Noah Redfield (NOHA) is a New Jersey native/Hofstra graduate who recently released his debut album Scenes from a Breakdown. I talked to Noah to discuss his influences, the process behind creating this album, and where you can keep up with his future endeavors.
Dan: So did you study music in Hofstra or were you taking a different path at the time?
Noah: I went to Hofstra to study film, but I’ve always seen myself primarily as a writer. I just happen to be writing songs instead of scripts these days. But all my closest friends at Hofstra were musicians, so it was only a matter of time before I worked up the courage to start learning the guitar.
Dan: So you’re not an “I’ve been doing this my entire life” type of musician?
Noah: I’ve wanted to be a musician my whole life but I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was 23. But I’ve been writing my whole life. I wrote a lot of poetry in my teens, and in hindsight, I was honing my voice as a lyricist.
Dan: Who would you say are your main musical influences? I think Bob Dylan is the obvious answer (Don’t know if it was intentional but your song Queen Hannah reminded me of Queen Jane Approximately) so I’m curious about the others.
Noah: Interesting! That must have been a subconscious influence there. When I think of “Queen Hannah,” I think of Small Faces. Dylan is certainly a lyrical genius. Positively 4th Street is possibly the greatest “fuck you” songs ever written. My biggest songwriting influence is probably The Kinks. Ray Davies is in the pantheon of songwriters. I’m Not Like Everybody Else was the first song I learned how to play. I’ve got a gig in a few hours and I’m thinking of closing with it. Leonard Cohen has been another consistent influence — another lyrical god. Lou Reed, too, especially Coney Island Baby for this album.
For Scenes from a Breakdown in particular, the albums that had the biggest impact were Scott 4 by the late great Scott Walker, loads of Syd Barrett, the debut album by Insecure Men, the side project of Saul Adamczewski from Fat White Family — my favorite band by a country mile — as well as a ton of solo music from the Gallagher Brothers, actually. If I Had a Gun from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds has become a regular cover in my setlist. And I’m crazy about As You Were, Liam’s first solo album. I didn’t like it at first but it grew on me in a big way. Seeing him rise from the ashes has been a real source of inspiration for me. A lot of references to filmmakers, too. When I was thinking about how I wanted the album to sound, I stumbled upon this gorgeous acoustic ballad called 1917 Revolution by Beau. I hadn’t heard of him until recently but I instantly fell in love with this track. He evokes the thrill of revolution with just his voice and his strumming, yet it’s mesmerizing. It’s a lovely reminder that you don’t always need expensive equipment or dozens of instruments to make powerful, haunting music. I could drone about my influences for hours but I’ll reign it in there. Also, I made a Spotify playlist featuring a lot of my musical influences:
Dan: How long have you been performing live shows for and have you had any anxieties about performing in front of a crowd?
Noah: It was early 2013 when I worked up the courage to start playing live. I played as many covers as I could intersperse with all the originals I didn’t hate. There are four songs from that time period on the album: You’re Gonna Snap, Hot Mess, Queen Hannah, and Winter Day in Spring. Everything else was written in the last year or so. That’s how long it took to find my voice and hone my songwriting. I’m still working at it. I’m always anxious moments before I go on stage. I was a heavy drinker when I first started performing, so naturally, I thought I needed that liquid courage to go onstage. Initially, it was a fuel that helped me overcome my anxiety, but it didn’t take long before it affected my playing and songwriting. It took me a long time to regain my confidence after I stopped drinking but with sobriety came clarity and confidence in the material. It’s my unswerving belief in the music that gets me over those anxious doubts today. I wasn’t going to include anything on the album that I wasn’t completely happy with.
Dan: I’m happy to hear that you’ve come a long way in such a short period of time. Is there a song on the album you’re most proud of?
Noah: Mrs. Burroughs. One of those magical moments in which the lyrics simply flowed out of me. While we were recording it, producer Christian Titus suggested backing vocals to strengthen the feeling of a toxic relationship finally breaking down. Our first thought was Amanda Mac, the lead singer of a fantastic punk band in Long Island called Bad Mary. They’re recording a new album at the moment but they graciously used some of their studio time to record a vocal track. It was the album’s final missing piece. When Christian and I listened for the first time, we were blown away. Amanda’s performance is stunning, haunting. It makes the song. We’re talking about making more music together in the future.
Dan: I absolutely love that track and was going to ask you who that singer was. How did you come into contact with your producer Christian Titus? Also, what would you two say was the biggest challenge in getting this album into fruition?
Noah: Christian has been a close friend since college. After years of discussing various projects, we finally worked together on a podcast called Unseen Network, which is a collection of radio plays with different writers contributing. Our series is a surreal sci-fi comedy called Sir Callahan — we’ve written a second season and we’re going to get back to recording later this year — and in the process of making it, we developed a wonderful working relationship. Christian is a phenomenal collaborator because he’s a great audience member. He’s a bit of a mad scientist when we’re working but he’s always coming up with ideas for how to strengthen the music. The biggest challenge was in capturing the guitar sound. This was a real DIY operation. I wanted the guitar to sound as warm and robust as possible, which is difficult to capture if you’re just messing around with GarageBand on your laptop. Everything winds up sounding plastic and sterile unless you know what you’re doing. We experimented with different microphones and recording set-ups until we finally got it right.
Dan: I know the biggest issue for a lot of artists is funding for the project. Was that an obstacle you and Christian faced as well?
Noah: I funded the album myself. As you probably noticed, the album has a stripped-down sound. For the most part, it’s just me and the guitar. Fortunately, Christian has his own home studio space, so funding wasn’t much of an issue. Most of the budget went toward getting the album mastered. The joy of making the album was that we learned how to do it just by, well, doing it. We ultimately decided to use a condenser microphone to record the guitar externally. The pickup track was then mixed into the external track to achieve the sound we were looking for.
Dan: Do you think you’re going to keep that same kind of sound for the next album?
Noah: In my mind, with the exception of Zen Garden, all of these tracks are rock songs. The best way I can think to describe the sound is somewhere between The Kinks in the late 60s and The Michael Nyman Band in the early 80s. I’d like to take a stab at that on the next album. I’m already working a couple of new songs for that. I’m enormously proud of Scenes from a Breakdown but I see it as a stepping-stone toward something bigger. The response to the album has been fantastic but almost everyone has said that they want to hear these songs coming through a rock band. I couldn’t agree more.
Dan: I think this is a good note to end on. What’s the best way for people to keep up with your work and to hear about any upcoming performances?
Noah: Visit thisisnoha.com to subscribe to my mailing list for updates on future shows and livestreams. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where I’ll occasionally tease new material.
Scenes from a Breakdown is available as a digital download on thisisnoha.com as well as your preferred streaming platforms.