Music

Noah Gundersen

Making white noise

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Owing to what I do for a living, I’ve been lucky enough to see a whole bunch of bands a whole bunch of times. Usually, after multiple viewings, I will wonder if a band or musician still likes playing my favorite songs as much as I like hearing them.

I’m pretty sure I know the answer most of them would be too polite to tell me. At best, most bands likely have a love/hate relationship with their most-played material. At worst, they grit their teeth and grind it out night after night, still grateful for the fan support, but perhaps wishing that support would transfer itself to other parts of the set list.

Of course, musical lore is rife with stories of bands that hate their own hit songs. Radiohead famously refused to play “Creep” live for nearly a decade, singer Thom Yorke famously giving it the nickname “Crap.” Frank Sinatra crooned “Strangers In the Night” despite openly despising his chart-topper and introducing it at his concerts by saying things like, “I hated this goddamn song the first I’ve heard it” and “The worst fucking song I’ve ever heard.” Madonna hasn’t wanted to perform “Like a Virgin” since she was like a virgin. Supposedly, it is Robert Plant’s disdain for “Stairway to Heaven”—which he called “that bloody wedding song”—that continues to make Led Zeppelin a band divided.

Famous musicians can often get away with dropping songs—even big ones—from their performance rosters, but for artists on the way up, eschewing that which is still becoming familiar to audiences can be risky. But when the thought of playing their own songs leaves them less than artistically fulfilled, what’s a musician to do?

It’s not accurate to say Seattle’s Noah Gundersen hated the confessional folk fare he’d offered up on a series of EPs and full-length albums for the better part of a decade. To hear him tell it, he’d simply grown sick of his own music. As the story goes, he suffered an anxiety attack onstage a couple of years ago, which led to the stunning realization that he no longer connected to the songs he was playing. It was a strange feeling for Gundersen, whose intensely personal songs have always relied upon their ability to forge connections with those who hear them. And in fact, his ability to reach his audience with his music had not waned. But the artist found himself in the position of being unmoved by his own art.

For some, this might’ve constituted a musical crisis of faith. Gundersen, however, is a true believer. As such, he knew the anxiety attack was telling him his comfort zone was no longer quite so comfortable. It was time to evolve. Scrapping the sound that had earned him not only an ever-growing fan base and critical acclaim, but had also gotten his songs played on such television shows as Sons of Anarchy and the Vampire Diaries was a perilous proposition, but Gundersen didn’t hesitate to plunge headlong into something new.

The result of this plunging and evolving and risk-taking is his 2017 album, which the singer titled White Noise, and to call it a departure from what came before is an understatement—one that was made by design. When Gundersen found himself at a personal musical crossroads, he opted for the road not taken, but discovered that striking out in a new direction wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be. The songs on White Noise are more layered, lush, edgy—not to mention a lot louder—than anything you’ve heard from the musician before, but it took some hard, deliberate work in the studio to arrive at that destination.

However, Gundersen has not left his songwriter sensibilities in his past in order to realize his more dynamic musical present. He’s still plucking pages from his diary and sewing his heart to his sleeve and writing those introspective lyrics we’ve all come to expect. He’s just setting them against a backdrop of a full band rather than giving them the sparse instrumentation of albums past.

Gundersen’s artistic advancement has met with the range of responses such evolution always brings forth: delight, acclaim, skepticism and even some confusion. But something tells me he doesn’t much care. Judging by his tour schedule, he’s once again excited to play his own music—and to him, that’s the only white noise that matters.

Smoking Crow
More Music...
LeAnn Rimes
Making Patsy proud

Although she is just halfway into her third decade of life, LeAnn Rimes has somehow been a working musician for 27 years. During that time, the country singer has toured the world several times over, released multiplatinum albums, won a pair of Grammys, nabbed three Academy of Country Music…

more »
Rufus Wainwright
Of blessings and curses

Over the years, I have written about a number of the children of musicians who are carving out music careers for themselves. In doing so, I have done a fair amount of thinking about the ways in which having a musically famous last name can lift a person up while simultaneously weighing them…

more »
New Year’s Eve
Out with the old

I don’t know what phrases you plan to employ when it comes time to sum up 2017, but for many of us, words like “dumpster fire” and “unholy hellscape,” and “good god, what was that?” are the ones that come readily to mind.

Suffice it so say, it’s been a rough one.

Maybe…

more »
Events
Today
Lifestyle Talks

1:00pm|Ferndale Library

English Country Dancing

1:30pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Poetry Writing Group

5:30pm|Village Books

Jazz Jam

5:30pm|Illuminati Brewing

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

European Travelogue

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Tomorrow
Cascade Games Convention

9:00am|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Wild Things

9:30am|Lake Padden Park

Garage Sale and Health Fair

12:00pm|Settlemyer Hall

Books and Bites

2:00pm|Blaine Library

Post-Holiday Detox

2:00pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Coffee Tasting

3:00pm|Camber Cafe

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Bellingham Folk Festival

4:30pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Art Auction Gala

5:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Anacortes Women's March

6:00pm|Depot Arts Center

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Sierra Club Winter Member Party

6:30pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Xanadu

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Opera Scenes

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

The Flick

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Tropical Heat Wave Dance

8:00pm|Majestic

Space Trek, Backyard Brawl

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Five for Fighting

8:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Village Books Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Saturday
Cascade Games Convention

9:00am|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Garage Sale and Health Fair

12:00pm|Settlemyer Hall

Bellingham Folk Festival

4:30pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Xanadu

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

The Flick

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Space Trek, Backyard Brawl

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

VFW Breakfast

8:00am|VFW Hall

Smoking Crow Opening

9:00am|Smoking Crow

Mason Bee Management

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Nordic Ski Ambassadors

10:00am|SnoPark at Salmon Ridge

Plant Society Field Trip

10:00am|Birch Bay State Park

Skagit Eagle Festival

10:00am|Howard Miller Steelhead Park

March on Bellingham

10:00am|Bellingham City Hall

Winter Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Of marching and mending

12:00pm

Travel to Cuzco and Machu PIcchu

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Mysticism in Art

2:00pm|Skagit County Historical Museum

Mona Openings

2:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Cedar Weaving Workshop

2:00pm|Lynden Library

Teddy Bear Biographies

2:00pm|Ferndale Library

Exploring Port

2:00pm|Seifert & Jones Wine Merchants

Learn to Grow a Vegetable Garden

2:00pm|Sumas Library

The Fight Against Human Trafficking

3:00pm|Everson Library

Kindgom Quest

4:00pm|Village Books

Music and Memories

5:00pm|Swinomish Casino & Lodge

Robert Burns Supper

5:30pm|Littlefield Celtic Center

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Ensemble Electra

7:30pm|Jansen Art Center

The Good Lovelies

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Village Books Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 FiveFor