new voice, old soul
young singer-songwriter garners praise from industry heavyweights
When Neil MacGonigill praises, you listen. It’s a pretty basic rule to live by when you work in the music industry in any capacity. With an almost flawless track record that includes working with such talent as k.d. lang, Jann Arden, Billy Cowsill, Ian Tyson, Diamond Joe White and Steve Pineo, the locally based manager/music-lover has an obvious ear for that, well, that something.
And if you still have doubts, there’s always the second opinion of Junowinning musician Colin Linden, whose lengthy solo career, position with supergroup Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, side-work with Emmylou Harris among others, and production skills for artists such as Lucinda Williams and Bruce Cockburn, make him something of a qualified opinion when it comes to music.
So when the pair of them offer a united front in effusively praising and promoting young singer-songwriter Joe Nolan you’d be stupid not to pay attention, and, if you’re Nolan, you’d be insane not to welcome it.
“It’s amazing,” says Nolan. “Both of those guys have so much experience and knowledge and have been around for 40 years each. I can’t believe that they took me on and I just feel so thankful and fortunate that I’m able to work with guys like that. And those are two people in the industry right now that are just real, they’re really in it for the right reasons, and it’s all about music.”
And right now, it’s all about Nolan’s music and getting it heard.
To that end, the former Edmontonian, who now, blessedly, makes this city his home, has just released a new album Goodbye Cinderella, which was produced in Nashville with Linden and with full support from MacGonigill. It also features a jaw-dropping group of studio players who, collectively, have backed up a Hall of Fame who’s who that includes Elvis, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Simon and Garfunkel, and Robert Plant.
Pretty good pedigree to be making music with on this, his third album, and — prepare to praise further — having just turned 21 a couple of weeks ago.
“I feel old, man,” Nolan quips. “I wish I was 18 still.”
Actually, it’s Nolan’s perceived “old soul” that many are drawn to in his music, the fact that he sings and writes with a sense of experience that belies his age, and that he, so early into what should be a lengthy career, doesn’t sound out of place with any of the timeless tunesmiths whose names appear anywhere in the first half of this story.
“That’s what a lot of people say, but.” Nolan pauses. “I don’t know where it comes from.
“Maybe it’s from who I listen to . . . Maybe it’s the way it comes through me. But I don’t try to be anything other than myself onstage so I’m not sure what I do.”
Many of the songs that make up the consumptive Cinderella — an album that’s part Wrecking Ball, part Love and Theft — are wise, gritty, heart-andsoul renderings of Nolan’s personal experiences, and sound like the conversations, whispers, ghosts and stains left like fingerprints in the room of any innercity flophouse.
The characters are real and whole, the stories human and full, and come from a place that the songwriter admits are less memory than channellings or hauntings.
“I don’t go out and look for something to happen or look for something to write about, usually,” he says.
“Sometimes I feel like, it’s almost like I’m a radio or something. The song comes from somewhere, and I’m just the middle part, and then I send it out. Sometimes I don’t even write the song, I feel like . . .
“It can’t be forced. Usually I just start playing guitar and singing, and then a line comes out and then the whole song is usually written in that sitting.
“So sometimes I’m not even thinking about anything and then a song comes out.”
With Goodbye Cinderella out and the word starting to spread, Nolan is now focused on firmly embracing and entrenching himself in his new home, something he’s doing every Sunday night at the sweet Inglewood secret Club Paradiso. Nolan hosts a regular night in the elegant and intimate room, performing his own material, as well as with special guests such as guitarslinger Russ Broom, Karla Anderson and, next week, Clea Roddick.
Then again, like you needed another reason to get to know the music of Joe Nolan.