Flying in from Seattle to MUTT HQ in the heart of Digbeth, our latest interviewee singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen has crossed the Atlantic to tour the UK and get plenty of miles under his belt. From trailing the wide-open roads of America on his Harley to the streets of Birmingham on our very own Sabbath 250, Seattle's finest electro-folk rock songwriting sensation has been on our hitlist to sit down with and chat about riding, music and you know all the fun stuff in life!
It’s a family affair for Noah when it comes to motorcycling as he shares riding with his nearest and dearest. “My brother-in-law got me into riding,” Noah explains. “I always said I was gonna do it, then one year he was sending me Craigslist posts of used bikes that were affordable and I was like ‘yeah fuck it’ and did it. So I did the course, that was a few years ago.
“I just fell in love with it, I think because with music it was my hobby and then it became my job and it’s nice to have a hobby now that’s not my job that I can like turn my brain off. For me I think it’s about being present constantly. It’s really, really good for my mind and everything else that’s attached to it. You just can’t do anything else out on the bike. I listen to music, but you can’t be on your phone, you can’t do anything.”
Noah has already racked up plenty of miles on his bike, really stretching himself as he gets into the saddle. “I did a ride from Seattle to Montana last summer and I did the whole ride back in 1 day. I was pretty wiped, but there’s that weird thing that happens when you’re at of a long ride like that you’re in such a zen headspace it’s like as if you’ve been meditating all day.”
The Seattle motorcycle scene is bubbling away at the moment and there’s loads of exciting groups and projects going down in the city. Noah has his finger on the pulse and is looking to get into more events and rides this year. “There’s definitely the cafe racer scene, that seems to be pretty hip these days, and there’s a little shop in Seattle where they’ve got a coffee shop and a bar then they teach people to work on their bikes and they have lifts and things. But it’s so cold and wet most of the time so riding happens pretty seasonally. There’s always that end of the year point when you’re trying to squeeze as much time in as you can. Then there are days when you get caught in the rain, it’s like 40 degrees [fahrenheit] and it’s miserable. There’s a thing called Backfire in Seattle that happens once a month and it’s a big bike meet-up.”
With 2020 set to be an epic year for Noah, completed with tour dates off the back of the release of his latest album ‘Lover’, his schedule is rocking through the months and the album gives us a sneak peak into his life. “It’s got a lot of snapshots of my life kind of transitioning out of my 20s into my 30s and the things I have learned about myself and relationships that have failed. It’s come from a place where I’m more comfortable in my creative skin and I think it maybe had something to do with just being older and comfortable as a person having less to prove. For a long time I think I was kind of self-conscious of being a singer-songwriter - I just didn’t want to be seen as soft or something - so I’ve made a rock record and branched out into a lot of different things. With this record it was coming, it felt like sonically it was different but it didn’t feel it was trying to prove anything. Other than just making what was interesting to me.
“It’s really just wanting to stay interested in what I’m making. I want to make it feel like it’s still fresh and interesting, being able to try more traditional singer-songwriter songs in a different vehicle, the importance of staying engaged as an artist in what you’re making. For me, that’s finding new sounds to keep it interesting.”
Noah’s listening out on the road this year has been varied to say the least. From new music to podcasts, we were keen to get the low-down on what he’s digging out on tour. “There’s this group called Suicide Boys they make a sound called trap music. I listen to them a lot. I’ve mostly been listening to podcasts and reading, trying to make more space for my own ideas. If I’m constantly listening to things, it’s hard to have my own ideas come through. I find the way I am most creative, there are two modes. One is being in the studio and writing and for me that’s just showing up at a creative hub with a partner that I work with. He’s really good with computers and I’m not. I found the most important thing is to not get hung up on anything and just have a flow. As soon as you start thinking about it too much, that’s when you freeze up.”
If Noah’s out on his bike, he’ll sometimes plug into his own tunes while riding. What was his pick from his new album for city cruising though? “Of my own?! Well it is funny because I do definitely listen, like when we were working on the record we would definitely put stuff in my headphones while I was writing and make mental notes on them. I think the title track ‘Lover’ - there’s something kind of cinematic about it that I could ride along to.”
With a packed schedule and dates around the country, Noah is proper into the UK’s capital and has played a quality show at East London’s Union Chapel recently. “I really like playing in London. We played at Union Chapel on this trip. I don’t really have a lot of time to check out the cities, which is funny because people in the States ask me about touring over here like ‘it’s so great you get to travel’. It is really great but it’s different to just enjoying it - you’re working - but the show at Union Chapel was good.”
Out on our 250 Sabbath, Noah was riding the city streets with pride at our photoshoot. “It was super fun - taller than I expected, the suspension is kind of high up. It would be fun to get it up to more speed. It’s fun being on such a light bike. I have a Harley Fat Bob which is a 1700cc, pretty heavy. There’s not a lot of whipping it around but I do miss having a smaller bike in the city as you can get around cars quick. So this is fun, especially because I never get to ride when I’m on tour. So even just to be on a bike is a bit of a break.
“And they’re beautiful, they look like how I would mod-out a cafe racer but they just come that way and that’s very cool. The side of the road was so weird - I didn’t ride for very long but I did find myself constantly second guessing if I was on the right side!”
Noah had a spot in mind for his ultimate ride with pals if he was ever given enough time in between tours. “It would be really cool to do Iceland in the summer, you could like do it in a couple of days. It’s such a small country. You could ride round it in a day. One of my best friends grew up in New Zealand and we’ve talked about how cool it would be to take bikes over there and just go and tour around.”
This would link back to his love for involving his family into his riding as well. “Actually, I think what I would love is if my dad and brother learned to ride. If the two of them and I could all do a ride I think that’d be so fun because I ride with my brother-in-law - we do like a bike trip with him and one of my best friends. We ride every summer and if I could get my bro onboard it’d be super special!”
Good luck for the rest of the year Noah! We look forward to getting out on the open road with you again soon.
Noah is featured riding our Sabbath 250. Check out the details over in our bikes section.
This story is also featured in our brand new magazine. MMM#001 is available to read now.