It seems like it was only yesterday when "The River" hit airwaves, sending shockwaves throughout the industry about a new, authentic artist who was keeping the heartfelt storytelling of soul music alive. Now, Noel Gourdin is on his third album, City Heart, Southern Soul; he's at a new label home, Shanachie Entertainment, and is staying true to his sound. And per our convo, it doesn’t seem he plans on straying from the formula that has gained him his own lane on the R&B highway, either! Check out what Noel had to say about carrying a torch for soul music, his new label home at Shanachie, being a family man, and more.
It seems you stayed true to your down-home, soulful sound. How does City Heart, Southern Soul differ from your past two albums?
It was great to have the creative freedom from the beginning of the project to the end, from the record making, to picking the producers, the writers that I wanted to work with personally, going through images and picking the art, I wanted to be hands on throughout the process. So getting to do that was great because from After My Time right through Fresh: The Definition it seems like it’s become increasingly more and I love that, to feel like I’m touching every aspect of the project. I’ve definitely continued with the thing that I’ve pretty much become known for, which is coming up with concepts and stories that people can relate to, stories that are timeless and can touch people’s hearts, people from ages 2 to 92 can be cable to listen to. You don’t have to sit next to and monitor the volume at family reunions. I always try to make music that’s universally relative. The feel of the music was very close to me, more live instrumentation that means a lot to me to be able to make authentic music to carry on the legacy of old soul of the past.
How has living in both rural and urban areas influenced the sound of your music?
I definitely believe that because growing up in Brockton which is 20 miles south of Boston, I was always with my pops and he was always playing all the old soul music, so that was pretty much my foundation, but when I wasn’t with my pops I was with my older brother, and he was playing hip-hop, the R&B and the New Jack Swing, so I always had a love for that type of music. So it did inspire a part of my style, I pretty much melded those genres of music. Of course the hip-hop and New Jack Swing was synonymous with the north and the south was synonymous with the soul music, and me spending time in both the north and south seeing how life was in each location went into my style and coming up with what everybody knows as Noel Gourdin.
What’s your favorite song on this album?
It’s gonna seem cliché but probably “Heaven Knows,” the first single. It deals with things in relationships I think are very relatable, two people that care about each other unquestionably, but have difficulties keeping their relationship together, infidelities and such, and people cheating on each other. I think two people are never gonna get it right until they stop thinking selfishly and put that respect and love in one another like it was then they first got together. And it talks about how people surrounding the relationship can affect it, you know, that happens. So I think that record speaks to a lot of folks. We didn’t notice this until after, but it [“Heaven Knows”] seems like a couple of chapters after “The River,” after the people reclaim their love, and that was unconscious. There are a lot of other records that I love, “Can’t Wait” with Avery Sunshine. It’s my first actual duet so it’s very special to have that record and the very beautiful and talented Avery Sunshine with me on this album.
This is your debut on Shanachie Entertainment. How’s it been with your new label so far?
It’s been great. I’ve been through some things in the past, where it was, metaphorically speaking, an arm wrestling match. I haven’t had any of those, they haven’t stood in the way of me being creative and letting my creative juices flow. And the way my management team, Top Notch, they’ve been working with Shanachie very well, and everything’s just been positive. I just can’t wait to get this album out, my last album came out in 2011, and my supports have been looking out for me, and we’re so thrilled that people will finally be able to hear this music, so I’m excited.
Tell us about how the short, Christmas offering One Gift came about.
That was the initial idea, but to be honest, I didn’t even really wanna do it because it was at a point where I was working on a Christmas album. I thought were gonna slate it up for sales, something cheap to hold folks over until the album came out. But me, when it comes to giving free music, I’ve always looked at it this way: why does certain genres, that don’t even get the respect of music anyway, have to give it away? My management team was like, “Look it’s a great marketing tool. You have fans and supporters who's been looking for music from you, and it’s a great way to cause a little marketing stir.” Honestly, it was a great move, I have a team that I can trust. It was a gift to be able to give music away to supporters who have supported me from the gate. I put one original Christmas record I was working on from my original Christmas album. These were records that didn’t make the cut for the album, people were like “These are good, I would’ve paid for this,” but the industry has changed tremendously, and it’s things like this that can help, so it was a good move.
