Born in Nebraska but raised in Las Vegas, the charismatic, athletic, beautiful and talented Noelle knew that music was her passion. She used to sing in casinos and hotels six nights a week. In addition to that, her voice has been featured on several mix tapes for the past seven years. This singer and songwriter has definitely been on her grind. Noelle’s music has been featured in films and on soundtracks alike, including the soundtrack of Employee of the Month, which stars Jessica Simpson and Dane Cook. Noelle took some time away from singing and writing to share with Clutch tidbits about her new album, how one of her tattoos led to her getting her song featured on a soundtrack, and how she’s different from the masses.
Clutch: How would you describe your music?
Noelle: I like to look at my music as a confident depiction of what women want to say and how we feel. I like to make songs that are really clever but honest and have a little humor sometimes. Instead of always being so emotional which, that is what we (women) are, I wanted to do an album that was based more on the light side of relationships. Things can fall a part but, you can make the best of them. Most of the songs are up-tempo because I didn’t want my album to sound depressing.
Clutch: You’ve been songwriting for quite some time now but, you’re pretty new to the other side of the business (singing). How has the transition been for you?
Noelle: I’ve been singing my entire life so I’m definitely not new to singing and I’m not new to writing. I think the only thing that’s new is just people seeing my face. There have been plenty of songs that have been circulating on mix tapes for the past seven years. People would see Noelle and not know what I looked like or not know who I was so MySpace helped with that. Once I joined MySpace and I had a picture and put the music up there people were like “oh that’s what Noelle looks like” because no one ever knew who I was. Pretty much everything you heard that had Noelle on credit, I was singing it.
Clutch: Who exactly have you written songs for?
Noelle: A lot of the songs that I’ve done have been songs that have been placed on projects that were actually film or television. It’s not so much that I’ve written for Mya or Usher. It was more or less me writing songs that have been placed on projects. The biggest project was probably Employee of the Month with Jessica Simpson and Dane Cook. That featured Pit-Bull. I actually haven’t had another artist sing my material. Any time a song was placed in a project it was me singing it.
I guess that’s even better then. Well, I really want other artists to sing my songs. Believe me it would be a dream come true to hear some artists I really admire singing my stuff. I would feel like a proud momma.
Clutch: Did you write all of the songs on your new album, It’s Personal?
Noelle: Yes, I did — every single one.
Clutch: Are you familiar with Teedra Moses?
Noelle: Absolutely. She is the bomb.
Clutch: The fact that you (just like Teedra) also demanded to write every single song on your debut album is awesome. We need more artists like you two who can actually write.
Noelle: I respect that she has been doing this a long time, too. I’ve also respected what she’s done and admired how she was also able to write for other artists which, is what I’ve always wanted to do. My not being signed to a major label and not having a major publishing deal makes it more difficult for me to get to artists and get to people so people could know who I am. I would love to say that a certain name is behind me. It would make me appear to be more connected even though I’m just as talented as those who are already connected.
Clutch: What can people expect to hear on It’s Personal?
Noelle: You’re going to hear great production by upcoming producers that are new to the game. Well, not new to the game, nobody is really new. We’ve all been grinding to just get out there. So, you’re going to hear great production by Dem Joints who has done every track on the album except for three tracks, a guy name PS3 who’s worked with Tamia and Envogue, and a great producer named Marcus Brush who’s out of Germany. So just those three guys and me writing and pinning all the tracks, it’s going to sound fresh and new. It definitely has a lot of songs that are easy to listen to. You can listen to the whole CD and get through it. You can work out to it, you can cook to it, you can dance to it and you can ride in the car to it. It’s just a different sound. I can’t really describe what we’ve managed to create; I think it’s just me being me. It wasn’t an effort for me to try to sound different from somebody else, write songs differently or have totally different topics. I’m just different so I can’t help that. I think you’re just going to hear a fresh new sound. Somebody commented on iTunes already and said, “I like your new wave of flavor.” You just have to listen to it; it’s going to be good.
Clutch: Different is definitely good because today when you turn on the radio you hear the same thing. So we definitely need a breath of fresh air.
Noelle: I would love to be the breath and the air. It has been a struggle for me because even though a lot of my songs can sit in rotation they’re still different. Sometimes my songs are different to the point where they’re trying to figure out whether it’s pop, urban enough, or this and that. My album has elements of everything. It’s R&B, Soul, Pop, House, and it’s all of those things. So, I can’t put myself into one box and I’ve never tried to do that. I hope and I wish that radio makes room to allow the rotation to be different.
Clutch: Who are some of your influences?
Noelle: Growing up I was always listening to girl groups. I would listen to SWV, Jade, and EnVogue. Any girl group, I would listen to them because I just loved to hear the backgrounds. I am also a personal fan of Faith Evans. I’ve always loved her. When she opens her mouth I know it’s her singing and I love her writing style. As far as newer artists, I’ve met with Amy Winehouse. I like Janelle Monae. She goes super left and just always goes the way she wants to. I like some mainstream stuff too. I’m a big hip hop fan. I love Jay-Z and Lil’ Wayne. I grew up on Biggie.
