After a long weekend of club lounging and bar hopping, I found myself stretched out on the couch one Sunday afternoon, flipping through the channels and tuning into an Otis Redding tribute show on PBS. Amidst my post noon sprawling, I reflected upon my weekend festivities and a conversation I had had with a friend in regards to the redundancy of city nightlife: the potent drinks and the same ol’ weak music. With Otis performing “My Lover’s Prayer” on the television, I wondered, “Where had music like that gone?” Mind you, though I’m a young junt, I can still feel the passion exuded from Otis Redding as he gripped the mic and bent his knees sanging, “What you gonna do tonight, When you need some loving arms to hold you tight!” Now that’s potent. Boston-area based singer, Noel Gourdin is bringing back that kind of feeling you get from listening to soul legends. Unadulterated, down home music that says something albeit current with Hip-Hop/R&B flare. Gourdin credits his love for “old” music to his familiar ties to the South and champions the wholesome wisdom gained growing up between Boston and Mississippi, all which are reflected in his Billboard chart topping song “The River.” Gourdin’s July 22 debut album After My Time aims to prove that music with substance still has an audience and never gets old. Noel Gourdin, perhaps akin to an Otis Redding of this generation, is bringing soul music back to the dance floor, and that’s potent.
Clutch: I actually first heard “The River” on The Steve Harvey Show. He was going crazy over that track! What was it like when you first heard your music playing on the radio?
Noel Gourdin: You know its kind of crazy because I just heard the river on the radio three or four times. Now it’s still kind of new to me. And I feel there’s no way to explain it. The happiness and joy of all the work and sacrifice, blood sweat and tears are overwhelming. I take it in as it comes. Each day I still try to learn new things. It’s been a joy.
Clutch: “The River” is a deep song. I’m from the south, so I can definitely dig it, but you’re from Boston. How have the Deep South and spirituals—which are reflective in this track—come to inhabit some of your songs?
Noel Gourdin:I have family in Mississippi. I’m southern in the soul because ever since I could remember we’d go to Mississippi and have family reunions and throw downs and bbq fish fries. That was a happy place in my life. Also, what I love to do is sit on the porch and listen to my elder relatives talk, my great aunt and great grandparents. The pain driven stories stuck with me. I knew I wanted to do music…get my heart and soul on paper and I wanted to use some of that. It was genuine so I figured it would be genuine. And it worked. It was against the grain in 2005 when we did it but it worked and people gravitated toward it.
Clutch: I couldn’t help but think about Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay” when listening to this track. Your voice is very down-home and soulful. Who has influenced you musically?
Noel Gourdin: Well, I have to say all my pops oldies but goodies: Sam Cooke, Al Green, Johnny Taylor, Tyron Davis. All the groups: The Manhattans, The Chi-lites, The Delfonics, The Whispers. Those records and those artists really made a big impact. That’s why I was so influenced to want to do music. I’d have to thank my pops for that. I don’t know what I’d be doing without his music.
Clutch: Some say that your voice is a resemblance of D’Angelo and even Prince! What do you think about that?
Noel Gourdin: Everybody that comes out from now on is going to be compared to somebody…I’m going to be compared to somebody. I hope he’s [D’Angelo] doing better with his life. It’s a great comparison. It feels good to be compared to the likes of talented artists. I’m really blessed.
Clutch: How difficult was it getting your music out there and getting your voice known in Boston?
Noel Gourdin: It was extremely difficult. I’ve been doing music for ten years in Boston. My manager noticed I wanted to do music and saw how diligent I was to get myself out there. We met up at the end of 2002 and he said I was ready. We came up with about 60 to 70 records and sent them out. Kay-Gee invited himself to Jersey and that was the same time The Cookout came out and I got on there with the movie’s opening song. That was a validating moment. We stopped off at Sony and they said don’t take it nowhere else.
Clutch: I like to think all songs—well, all good songs—tell a story. What story is your debut album telling?
Noel Gourdin: “The River”–myself and Balewa co-wrote it. It’s talking about family morals. There’s always something you have to leave when trying to go find yourself. We have a record on the album called “Too Late” that’s about when a woman and a man are together but it seems the man is too preoccupied with work and neglects the woman so she takes off and he wishes he would have been better. It’s about making the most of every moment with loved ones. There’s something for everybody.
Clutch: I’ve read that you love the kiddies and do a lot of work with them…
Noel Gourdin: Yeah! Right after high school I went to work in group homes with children who have been battered and abused. It felt really good to give them advice and help them make a better choice. As far as what they want to do with their lives, a lot have given up. I wanted to let them know I care so I talked to them. A lot of the kids just need someone to listen to them, and they didn’t even have that. I still get messages from kids on MySpace!
Clutch: Are you currently in Boston? Where can I catch Noel Gourdin live?
Noel Gourdin: I’m going to be heading to Alabama. I have a show in Dallas, Virginia…We’ll be posting the dates.
Clutch: I’m sure you’ll get a lot of love down South!
Noel Gourdin: Yeah, the south is great, the weather… the woman.
Clutch: So, this record is bringing back the slow dance…that old school, hold your woman close, feel good music?
Noel Gourdin: I’m trying to be classic and bring it back to the club. Everyone needs love! You can dance to slows songs like you can dance to fast songs, and I learned that from my pops!
Clutch: Do you have a special ‘hold your woman close, feel good song’?
Noel Gourdin: “Shining Star” by The Manhattans, “Distant Lover” by Marvin Gaye, Adore (Prince), Otis Reding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.”
Clutch: With all this talk about soul music, bringing back the slow dance and holding your woman close, I can’t help but ask what’s the best date you’ve ever been on?
Noel Gourdin: It was back in Boston about…just out of high school in 2002. It was real simple. I had a little beater Ford Taurus and I got my brother to buy us some drinks. I went to the park by the water in Boston, got out and laid a blanket out, and we watched the sunset…just waited until the stars came out.