Your music is women-friendly, meaning you know how to woo via your voice and lyrics. Have much of your personal relationships with women, whether it’s your mother and/or sisters, or romantic relationships played a part in your songwriting content?
Definitely, that’s the way I’m able to be vested in those lyrics when I go in the booth. Obviously people that really listen to music, listen, not just hear it, but can tell when something is not really genuine. I pull from things I’ve gone through, whether it’s relationships. I have a big family, and I have a lot of relationships going on in my family and I get called very often for relationship advice, but first and foremost it [inspiration] starts with me. There’s no better way to relay that message on track unless you have an emotional tie to it.
That being said, you seem like the settle-down type. Is that a goal for you?
It’s definitely a goal, I want all that, I want children. I am not married yet, but I am in a relationship and we’ve been practicing for kids. We haven’t blown the whistle and started the game officially, but we have been practicing (laughs). Definitely looking forward to having kids, but I wanna be able to be home and do the things I think an expectant father to do and right now it’s just crazy with all the music, but we working on it and think it will be coming about really soon. I have a whole slew of nieces, nephews, and godchildren, it’s kinda like they’re giving me the practice. I have sleepovers when I’m home, but I’m having a good time just practicing, and then I’ll know just what I have to do.
You’ve said that people often confuse you with Jaheim and Anthony Hamilton when it comes to knowing who sings your hit “The River.” Is that ever frustrating?
It is frustrating, but to be confused with artists such as Jaheim and Anthony Hamilton, I joke with them when I see them on the road, I’m like, “you guys just have to have all the hit records, right?” and we have a laugh. But it is a little frustrating that people can’t make the tie, but what are you gonna do? All I can do is just continue to try to not hide my face when I’m singing the song or on the road (laughs). I’ve made that a conscious effort on the last album, not wearing a lot of glasses just to show people that this is me. “I love that song! Just didn’t know it was you!” I’ve gotten that so so many times, but I’d rather people love the record and not know who I am, then have them not hear the record and know who I am laughs). It’s like a catch 22, if you will. It’s almost going back to when I first started out: just letting people know that I’m serious and passionate about my music, performing at any hole in the wall club, and make the best music that’s within me to make.
Who are some artists you would like to tour/work with?
I’d love to work with Joe, I’ve toured with Joe, but I’ve love to make a record with him. There’s Anthony Hamilton, and there’s something in the pipelines with us. I would love to work with R. Kelly, who I think is one of the best of our time, he’s an absolute genius. And some of the greats that are still here: Al Green, I’d love to work with Stevie Wonder. I got the chance to work with Avery Sunshine and earlier last year I got the chance to work with Angie Stone. The list is getting bigger and bigger but hopefully I’ll be able to touch down in a studio and work with a lot of these people.
I would never thought you would’ve said Al Green, but it makes sense, that would be hot.
I think I would be really dope to make more of that retro-relent music, cause his music is timeless. I would love to make that timeless music, so when you pick it up 15 years from now, it would sound like we just cut it yesterday, I would love to get in the studio with all of those artists.
What does Noel like to do on his down time?
I love to hang out with family, like I said, I’m trying to get as much practice in as I can with trying to learn these kids (laughs). When I can, I jump online with my nieces and nephews up in Boston. So they love to play these shooters online so I get on and I stink it up pretty bad, but it’s always good to be able to just talk to them, see how they doing in school while we’re playing. So I love to do that, and I work out, and I like to go out to spots, lounges, have a drink or two, listen to new talent, karaoke and things of that nature. And writing! I’m always making new records, just keeping my hand busy with penning new records, so there’s quite a few things I love to do when I DO have downtime. Doesn’t happen a lot, and I’m kinda happy about that cause in this industry as an artist if you’re not busy, then there’s something wrong, so I’ll take it as it comes.
Any upcoming plans to tour/future show dates?
I have L.A. on the 14th, we have some things in the works in San Francisco on the 15th, then I’m actually gonna be in Ohio at the end of February, I believe I’m gonna be in Columbus, it’s been a while since I’ve been to Ohio. So stay tuned and check out dates on my website NoelGourdin.com, and as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, they’re all @NoelGourdin.