Noah Derksen | Interview | New Album, ‘Sanctity of Silence’
Americana singer-songwriter Noah Derksen writes with the groundedness of harsh Manitoba winters mixed with the failed optimism of the American Dream. He currently lives in the West End neighbourhood of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Noah Derksen has been steadfastly honing his craft as a songwriter and musician, touring across continents and writing songs with artists from around the world. He’s teamed up again with JUNO-award winning producer Murray Pulver on his third full length album. ‘Sanctity of Silence’ follows the arc of love, from start to finish. It’s out on March 9th, 2023 on Overdraft Records.
This release is a follow up to Noah’s 2019 album ‘America, Dreaming’. Also produced by Murray Pulver, the album represents an observation of the United States and Noah’s identity as an American-citizen; an observation of how things change with time, and internal, on his own shift in perspective.
“A good song makes me feel and not think”
Noah, how did you first get interested in music?
Noah Derksen: My dad was something of a hobby songwriter, and growing up he always would be strumming and singing in the living room. I come from a Mennonite cultural tradition where everybody would gather around the piano and song old church hymns. Naturally I shied away from that, and started learning Blink 182 and John Mayer songs on the guitar in my room as a moody teenager.
Was there a certain moment when you knew you wanted to become a musician?
I went to a Leonard Cohen concert on his last tour through Canada, and was blown away by the sheer poetry of his songwriting. The backing band was also absolutely incredible. I went back to my dorm room and started writing songs. It started as a form of therapy, just me by myself working through my thoughts. Now music has become much more a collaborative and community endeavour for me — I’m fortunate to live in a city with some amazing musicians and writers to be inspired by.
What’s your single, ‘Fuck You and Fuck Your Friends Too,’ about?
I got dumped twice during the pandemic, and by the same person, no less. It kinda sucked, so I wrote this song and thought it was funny. The title is a bit aggressive, but I’m going for a more uplifting message. At the end of the day, shit happens. Relationships end, people hurt one another, and life is confusing.
Are they part of any upcoming album? Can you reveal some more?
Ya, these are the first singles from my third full-length record. It’s out on March 9th, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever made.
I would love it if you can discuss your latest album, ‘America, Dreaming?’
We released ‘America, Dreaming’ three years ago now, which feels like an absolute lifetime. The album is about the US, and the illusion of it being the most free and opportune country in the world. My mom is from Ohio, and I grew up going back and forth between my home in Canada and family in the States. I idealized the States as this perfect land of freedom and opportunity, and then I started spending time there as an adult, and saw some of the more practical limitations to that opportunity and freedom. The US has the best and the worst of everything — some of the best universities in the world, and yet education is inaccessible to most; it spends more money on healthcare than any other world power, and yet between 8-10% of its population doesn’t have access to healthcare.
So, ‘America, Dreaming’ was an exploration of my identity as an American citizen, and how my perception of the States has changed with time. The album won me the 2021 Canadian Folk Music Award for Emerging Artist of the Year, and has definitely sent me in the musical direction I’m currently headed.
What makes a good song?
A good song makes me feel and not think. I want to get lost in the music, and not intrinsically know what the song structure is at first listen.
Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
I’m a sucker for emotive singer-songwriters with soulful voices and soaring choruses — my 2 most listened to albums of all time are Foy Vance’s ‘Joy of Nothing’ (2013) and Rose Cousins’ ‘Natural Conclusion’ (2017). More recent albums I’ve been binging…Ken Yates ‘Cerulean,’ Anna Tivel ‘Outsides,’ Tim Baker ‘The Festival’ for some good singer-songwriter stuff. I loved Charlotte Cardin’s ‘Phoenix’ on the pop-ier end of the spectrum, and Sturgill Simpson’s ‘Metamodern Sounds in Country Music’ for more rootsy-country songs.
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