Seattle-based songwriter Noah Gundersen built a name for himself as a raspy-voiced folk singer who oscillated between Americana and piano ballads. And for the past decade, he had a fair amount of success with that formula — Gundersen’s records were well-received, his songs appeared on numerous TV shows and his track “Day Is Gone” was nominated for an Emmy in 2014. There was only one problem: He started to hate his own music.
So, when he sat down to write his latest record, “WHITE NOISE,” Gundersen faced an existential crisis of sorts. But instead of continuing down the same tried and true path, he stared down the problem and actively challenged himself to create something uncomfortable, new and, at times, very loud. The result is an incredibly dynamic and well-crafted release — one of the year’s best, in fact.
opbmusic’s Matthew Casebeer recently caught up with Gundersen before a recent show at Wonder Ballroom in Portland and discussed his new album and new sound.
On the drastic change from his past acoustic-driven music to the louder and fuller sound on the new record:
Noah Gundersen: Ultimately I’m the one that has to live with this every day. I have to go on tour and I have to play songs for people and I have to live with myself. The turning point came when I sat down at a show and had no desire to play my songs. And that was really sad because so much of my identity as a person is wrapped up in this job. And so I thought, if I’m going to continue doing this it has to be true to me, even if it’s maybe not what people expect out of me or what people have come to like about my music. But the response has been mostly positive. I think that I’m still in this music and people can hear that it’s still me. I didn’t change who I was as a person. It’s still Noah singing these songs. And I think that comes through. It’s just a different format. And some people don’t like it and that’s fine. But ultimately, I have to like it because I have to play these songs.
On the process of finding his new sound:
Noah Gundersen: I wrote about 20 songs before I started writing the songs that I felt would be the ones that would be on the record. Songwriting is like anything else. You have to practice it, and when you’re changing what your style is you have to get there by trying out different things. So I wrote a lot of different songs. You know, I was like, “Maybe it’ll be this Nine Inch Nails vibe. Maybe it’ll be like Paul Simon. Maybe it’ll be like Nick Cave.” And in a way, all of those little influences bled into what the album actually became. I’ve never been a very patient person and this process required patience and showing up every day.