The Winner of our Winter 2015 Singing Competition shares his insight into balancing different skills, and the mindset behind motivating yourself into success.
Noah Derksen is an emerging singer-songwriter, having played over 30 shows across 20 different cities and towns in Western Canada and released his debut album entitled ‘Man That I Am’ in January 2015, all while studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Science!
The debut album was promoted during a 25-day tour, and the album has since sold over 300 copies!
With a diverse range of interests and skills, we ask Noah about his journey into music, and how this background influences his path.
One influential singer, and what it is that makes them stand out to you?
Leonard Cohen — there’s more to a good song than just good vocals.
Biggest challenge to breaking out and sharing your music with new people?
My own inhibitions. At some point I needed to sit down and convince myself that people would sincerely enjoy listening to my music, and that it was not burdening to share with them.
Something that’s worked for you in reaching a larger audience?
Simply put, hard work; it’s been an ongoing process of continuously putting myself out there and taking every opportunity that comes my way.
A performance FAIL?
In high school I was enlisted with the task of singing the second verse of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, and unfortunately the key was a tad outside of my vocal range — I couldn’t quite find the melody in rehearsal, and definitely didn’t find it during the performance in front of the whole school.
A performance SUCCESS – and why…?
While touring at the end of this past summer I performed in the small town of Bruno, Saskatchewan within the Canadian prairies. Despite having never heard of this place before, and the total population numbering less than 600, I performed to a packed room of complete strangers, and thought to myself that there could be a future in this music thing.
Favorite Vocal Gear and why?
No high-end vocal gear can replace quality vocals — thus, although recognizably pretentious, my favorite vocal gear is the vocal cord.
A musical lesson you’ve learned the hard way?
Capo placement on the guitar does indeed matter when performing with other musicians.
A vocal-singing lesson you’ve learned the hard way?
In recording my first album I did not factor in vocal fatigue, and my voice gave out midway through the recording process. The lesson was: schedule days with no singing!
Watch the video that made Noah a winner
What were the challenges and rewards to recording your debut album?
During the recording process I was surprised by how much time and effort the entire project required, especially with the “demoing” phase. Analyzing each song essentially note by note trying to discover the appropriate arrangement was enormously taxing, but exceptionally rewarding. In my experience, extensive preparation outside of the studio allowed for a relatively smooth and efficient recording process. I look forward to doing it again.
A few ingredients of a memorable vocal performance?
Peppermint Kiss herbal tea.
Most important lesson you have learned about social media?
Social media is necessary and highly beneficial if used correctly, but does not replace the hard work required to improve your craft.
Most important lesson you have learned about vocal health?
Your voice needs time to heal, and is not replaceable — treat it with even more care than you would your brand new guitar (or any other instrument).
What is an area of your singing work/career that is a little (or a lot) unique or different that you could elaborate on.
Although not directly related to my musical endeavours (though very closely tied to my identity, and thus impacting my musical process), I have a very diverse range of interests and have spent an enormous amount time in a variety of non-musical activities.
Coming out of high school I was amongst the top volleyball players in the country, and had ambitions of playing professionally following my university career. After three years of playing university volleyball, I recognized other avenues of life that I wished to explore, music being at the top of that list.
I am also currently in my final year of a bachelor of Science program with specializations in behavioural neuroscience and oceanography. It is an interesting combination, music and science, though I would argue that they compliment each other quite well.
How do you balance such a wide variety of skills, i.e. science, sports and music?
It’s a priority of mine to live as balanced a life as possible — I’ve found myself to be most successful and motivated in any given task when I’ve allowed myself the time and energy to pursue a multitude of endeavours. I also have the firm belief that development of a specific skill in one field will carry over to other disciplines, whether directly or indirectly. For example, the analytical mindset within the realm of science has strongly influenced my creative process, as well the way I approach the business side of the music world.
A question you wished we asked you – and your answer?
A friend recently asked me the question “What does it feel like when you play music?” to which I responded as follows.
The act of performing for me is very liberating. It gives me a purpose — an excuse, almost — to open myself up in an environment that I feel I have at least some influence on. It’s a great way for me to explore different components of myself that would otherwise remain untouched.
Noah Derksen is a 22-year-old singer-songwriter based out of Vancouver, Canada. With a self-described genre of “contemplative folk”, Noah uses the acoustic guitar to convey his thoughts, experiences, and emotions in a mellifluous manner.