By: Rick Landers
Noah Benardout is a name that I expect we’ll hear a lot this summer. Backed by some of the top session players in the business, the young singer-songwriter nails down some superb pop-soaked melodies on his EP that includes a punchy romp called “Haley.”
As the music industry continues to grow and evolve, it’s always moving. When we hear about young talent emerging and working hard to gain a foothold in a world of music, that blends the need to create music coupled with the desire to have it be heard. I heard about Noah from famed rock photographer, Robert Knight, who told me that the young singer-songwriter was recently in the studio with the highly regarded record producer, Don Gehman, and that Noah had gigged with Slash.
Knight passed on to me a video of Noah in the studio with Gehman and a solid group of session players recording “Haley” for his new EP, What Will Be Will Be. The word on the street is that Noah’s been approached by a major production studio that’s interested in adding him to their roster of artists.
Rick Landers: Checking out your “Haley” video, you looked at ease and confident in the studio, working with a group of experienced musicians. How’d you feel when you started the studio session(s) compared to singing for your friends and family?
Noah Benardout: Being in the studio was something that I was really looking forward to. There was a lot of preparation for the studio sessions beforehand, which made the recording process easier and gave me that extra confidence. But, I also just had an amazing time being able to record with such an amazing team of people who really cared about the music.
Rick: Who are you working with in the studio? (musicians, engineer, etc.)
Noah Benardout: I was lucky enough to be able to have Don Gehman as my producer. He really understood the type of sound I was going for, but his direction and general wisdom of recording and being in the studio was so invaluable. Frank Rosato was the engineer. Frank is truly a Pro Tools virtuoso. He was able to move things around and change things so quickly it allowed everything else to move a lot faster.
On the drums we had Kenny Aronoff who I nicknamed “The Human Metronome!” In my opinion, his timing and precision along with his ridiculous drumming made the record. I had Chris Chaney on bass, who is a genius, honestly. His bass parts enhanced not only the melody but also the feel of each song.
For the lead guitars, I had Tim Pierce and my guitar teacher Javier Gutierrez. Javier recorded all the main lead guitar parts which sounded brilliant on their own, but we had Tim Pierce add a bunch of small parts here and there which, when put together, sounded so atmospheric and beautiful.
The EP ended up sounding so good because of this amazing team of people, and I’m really so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with them.
Rick: Your vocal style has a clarity that lends itself to pop music, maybe more than the gritty, down and dirty, vocals of hard rock. Do you find that you’re drawn to harder rock, but your voice works better with pop and R&B?
Noah Benardout: I love singing all types of music, but my main style would be indie rock. I guess it’s because my favorite bands are Coldplay, Doves, U2, Radiohead, Phoenix, so I’m drawn to that type of music much more. I’ve had experience singing other types of music though such as Gospel and Jazz.
Rick: Have you dug into some of the classic R&B and pop masters from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s to hear what’s gone before and to learn from their styles and arrangements?
Noah Benardout: Oh yeah, some of the best music ever written has come out of those eras, and I’ve definitely been inspired by the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Muddy Waters, Pink Floyd just to name a few.
Rick: Does your family have any background in music, or are you beginning a new family tradition?
Noah Benardout: My great great great uncle was Irving Berlin, so that’s pretty cool. So many of his songs are very inspirational to so many people, and it’s just incredible to learn about him and his contribution to music.
Rick: Are you a singer-songwriter? If so, tell us about how you generally approach writing a song? For example, do you just start noodling around on your guitar or are you always thinking up new tunes?
Noah Benardout: I write songs as much as I can; I’m always writing. Sometimes it’s the music that comes first, and sometimes it will be a cool lyric. I love to not know what I’m doing, which sounds dangerous, but a lot of the time it causes you to be creative and leads to the coolest things, such as interesting sounding chords, that you may not have known existed up until then.
But, I also write on the piano, which is a good thing to be able to do as well, because it helps you write different types of songs, rather than just songs on the guitar all the time.
Rick: Are you working on an album? What can you tell us about the tracks and the songs you’ve written? Any covers?
Noah Benardout: At the moment I’m preparing to do some shows and working on new songs that I’m going to play live. I’m also doing an acoustic cover of “In the Ghetto” by Elvis. I’m changing it up a bit, but keeping it soulful. But at the moment I haven’t started working on an album.
Rick: Many young performers get kick started and become well-known fast and furious, but then they lose momentum or get disillusioned with the business-side of music. What are you doing to try to make things happen and keep them manageable and moving forward?
Noah Benardout: Well I’m very lucky to have an incredibly supportive family around me and people around me who know about the business and advise me in my best interest. So, when it comes to moving forward and keeping things under control. I’m confident.
Rick: What kind of stage performance experience have you had once you decided to become a professional singer?
Noah Benardout: I’ve been performing all my life. In elementary school I did every talent show and musical, and once I got into junior high I continued to do talent shows but started to take part in my schools gospel choir which exposed me to a whole different type of spiritual music. By high school, though, I was only focusing on my music, and got to play with Slash at the Henry Fonda Music Box, which was a totally surreal experience for me.
Rick: What kind of outside interest have you been gathering recently that makes you think that you may have a long future in music?
Noah Benardout: Well, my music has been attracting a wide variety of listeners both young and old who are responding to the music, as opposed to me. Ultimately, it will always be about the music.
Rick: What do your friends think of your singer-songwriting ambitions?
Noah Benardout: My friends are very supportive of my music and have become some of my biggest promoters! But, I’m lucky to have friends that appreciate good music, as well.
Rick: Of your contemporaries who have “made it” in music, who do you think has made the most out of their success as an artist, but especially as a person?
Noah Benardout: There are so many amazing bands and artists. Coldplay is my favorite band though and they inspired me to become a musician at a very young age, and to see how they’ve used their success to help organizations such as OXFAM and CRISIS, is really inspiring and has motivated me to do the same, because it’s so important to give something back to the world. The key is also to stay relevant, even when you’re not playing music.
Rick: Having fun?
Noah Benardout: You know, these have been some of the busiest, most exciting, and challenging months of my life, but I wouldn’t change any of it for the world, because I’m doing what I love most, which a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to do. Plus, I have an amazing family and friends who I know will always have my back no matter what, so I’m over the moon about everything at the moment!