Get To Know Noah Levine [Interview]

Riley Furey
Photo by Pooneh Ghana

I’ve been lucky enough to watch Noah Levine go from a Berklee Student who worked mainly on his own project Noah in the Open, all the way to seeing him tour the world with Noah Kahan in his band. That amount of opportunity and growth is bound to impact your life on a grand scale, so I wanted to take some time to talk to Noah about what he’s been up to since getting on the road, and to see what to expect in the future from him pertaining to his solo work and for tour life.

Let’s get into it.

(Before we got into anything, Noah came in fully loaded with a recommendation that I figured I’d share with you before we got into it)

I have a music rec for you if you haven’t heard it yet. Have you listened to Ethan Gruska’s album ‘En Garde’ from 2020?

I've never heard of him honestly.

Oh man, you’ve got to listen. He produced ‘Punisher’ by Phoebe Bridgers, ‘Calico’ by Ryan Beatty, and he made a record of his own stuff in 2020 and it’s unbelievable. He’s one of the most creative producers out right now. The best way to listen to the album would be to just put a nice pair of headphones on, and go for like an hour long walk. You’ll love it.

Honestly that’s exactly how I would want to start an interview haha. How’ve you been though dude?

I’m good man, we’re in Toronto right now on a few day break between shows. I’m hoping to find a vintage music store in the area and to buy some new shoes while we’re here.

It's awesome to hear you have a break between shows, and with that said, it also feels like the perfect time to reflect on what’s happened over the past two years for you. We did an interview around the time you got the job touring with Noah Kahan, and at the time I know it wasn’t an easy decision. What's something you would tell past you from that time?

I would probably tell my past self to journal more. I’m getting back into it now and writing down daily experiences and all of that, but I only have two or three journal entries from the time where I started working with Noah. I’m finding that more and more as I go that I’m forgetting more about what’s happened because things move so fast. It would just be such a valuable thing to have written documentation of everything from my own point of view.

To lap back even further, I know the reason you started working with Noah was because of the guitar solo you did on “Homesick” from being in the studio with Gabe Simon, and this led you to working on “Dial Drunk” and a few others with him. What else have you worked on that isn't your own music, outside of what you’ve done with Noah?

I signed a publishing deal a little over a year ago, and it’s an all encompassing thing where I write songs for myself, I write for other people, I co-produce, and really collaborate however I can. Some of the other things that I’ve done outside of Noah’s music would be when I worked with Gabe and recorded a guitar part for Ruel, I played some Cello lines on an Olivia O’Brien song, I played saxophone on a Better Than Ezra song that’s coming out this year, I wrote some music for Sam MacPherson on his record coming out soon, I played Saxophone for Medium Build on his record that just dropped...

I’ve been waiting on that Medium Build song for a minute now, what track in particular is it?

It’s the closing track, “Stick Around.”

Haha dude let’s go, I can’t wait to listen.

It’s really great. Outside of that though, I don’t have a ton of time because we’re touring pretty consistently this year. I also write for my own project, and all of that together takes up the majority of my free time lately.

Is there anyone you really want to work with that you haven't yet?

Oh my god there’s so many people I want to work with. Ethan Gruska’s musical mind is just amazing to see work in his records. Through that, Ryan Beatty too. I want to work with Phoebe Bridgers. It’s a whole family and general area of music that I really want to work with. At the end of the day I’m open and willing to work with pretty much anybody right now, and of course I’ll be selective about it, but I really want to just try new things and reach worlds I’ve never even thought about.

Coming back to the present day, a lot of your time has been spent on the road. Have any cities surprised you with how lively the crowd was?

It’s always kind of the middle of nowhere towns that are the loudest. Like one day we were in the South and had a show in Chattanooga, and it was one of the craziest crowds. Same with Charlotte. A lot of Midwest cities go absolutely insane and it just isn’t the places that you expect. Winnipeg and Saskatoon were incredible from this Canada leg of the tour that we’re on right now. It’s the B-Market cities that you don’t expect much from that always go the craziest.

Are the A-Markets loud too then like the LA’s and New York’s?

It’s a little more industry heavy. The New York and LA crowds are great for Noah, but there’s also a lot of music industry people in those crowds who are notoriously not the best fans per-se – which I’m also a part of at times. A lot of us are analyzing the shows or trying to learn, and can stand with our arms crossed even if we’re really enjoying the show. New York is an exception because it’s just such a big city that it sort of drowns that out, and Boston is an A-Market city too that is probably Noah’s loudest and most supportive audience. It’s an interesting thing to tap into.

