If every story has two sides, every artist does as well…
Stepping out of his childhood home located on a 133-acre tree farm in Strafford, VT (pop. 1,045) and onto stages worldwide, Noah Kahan introduced one side of himself. Since 2017, he has generated half-a-billion combined streams and views, garnered a gold plaque for “Hurt Somebody” with Julia Michaels, and launched sold-out headline tours in North America, Europe, and the UK. His 2019 full-length debut, Busyhead, attracted acclaim from Billboard, Entertainment Weekly, NYLON, Idolator, Ones To Watchand more. Along the way, he performed on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Late Night With Seth Meyers, and Today Show. As he breached radio airwaves and infiltrated popular playlists, he quietly penned songs at a feverish pace.
Favoring storytelling, he unveiled another side of himself on the 2020 Cape Elizabeth EP [Republic Records].
The process would be just as personal. Back in Strafford to shelter-in-place for Coronavirus following a tour cancellation, Noahreturned to where his music career literally began. He enlisted his friend Phin Choukas to co-produce. They worked out of the Choukas family home where Noah actually “grew up making music in the same house, same vocal studio, and with the same guitar.”
“In terms of my writing, I have two personalities,” he affirms. “On one end of the spectrum, I spend a lot of time working with co-writers on ambitious, poppier tracks. However, I also spend a lot of time on songs just for me. I’m creating mini-novellas in my head and writing these little stories on my own time. They’re special songs that are close to me and more intimate. They’re important to who I am, and they tell a story. I was probably never going to release them, but I was home and took advantage of the opportunity. Don’t get me wrong. They could still get stuck in your head and annoy the shit out of you,” he grins. “But they feel really personal and specific.”
He continues, “Being so far into the game now, it was so cool to go back to where I started and work.” “Back in the day, this was where we smoked weed and uploaded EDM tracks to Soundcloud. We thought we were so hype if we got 1,000 plays! There was a weird destiny vibe to the experience,” he says.
Within six days and “without overthinking anything,” he completed the five-track Cape Elizabeth. The opener and first single “Troubled Mind” pairs sparse delicately plucked acoustic guitar with a soft and soothing vocal. Meanwhile, his younger brother Simon contributed backing vocals. Upon returning to Strafford, he posted an early video of the tune on a hometown Facebook group and members implored him to finish it.
“I started writing ‘Troubled Mind’ in New York about my own head and what was going on,” he explains. “I wanted the lyrics to be clever, because I was reading about feeling lost and completely misunderstood. I finished it when I got home. It encapsulates the consciousness of what’s going on right now and captures my day-to-day general anxiety.”
Elsewhere on the EP, the intimate “Anyway” just “reassures someone things will be okay no matter what we’re going through.” On the upbeat “Glue Myself Shut,” he relays “a tale of two folks from Maine and how one partner made a sacrifice for the other person to pursue a dream—and the regret in the aftermath.” The closer “Maine” highlights his prose. Idealizing the state of Maine and particularly Cape Elizabeth (where he ironically has never been), the narrative unfolds through eloquent lyrical phrasing and breezy chord voicings.
“Everything I’ve heard about the city reminds me of a beautiful old Stephen King town on the ocean. In the song, I’m picturing an idealized relationship I’m not necessarily part of in a place I’ve never been. I still need to go there, because I’m singing about these places. I’m sure the people in Cape Elizabeth are going to be like, ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’,” he laughs. “That’s their problem, not mine!”
In the end, as we get to know every side of Noah, his storytelling resonates more than ever.
“When you hear Cape Elizabeth, I want you to feel like you can escape for a second,” he leaves off. “I want you to feel recognized and know your thoughts aren’t scary or crazy. I hope you’re drawn into the stories and connect to the characters in the lyrics. Relax, chill out, listen to this, and look out the window. This is my ‘Thank You’ to the fans who stuck around, came to shows, watched my livestreams, and listened. I wouldn’t be here without you supporting me. That goes for my label, family, and, especially, the fans.”