In the midst of his European tour that will take him, amongst others, to Norway, where he will meet his ancestors for the first time, Dust and Soul caught the US-born Noah Gundersen folk singer to have a chat in Madrid.
1. You grew up in Seattle, listening to Dylan, Neil Young… how was the music scene in Seattle by then?
I grew up in a small town outside of Seattle and moved to Seattle when I was 20. There were a lot of indie bands playing, not much of a grunge scene anymore. I remember bands like The Gloves, Lonely Forest… It was exciting.
2. You´ve released some EPs and 4 LPs, White Noise being the fourth. It looks like the difference between this album and the previous ones is, among others, time. You´ve had one year to fully write and achieve something that you are satisfied with, which apparently did not happen with Carry The Ghost. Do you regret writing Carry The Ghost?
There are definitely things that I wish didn’t exist, out in the world, that I have made. But at the same time I think that all those things have been a part of my progression as an artist. I don’t want to insult those things or the people that like them because I’m grateful for that. Making songs and music has always been a way to understand myself better. And I’m constantly changing, so my conception of art reflects how I’m growing as a person.
3. Why did you choose naming this album White Noise? What is White Noise for you?
I think a lot of the things I was thinking about when I was writing the album had a lot to do with how overwhelmed I was feeling due to the things that were going on around me. Overwhelmed with the political climate, this inability we have to detach from technology, and then just all the voices in my head. There’s a lot I was trying to direct within me, so it seemed an appropriate name because a lot of it is just noise. There’s also a book by Don Delillo called White Noise that talks a lot about mortality that I was reading at the time, that a lot of impact in me.
A lot of great art in the past has come from boredom, allowing yourself to have free time. Technology keeps us constantly busy and sometimes I feel that, because of that, we are missing out ideas.
4. Regarding the production process: you self-produced all of your albums except this one. For the first time you partnered with a friend to produce your music. Can you talk about this process?
With White Noise I felt like I needed some outside perspective to help me do something new and different. So I hired my friend Nate Yaccino. I met him through mutual friends, he was making music in Seattle and I always thought he was an interesting guy. He put a lot of time and effort in this record, he worked very hard.
5. It´s funny because when I listened to Cocaine, Sex and Alcohol I immediately thought about Radiohead. And then, watching an interview on youtube you did for the promo of the album, you said you were listening a lot of Thom Yorke when writing this album. I think we can clearly see that in this song. You also said you were listening to Neil Young, because, both him and Yorke are able to create a mood more than telling a story with their music, and you wanted to achieve that as well. What else were you listening to when writing White Noise? Do you think you achieved what you wanted?
I was listening to a lot of different things, Radiohead, Nick Cave, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Tom Petty… And I think I did achieve what I was looking for. I made the record that I wanted to make at the time. Also I’m sure that the next thing will be different.
6 Thematically, I´ve read you wanted to talk about identity, social media… we were very surprised when we asked Stu Larsen about this because he told us he was super addicted to Instagram… what is your view on social media?
I think it’s really complicated because it’s a really valuable tool, but again, going back to that concept of noise, “everything all the time”, I think it makes us be easily distracted. I was talking to someone the other day about how a lot of great art comes from boredom, about how allowing yourself to be bored creates ideas. That’s when ideas can happen. I worry that because I´m always consuming myself with something, I’m missing out ideas. But there are also wonderful things about technology, I can tour all over Europe using GPS on the phone, and see what my friends are doing, I can talk to people back home, I love that part. But overall I don’t really love it. I don’t like what it’s done to people, we all seem pretty addicted to it.
7. Was the song Fear & Loathing named after the movie?
No, it’s named after a made-up town, modeled after the town I grew up in. It’s a small really conservative town. It used to be a railroad and farming town but now neither of those industries are there anymore. So people have lost their sense of identity and are afraid of change. I think it’s the way a lot of people in America are right now and that’s why we have this president, because a lot of people were afraid of change.
8. Between Carry The Ghost and White Noise you´ve been producing for others I believe? Like David Ramirez. Who else did you work with?
There is a guy named Scott Ruth that I produced some songs for. That’s about it, I will be doing some more producing next year I think. But lately I’ve been focusing on my work.
9. You are playing Café Berlin tonight, after that you have a lot of shows in Germany, Netherlands, Denmark… Are you particularly excited for any of these countries / venues?
I get to get to Scandinavia for the first time, my family is Norwegian. So I’ll be meeting my family that lives there for the first time. I’m very excited about that.
10. How are you relaxing outside the music world these days? What are you reading?
Right now I’m reading a book called The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. A friend that was living in my house left it on my table right when I was about to leave to this trip. So I picked it up randomly and I’m loving it!