June 21, 2011

Noel Gourdin Takes a Fresh Approach to R&B

By Tamone Bacon with additional reporting by Joncier “Ms. Boogie” Rienecker

Noel Gourdin

Noel Gourdin

The stirring and soulful sounds of Noel Gourdin stem from a musical upbringing provided by his father, and built on the sounds of Soul and R&B music legends such as Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, and Al Green. Gourdin has used his melodic roots to his advantage, creating his own sound in the musical landscape with thought-provoking lyrics and spine-tingling vocals over homegrown urban instrumentation.

Following the success of his debut, Billboard hit single, “The River,” Gourdin is ready to continue his journey in sound. And his latest album, Fresh: The Definition, marks the start of a new tune.

Recently, Gourdin spoke to Playback about the new album, the one word that defines him and his ideal woman.

Your latest album release is called, “Fresh: The Definition.” Explain why you decided to go with that album title.

It’s my story of going through redemption. It represents my transition going from Sony to my regime with Mass Appeal Entertainment and new management with Marvyn Mack of Top Notch Entertainment. It also represents my time of depression, a time after my split with Sony, where I would ask, “Why me?”

You had an impactful debut on the music scene and Billboard charts in 2007 with the single, “The River.” How has your sound changed since then?

This time, there were more live instruments incorporated in the music. There were drums, horns, and strings. There’s a classic feel to the music, but it is still relevant.

How much of your music stems from personal experiences?

A lot of it, actually. About sixty to seventy percent of it. I co-wrote on over half of the album. But, if it’s a good record that I did not write, and I can relate to it, I won’t touch it. But, a lot of it is personal experiences, including relationships, family and just real life situations.

Speaking of family, I read that you were raised in Massachusetts and spent summers in Mississippi. How did your upbringing in both places influence your sound?

I would have to give much props to Pops, who put music on those black and gold Maxell tapes that we would listen to as we would go down south. My sound is synonymous with riding down south with the heat and the more hospitable way of living. But there are still elements of that witty, Hip-Hop, New Jack Swing style that I encountered during my upbringing in Brockton.

What made you transition from Columbia/Epic to Mass Appeal Entertainment? And how has this change been thus far?

That was definitely a rough change. There was a clashing of visions. It was overwhelming, but I do thank God for the opportunity. With this album at Mass Appeal, we have the same vision. There’s creative freedom. I’m able to go with the vision that I have.

Who are some of your musical influences?

My Pops was responsible for introducing me to many of my influences. I listened to people like Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Johnnie Taylor, Tyrone Davis, Solomon Burke and Al Green. Listening to that music made me want to do what I am doing now. I want to touch people’s hearts and souls and make them feel the same way I felt when listening to those artists without jeopardizing my integrity.

How would you describe yourself, as an artist, in one word?

I would definitely say, “timeless.” My music doesn’t really have a date. A two-year-old all the way up to Grandma can listen to my music. I would definitely say that my music is real and it’s relatable.

What sets you apart from other artists in your genre?

I think what sets me apart is the true lyrical content and a soulful voice. There is something about a voice with soul in it that people gravitate to.

After listening to your single, “Beautiful,” I find it to be evident that you make a conscious effort to show your love and respect for women. How important is it to you to uplift women in your music?

It’s very important. A lot of music isn’t doing that. It’s degrading and speaks condescendingly. In giving women respect in my music, some people say it’s corny, but it goes deeper than that. My mom was a victim of domestic violence by my biological father. Because of that, I want to show good old-fashioned respect for all women.

Speaking of women, is there a female music artist with whom you would like to do a duet?

Yes! There are two women in particular that I would love to work with. Lalah Hathaway is one of them. I’d also love to work with Jazmine Sullivan. I just think they have a lot of conviction in their voices and their tones are crazy.

If you could conjure up your ideal woman, what ingredients would you use?

Confidence. A woman who could hold a conversation on anything. Someone who is close with her family, because I am a family-oriented person. But definitely one that is confident, and not in a conceited way, just one who loves life and enjoys it.

What is next for Noel Gourdin?

I would like to do more non-profits. I want to help establish group homes for the less fortunate as well as college funds and efforts for the performing arts. I just want to continue to get my music to people and keep the movement going.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming songwriters and artists?

Get a good team around you. Don’t jeopardize your integrity. Perfect your craft and do it with passion. Carry yourself with respect, always.