It’s been a busy year for 23-year Old, Winnipeg-born singer-songwriter, Noah Derksen. After winning the VoiceCouncil Winter Singing Competition 2015, Noah has produced two albums, toured across America and Canada and secured a college degree in the field of Science.
VoiceCouncil decided to catch up with Noah while on the road of his latest tour.
From your success in 2015 with the VoiceCouncil competition to your first album and now to your second album and tour, how would you describe your musical progression as an artist, singer and writer?
Having just entered the realm of music relatively recently (with the release of my debut album in January 2015), it has been a source of motivation to see the sort of progression that comes with putting effort into a given task. I can look back seemingly every month and see how much I have improved.
Where has been your favorite place to have played and why? Audience? Venue?
It was amazing to see an increased draw in places where I had played before. The shows felt more official, and there were a few more people that knew of my music.
Any moments that stand out to you in particular and why?
There were challenging moments, such as driving 10 hours to a venue only for it to close early because there weren’t enough people there. Times of elation and disappointment are equally important in how successful I view this tour to have been. Getting the chance to be on the road for two and a half months and play music is a unique opportunity, one that I cherish greatly.
What does a degree in Behavioural Neuroscience and Oceanography have to do with music?
My interest in science has taught me to view the world with an analytical eye, and an attention for detail.
Science has given me an alternative perspective to draw from when approaching my music, be it within songwriting or in the business/organizational aspects of being an independent musician.
What has been the public response to your latest album, especially having released it mid-way through your tour?
Overwhelmingly positive, I must say. Granted, a majority of my tour dates were within Canada, where folks tend to be quite friendly and more reserved.
Granted, during a song in my first US show on this tour I looked up to a (visibly intoxicated) gentleman proudly flaunting two raised middle fingers in my direction! We made eye contact for several seconds; it was a moment of profound honesty.
You describe your music as contemplative folk. Why?
Being a fairly analytical and contemplative mind, my songwriting process tends to include me being in extensive thought and contemplation. Only after internally processing a given experience or situation for what seems like eternity can it be brought forth to song. I’ve always thought of my music as being tailored to the closeted intellectual.
After the experience of recording of your debut album, is there anything you have done differently in preparation for the second album?
I did actually take my first two voice lessons of my career immediately before starting production on the new album. Nearing the limit of the “just do what feels right” mentality towards technical musicality, I found these voice lessons to be enormously helpful in becoming a better vocalist. Although subtle, changes to breath and resonance placement have greatly improved my vocal stamina and range.
You’ve said that there’s more to a good song than good vocals, pulling to light Leonard Cohen. How has Cohen inspired you?
Leonard Cohen’s dedication to the precise wording within his songs is admirable — seemingly every word is placed with painstaking care. This more than anything has influenced my approach to songwriting; attempting to not settle for anything less than what the song wants to be.
I recorded the Leonard Cohen song Suzanne on my most recent album. The content is very much revolved around subtleties; Cohen had a remarkable gift for blurring the boundaries, touching on the lines connecting different themes.
In Search of the Way was largely self-produced. How did you find that process?
I explored a few different options, but ultimately concluded that producing it this way would allow me the best opportunity to grow as a musician. Arranging the album was a fantastic challenge — writing and coordinating parts for cello, trumpet, violin, and other instruments was something that I had never done before, and I learned an enormous amount about the process and musicality on the whole. I gained a much deeper appreciation for the songs.
Although the album was largely self-produced, I worked with a group of remarkably talented individuals.
Have you got any advice for first time singers and songwriters, or musicians that are trying to gain more of a following?
My path has been to reach out to more experienced musicians than myself and listen to how they’ve gotten to where they are. I’ve concluded that there are many different ways to reach some level of subjective success, with each path tending to be unique to the individual and rarely replicating itself.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is drive and discipline. If you can stay motivated to your craft and have the discipline to consistently challenge yourself to take the next step, you will become a better musician. There are no shortcuts.
Noah Derksen was our Singing Competition winner exactly one year ago. And we’re almost at the end of our latest contest – who will be the next winner? Meet the finalists!
Noah Derksen is a singer songwriter from Winnipeg and winner of the VoiceCouncil Winter Singing Competition 2015. Derksen has come a long way since winning last January, including the release of two albums. His latest, ‘In Search of the Way’, was released in October 2016 during the last few months of a tour which saw Noah notch up over 100+ gigs across the US and Canada.