To stay on the topic of tour, a side of music that fans tend not to see is the nomadic aspects of it. What's something you would tell an aspiring musician about life on the road?

You have to work a lot harder to keep yourself healthy, mentally and physically. I’m lucky to be touring on a comfortable side of things because Noah has us in really nice buses and big green rooms, but I still have to work to keep myself healthy. You don’t get good sleep every night, you’re not always eating the best food, you’re staying up late, and you’re needed at weird hours of the day. If you don’t choose to move around, you don’t have to, so I would say to be cognizant from day one about being on top of that.

I've seen more and more equipment get posted on your story as time goes on. Do you have a favorite guitar to play and why if so?

My favorite guitar to play is probably my Rocco Baritone. It’s a custom handbuilt baritone Telecaster that I designed with this guy named Tim Rocco out in Ohio. He’s an older retired guy who makes the best guitars by hand. I also started working with Heritage Guitars, and those are the 335 styles that I started playing which are just the cream of the crop and some of the nicest guitars ever. So it’s probably between those two. I’m always playing a Heritage Custom Core H535 or the Rocco Bari – the mint green one that there’s a lot of photos of.

That sounds like a dream setup for you.

Haha the custom one I still had to pay for, but it still is an amazing experience. There are a lot of surreal things happening right now, like if you would have asked the younger me, I would easily say it would be the dream to be getting free guitars and that’s happening to me a ton. It just feels like I’m pleasing a younger version of myself all the time, which is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.

That’s who we do it for bro. Touring with someone like Noah Kahan is a special experience especially when you’re also an artist yourself who is hoping to have similar success in their solo project. Is there anything that Noah does well on stage that you hope to emulate in your own performances?

Honestly, Noah does everything well on stage. He’s funny and is just great at talking and knows how to read a room, but he’s also opening the world of informality on the big stage. I feel like it’s so daunting when you see shows by artists like Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo who are both amazing acts, but with themit feels like such a proper show. It all feels scripted and they have such a stardom quality about them that feels impossible to learn, where Noah is just a guy on stage. 

It’s easy for me to say that because I know him as a person, but I feel like that comes across to his fans that he is the same humble guy who is playing the 700 Cap Higher Ground venue in Vermont – he’s just doing it in bigger spaces now. It's really inspiring to see that it’s the music that’s getting him there, and of course Taylor and Olivia make great music, but it’s that stardom quality isn’t a necessity, you know what I mean?

Totally, it’s cool to see the music speak. Especially when it came from such a raw time of his expression where he just peeled it all back and took the route that wasn’t the most popular at the time.


I know you're really busy like we talked about earlier, but you've been able to make time to open for artists like Hans Williams and Medium Build. Are there any other shows planned or goals you have for the next year?

I would like there to be haha, but I’m not actively looking right now because we’re about to enter the busiest touring schedule we’ve ever had. It’s about to be another six months straight of touring. I was going to open for a leg of the Brook & the Bluff tour this year, but I had to pull out because we had more stuff scheduled and rehearsals got pushed forward so it didn’t end up being doable at the moment. The plan is to ride out this time with Noah and not worry about trying to squeeze stuff in between, and whenever this cycle of touring is done to really hit the gas on finding other shows to play and putting out my own stuff.

That feels pretty on brand from what we’ve talked about over the past few years. To finish things off for this interview, you've always been around music and Noah in the Open has always been a tether throughout this process. What should people expect to come next for you in your solo project?

Probably the death of the name Noah in the Open. I’m making the transition to Noah Levine because I feel like so much has changed since the last time I released music and it doesn’t make sense to bring back a version of myself that I feel like I’m just not anymore. It’s more true to myself and the stuff that I’m doing to use just my name. I’m also working on a record, just an EP and some songs to put out at the end of this year, to sort of restart and kind of bring a formal handshake to the music world as the new version of myself.

Woooow, that’s a big step bro.

Haha I know, but it just feels like it needs to happen. It feels right.

Well I appreciate you taking the time out dude. A lot has changed in the year and a half since we did our first interview together, and it's been awesome seeing all of the success come your way. Reading that and then reading what this interview today will come has been super special, and I’m excited to see what comes next for you.

Thank you man. It was great catching up with you.

Copy Link

Related Articles