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This native Welsh soul musician Noah Francis Johnson is often compared to Marvin Gaye - he brings something new and refreshing to the industry
01.08.14 - 14:27 -
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The unconventional journey of a debut artist
Noah has been promoting his album “Life and Times” and has another album out later on in the year. :: SUR
There can’t be many musicians who can list their various career successes as a semiprofessional boxer, world dance champion and a trainee priest, but Noah Francis Johnson can. Even though Noah has kicked off his solo musical career somewhat later on in life, he tells me that his debut album ‘Life and Times’ is a very personal autobiography that he has been unconsciously writing since he was nine years old. Furthermore, since he has started producing music later on, he has more life experience and wisdom to bring to the table.
There is no doubt that Noah’s emotion-charged lyrics reflect his life journey, as the disc contains tracks dedicated to both his late father and late brother. Noah was greatly influenced by both his mother’s and father’s tastes in music and the fact that he started doing cover songs with his father at the age of seven as his father was also a performer.
Noah was part of a heavy metal band before deciding to leave and pursue the genre that had always called him, soul acoustic guitar music. He has been quoted as having the funk of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the soul of Marvin Gaye.
He has currently been touring around Spain promoting his debut album and will perform tonight at the Lounge of the Starlite Festival in Marbella with free entrance. Noah speaks about the fact that he was offered the chance to perform for either the Starlight Festival or Benicàssim but that Starlite was better-suited. “Ibelieve that the people attending the Starlite Festival will respond better and that the tracks of this specific album align more closely with the classy venue.”
Noah has other albums that he will be releasing in the future and one that comes out this November. He explained that he delves somewhat into other sounds on these albums but for now he isn’t straying far from his acoustic soul. “I first want people to see what I do, then a few albums in, I can experiment and branch out and try new things, but for now its acoustic guitar, cello and harmonica.”
The album to be released in November, ‘Tiger Bay’, is influenced and named after the area he grew up in Cardiff, Wales, where he experienced a certain level of racism. Noah’s dad planted the seed he needed to learn self defence at a young age and began his boxing career in which he won over 25 fights in a row. Noah follows up by explaining, “The Tiger Bay album gave me a chance to talk about darker topics and places and freed me in many ways.”
Noah tells me that boxing came very natural for him to the point that he was about to go pro, but “stumbled into dance”, which proved to be an even more natural talent for the musician as he began to win competitions all over the world. Dance then led Noah to singing on stage.
While speaking with Noah, it doesn’t take long to realize where his peaceful demeanor comes from. Noah mentions feeling spiritual since the age of seven and that it greatly influences his music. As he was training to be a priest, a clergyman told him one day very directly that he was born to be an entertainer and share his musical talent with the world. The clergyman told him that he would be able to channel his spirituality through making music. For Noah, spirituality and music go hand in hand as he says, “One song is worth a thousand prayers.”
During our interview, Noah provides me with a free mini concert, as well as many book and movie recommendations. He is transparent and sure of himself and it becomes obvious that his passions are placed at the forefront of everything he discusses.
Throughout the interview a certain sense of relief comes over me, as it shows through how seriously Noah takes his musical career and what he would like to see from more of today’s artists. As we are inundated with commercial music, it is hard to find musicians who produce their music with such a personal touch and with the level of originality that Noah does. He says, “Anytime I write a song that has a hint of someone else in it, I discard that song. That is why it takes me longer. Your words and your melody belong to you. That is what separates you from other artists.”
It becomes quite clear that Noah is someone who still believes in the hard work that it takes to build a career up and the amount of time it takes to develop as an artist. “Back in the old days, people would earn their stripes and then they would come through as seasoned professionals. They say that the first album of an artist is just you shedding your skin, then, with the second, third and fourth albums, this is where you find the mettle of the artists and if they will be around for a while. Today it seems like many artists skip important steps in building themselves musically.”
When asked how he feels about where music is going these days Noah mentions those artists who gain fame for a few years and then disappear off the map compared to others who produce music their whole lives and become iconic. His tone is slightly nostalgic in mentioning how today we are missing those iconic music figures: “Can you match me with names of artists today that are on the same level as Michael Jackson and Prince? It’s just impossible.”
Noah had been visiting Spain long before he signed a record deal and was placed on the international musical map. “ There is a warmth here in Spain that I don’t always feel I get back in my hometown in Wales.”
Noah has worked with many well known figures such as Slayer, Lenny Kravitz, Metallica, and Jamiroquai and says that it always amazes him how different musicians tap into different musical sides of him.
This is clearly just the start of a long journey ahead for this artist. Noah is a refreshing figure to see in today’s music market.