Seattle-based singer Noah Gunderson took time to chat with us about his tour, which stops in Indianapolis tonight, and his new tour-only EP.
NUVO: So you’re prepping for a tour coming up soon. How are you preparing for your six weeks on the road?
Noah Gundersen: Of course there has been a lot of practicing, but I like to prep more emotionally for the travels. I like to see my friends before I leave in order to get my head into a connected, positive place. We are having a group of seven people packing into a 15-seat van, and I’m lucky enough to be traveling with people I consider some close friends. Coming along with me is my brother, our drummer, my sister, a bass player, a guitarist, a keyboardist, the tour manager and the merchandise coordinator — so a pretty big group.
NUVO: So the new EP has four new songs and a cover. How has your writing for this album been different from your creative process as a solo artist in comparison to being part of a group dynamic in the band?
Gundersen: The new record has more full band songs on it, and to balance that out I did some subtle acoustic songs, sung in one take and put straight to tape. We covered Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I was kind of nervous about it, I would compare it to someone covering “Let It Be.” We changed it up enough to make it our own, but it’s an ever-evolving process. I have become more confident in my abilities, trust my gut in the creative process and as a leader. In the past, I was afraid of over-directing people and I didn’t want to be in a leadership role. I wanted everyone in the band to be equals but more often than not someone’s the wheel. It’s gotten really fun. Everyone is invested and contributing, giving ideas and connections that I don’t always hear. But it’s a little more hierarchal than it has been in the past. As far as performing goes, I don’t want to cater to an audience. I know that there is certain way to perform that is appealing to the crowd, but like to keep things fresh and interesting. Although I care about what the audience perceives, I like to play for myself, and play thing I consider interesting. I like to switch it up.
NUVO: Are there any artists that you look at and would like to model your career after?
Gundersen: You mean besides Michael Jackson? [laughs] I really like Neil Young, and I respect him for doing what he wants, making records that are interesting to him. Even though some of those records have failed, he was still able to have a career. The era that he stared in was a little more forgiving than now, because it was less saturated. I’ve always wanted to be able to push myself and make mistakes, take risks. I don’t know what that looks like in the 21st century music industry. I respect Neil for making music for him. I always want music to be fresh and not recycling the same sounds to keep it fresh.
NUVO: Are there some songs that you have more love for, or some that mean more to you to play again?
Gundersen: I think I’m most in love with whatever is the most current. When the last album came out everything was fresh. Now that it’s coming onto a year [since the release], we would like to switch things up and rearrange the existing songs. Those are the ones I’m most excited to play. The thing about performing personal songs is that you can only be emotionally invested for so long. I try to dig up old emotions but its pretty draining. I engage sonically with the songs but I don’t dig up old feelings every performance, I try to connect with the ethos of the song more. It helps to see how the song makes me feel, seeing how I can channel my connection to it. I’ve been writing songs since I was 13, and there are songs that are still out there that I can’t authentically perform because they aren’t relevant to my life anymore. They’re not interesting to me any longer, and I want to be interested by what I was playing. That’s why I got into music in the first place.
Editor's note: Thanks to Drew LaCroix for transcribing this interview.