Kahan signed with Republic Records in 2017. (Photo credit Josh Goleman)
Going from a small town of 1,079 people to touring the country with James Bay definitely sounds like a dream, but for Vermont native Noah Kahan, it is his reality.
Growing up there was a lot of music in his house.
“My mom listened to a lot of amazing music: Counting Crows, Bright Eyes, Paul Simon [and] Cat Stevens,” Kahan said.
Kahan has been writing songs and playing the guitar since he was eight years old. One of the first songs he learned was “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens. Ironically, it was his father who taught him how to play it.
For Kahan, there has never been a backup plan. Music was the dream and with the support of his parents, he turned that dream into his reality.
He credits his environment in Strafford, Vermont as a helping hand in developing his music and style.
“I think growing up around a lot of nature, the woods and spending time in the forest definitely influenced the kind of natural nostalgia and vibe that I try to instill in my music,” he said. “Folk music lends itself to nature and wide-open spaces, the great-divide, and mountain ranges.”
Kahan is very open about his struggles with his mental health. If he were not a musician, he says he would like to work in the mental health awareness and social work field.
“It’s important to take your time to take care of other people. If I can help other people get through the varying struggles of mental illness, then that would be very fulfilling for me,” he said.
Kahan hopes that other people listening to his music will be able to connect with what he writes about.
“What I’ve always loved about music and stand-up comedy, movies, books and art in general [is] that I can hear something, see something, read something, and feel that I am not alone in the way I feel,” he said.
Much like his own experiences with the arts, he wants people to be able to take from his stories and apply it to their own lives, maybe even being able to be more honest with themselves or be more understanding of their emotions and feelings.
“I try to write my feelings in a very honest way and doing so lets other people do the same thing with their own,” he said.
Kahan’s songs have always been filled with the inner workings of his mind. The first song he ever wrote was called “Wednesdays Are the Worst Days of My Life,” and when he performed it at his school talent show he was assigned to two weeks of mandatory therapy.
Like many others, Kahan admits that he is guilty of not reading as much as he used to. Although, he has “always taken a lot of inspiration from writer’s prose and American Classics.” He grew up reading a lot because his mother is an author. He says that he tries to write in a way that is attractive and not too simple but gets the point across in a clear-cut way. He is inspired by literature and poetry and believes that the best music is poetry.
When describing his musical inspirations, Kahan notes Henry Jamison, a folk singer-songwriter from Vermont, poet Bonnie Barrett and folk musician Gregory Isakov. He enjoys songs that tell stories and evoke feelings. One of his favorite things about listening to a specific song over and over again is that you can see it from different angles and uncover new aspects of the song and story each time.
Kahan’s advice to other musicians is to write songs that you care about.
“[Do not sacrifice] personal style for what people tell you is the right way to make music,” he said. “Keep your style and write all the time. Play live, practice your live set as much as you can. Say what you have to say and try to say it in a way that hasn’t been said before.” He emphasizes that it is important to put your own spin on what your take on the world is.
As for goals, Kahan aspires to sell out shows all over the world. “I want more and more. That’s the thing with success: when you get more, you want more. I’m never satisfied. I want longevity and be able to make more and play shows. People in your life will come and go but your music is what you want to stay around.” He wants his music to mean something to people and does not want it to just be forgotten.
Kahan is on the path to making his goals happen. He just embarked on a U.S. tour with “Let it Go” singer, James Bay. Bay has a new album “Electric Light” that was released in May of 2018. Bay also has a new single that was released called “Peer Pressure” featuring Julia Michaels. The catchy melody and lyrics paired with the full bass line and powerful drum sequence make for one of the best releases of 2019.
As for Kahan, he released a new single, “Mess” just a week ago and it has already surpassed 800,000 streams on Spotify. His upcoming debut album is composed of songs that he has kept close to his heart for a long time. The release is planned for early summer. Kahan will be opening for James Bay in Boston at the Orpheum Theatre on Sunday, March 10.