with empty or shallow songs. It’s a fictional story that’s written about a failed songwriter in Nashville, driving to Canada to kill himself. It’s really a morbid song. But, now that I’ve been to Nashville several times, I really love it. I even considered moving there for a period this summer, but I just love the Northwest too much. But, yeah, I have a lot of good friends in Nashville. I love the restaurants. I try to go to Silly Goose every time I’m there and bars like Crying Wolf and 308. And we’re going to go get some tattoos on our day off in Nashville. I love the city a lot.
How is touring with your brother and sister?
It’s really good. Abby and I have been touring together for a long time, and we’ve worked out a lot of kinks. Our relationship is really healthy now and is based on a lot of communication. Not that it was ever unhealthy, but working with family is awesome, but also sometimes you have to work through some shit because you can’t just fire somebody or be mad at each other. She’s awesome and she puts up with a lot of masculine bullshit. So, I’m grateful she puts up with that.
Yeah, that makes sense. There’s no way I could tour with my brothers. We would kill each other.
A lot of it is just about communication and being real with each other.
Right. You guys make a great team from our perspective. To mention the Mercy Lounge show again, your dynamic with your sister is way cool and how you opened it up with… that a cappella one?
Yeah, “Poor Man’s Son.”
Yes! Great stuff. It’s cool that you guys are all so musically talented and can do that together.
Thanks! Oh and just to clarify, we decided to move the show back to the Mercy Lounge. We decided it would be a better more intimate fit and I’m actually really excited about it because I like that venue.
So, do you have any bands you think we should check out right now? We’re all a bunch of music lovers here and, with the music you make, you must have great taste.
Yeah, I’ve been into the new Field Report, the new Ben Howard record, and this hip-hop group called Run the Jewels. Just got turned onto this mathy prog-intrumental-metal band called Animals As Leaders. All sorts of stuff.
I think Ben Howard is coming to Nashville in January. Maybe you should make a visit.
Maybe! Yeah, I love his record, it’s super great.
What’s your favorite concert you’ve ever attended?
There’s been a couple. I think for Abbey’s sixteenth birthday, a while ago, we went to see Damien Rice in Seattle, at this place called Benaroya Hall, which is this 3,000 capacity symphony theater for the Seattle Symphony performances. That was a pretty landmark show for both of us, to see something so powerful, yet intimate. It was an inspiration for both of us, and we both came away with the feeling of ‘this is what re-instilled our love of what we get to do for a living,’ even though, at the time, we weren’t doing this for a living.
Yeah, how was that, before you made it your full time gig? What were you doing before and how did you transition?
I had a lot of jobs. I worked at Starbucks for a couple years, [and] in construction with my dad. I decided to do this full time when I was eighteen. So, I kind of couch surfed for a year, then I wanted to move to Seattle because I was from a small town south of Seattle, but needed a proper job to live there. I put up an ad on Facebook and a fan hooked me up with a job at a tanning salon, which is the last place I thought I would ever work, but I desperately needed some income. So I worked there for a couple of months, then a buddy got me a job at a guitar store and I worked there for about two years and spent a lot of my income at my place of employment. I bought a lot of gear. Then, I ended having some songs on some TV shows and stuff, and the income from that allowed me to transition into the full time music gig.
Sons of Anarchy, right?
We have a lot of young musicians here in Nashville, obviously. What advice would you give them?
I think the number one priority is to be as good at what you do as possible. Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism and find people you trust who will give critiques, and take that advice with a grain of salt. Try things out, and, if they don’t work, try something else. That and be decent to people. I wouldn’t say just suck your way up to the top, no one likes a suck up, but I’ve had so many experiences in my life where just doing my best to be a decent person and interacting with strangers has led to some pretty incredible things that I really had no control over; just being in the right place at the right time. But I think being a personable and just a nice person can do a lot for you, coupled with a dedication to your craft and a desire to grow. Never settling, but also knowing you’ll never arrive.Theres no arrival point. Your ship never comes in and [makes you] set. It’s always about growth. I think I’m always trying to be better at what I do. [NC]
Noah Gundersen, Owen Beverly, and The Vespers will perform tonight, Nov. 11 at Mercy Lounge. The show is 18+ and begins at 8 p.m. (doors at 7 p.m.), but, unfortunately, tickets are sold out.