Clutch: From the looks of some of your marketing I’d say that you pride yourself on being six feet tall. Have you ever considered modeling because you also have the looks to go with the height?
Noelle: Modeling is a very serious business and I never once thought that I’m going to be this model that’s going to open the door for music. Yes I’m six feet but I’m not thin. I’m not a size five and I’m not a plus size model either. I’m too small to be plus and I’m too big to be regular. So there is no room for me in the modeling world. I’m not hoping that music will open the door for modeling because modeling is a huge rejection industry as well. Music is hard enough. I’d rather have music open the door so I can be a spokes model for products that I like.
Clutch: Can you tell us about your passion for basketball?
Noelle: I was a late bloomer in basketball. I started in the eighth grade and got really good in high school. I got a basketball scholarship to Dominion in Virginia and luckily enough it was a nationally ranked college. So basketball was like a second love to music. I always knew I wanted to do music but, basketball I kind of just stumbled upon. I’m glad though because it paid for my education and I graduated from college. I play everyday now but, I don’t want to get an injury and then I can’t perform. When it comes to basketball I just have a passion for the sport. I love sports in general. I definitely applied a lot of things I learned in basketball to music, as far as being a team player and everybody in your life having a common goal. So to get to the right place you need to have a great team around you.
Clutch: You favor Tamia and Sara Stokes. Have you ever been mistaken for either one of them?
Noelle: Sarah Stokes, oh my gosh. Really? That’s a new one. I get Tamia and I get Mya. So I dyed my hair lighter because I did get Mya a lot. She has the beautiful big eyes like I do (I love my eyes) and the dark hair. So I thought maybe if I lightened my hair a little bit I wouldn’t get so much of a comparison. It did help but, then I got Tamia. I love Tamia, I think she’s beautiful. You know what; I’m just going to be any light skinned woman at any time (laughs). The bigger that I become and the more that I brand myself I’m hoping that people will be like, “You look like Noelle.”
Clutch: Is it true that you grew up in the same neighborhood as Ne-Yo?
Noelle: I know he’s from Vegas and I did grow up there but, I had no idea that he was from Vegas. He went to the music school there and I went to a private catholic school. My mom was pretty strict so I was always doing sports and I was at home. I never really ran into Ne-Yo at any of the high school events but, when I got to LA he and I had a chance to work on a couple of different things together.
Clutch: Do you still keep in touch or ever collaborate?
Noelle: I saw him at the grand opening of the 40/40 club in Vegas actually this time last year. It was really good to see him. I’m really proud of him because we both have been grinding for a minute. I’m looking forward to being the female “go to” writer in this game just like he is. I definitely admire and love what he’s done. I always knew that he would do it. I never doubted him.
Clutch: You used to sing six nights a week at casinos and hotels in Las Vegas. What was that experience like?
Noelle: The good thing about singing in Vegas six nights a week is that it really strengthens your voice. I was singing everyday for hours and hours at a time. It helps your performance and stage presence. I was in an all male band that came from a theater background so we were doing shows. It wasn’t just a lounge act. They were professional shows. It was great preparation. You’re looking at people who don’t know you and you’re singing everybody else’s music. It wasn’t like we were singing original music. You have to sing it the way people want to hear it or they won’t listen. You had different crowds. Some people who were depressed because they’d lost their money or you would be singing for people who just got married and were in a great mood. So it was good to feel different audiences out and give them what they were looking for on that particular night. The bad thing is you would always smell like cigarette smoke.
Clutch: You have a few tattoos that obviously show your love for music. Sometimes as women we get slack for having a lot of tattoos but, do you plan on getting anymore tattoos?
Noelle: Yes. I do plan on getting more. The tattoos that I’ve gotten were very significant to me. If I get any future tattoos they would probably be the life changing ones. Like if I get married, have my first child, or win a Grammy, I would get them to mark that moment. Other than that I’m pretty good with the nine that I have (laughs).
Clutch: It was actually one of your tattoos that landed you a track on the “Employee of the Month” soundtrack, which starred Dane Cook and Jessica Simpson. Can you tell us how that happened!?
Noelle: Yeah, I worked at Lions Gate (the movie distribution company) and they would have these basketball tournaments that the staff would play in. They were very serious about them. So of course they heard I played basketball in college and the executive office drafted me to their team. We were wearing jerseys so my music tattoos were showing. Someone from customer service or something said, “Hey, you have a music tattoo. Do you do music?” I said yea and they asked why haven’t you given your music to anyone at the company. I said because I was trying to be professional. She then said well look I’m going to introduce you to someone in television. It was Judy Promone. She sat down with me and took a liking to my personality. She said bring in your CD with songs and if I like them I’ll put one in my movie. And she did. She really did it just like that.
Clutch: When you’re out on the town with your girls what can be found in your clutch?
Noelle: Oooh, I love this question (laughs). Always lip gloss, either Dior or Mac. My camera because I love to capture goofy moments, my phone (my Blackberry), and of course the ID and the ATM card. That’s it!
For more information on Noelle please visit www.myspace.com/noelle.