RR LogoSinger-Songwriter Keri Noble Finds a Softer Place To Land

Keri Noble Photo One 2014

You make me wanna leave, make me wanna stay, make me so scared / Then you take it all away /Make me crazy. Make me crazy / And I don’t know why, I don’t know why / But there’s something about your love / That I can’t walk away from / And it’s killing me to let you know / That I might be crazy, but I’m never gonna let you go.  

The words are from Minneapolis singer, songwriter and radio personality Keri Noble’s song “Make Me Crazy,” from her current album Softer Place To Land. It was about five years ago that Riveting Riffs Magazine last talked to Keri Noble and a lot has changed in her life, she tours less, by choice, co-hosts a popular morning radio show on Minneapolis radio station KTCZ and she married former Minnesota Vikings football player Mike Morris. What has not changed is Noble’s ability to write very good songs from personal experience and serve them up with vulnerable and soulful vocals.

“The songs are in reverse, so half the record was written before I fell in love with my husband and then the falling in love songs and learning to trust again were the most recent songs.  It starts with “Pray For You,” “Back To Before,” and “Make Me Crazy,” (all) songs that I had written before Mike. There is a real line that I hear when I listen to the collection of music. They are pre Mike and post Mike. I think there will always be plenty to draw from.   I don’t want to put out records in the future that are all I’m in love,” she says.

This is Keri Noble’s first album since 2011 and she explains why. “I had done three records in a span of a year. I had did When It Don’t Come Easy (2010), which was a really long, fairly dark album and there were lots of songs on it sixteen or fourteen. It was a really long album. I did a solo record called Flying Solo (2010) and I did an all original holiday album, More Than Santa, which actually is my favorite CD that I have ever done.  It is a Christmas record and I love that record. I had done three records in the span of a year and I felt like I had said it all. I was also in the meantime falling in love and my mom had just been diagnosed with cancer. There were things that were pulling on both sides of me, good with falling in love, a new job and bad with (my mom’s) cancer and how heavy that is. I just took stock of where I was at. I came off the road doing a series of shows that I really did not enjoy at all. I think the writing for me was on the wall if I wanted to change and I took it and I ran with it. This record (Softer Place To Land) happened by accident, because I didn’t have any pressure to put something new out there. I have a little piano room and I was just playing around and all of a sudden new songs were just pouring out like old school. Before I had to do it out of necessity and so I feel the record is a little lighter, because there wasn’t the pressure when I was writing.”

“Dancing In The Morning,” is one of those songs that is lighter, upbeat and one can easily surmise it is a very personal song about her relationship with her husband and about her hectic days at the radio station, although we wonder if Mike gets up at 3:30 am.

“Every day, unless I have more to do after the show (I get up at 3:30 am) and then I get up earlier, so I can look halfway presentable. It sounds awful and trust me in the beginning it really was, but for me it’s not the getting up that is awful, awful, awful, it is going to bed at a time that makes it so the next day is not a complete waste. After years and years of doing my own thing and of not having to go to bed at a certain time, it is a hard one to break. It’s really, really hard. By the time the show is over it is hitting me that I got up so early. When the alarm goes off, I bounce out of bed and I am excited to go, it’s fun.  It is really a fun job and I am lucky because they put me with Brian Oake, who is my counterpart. He and I get along famously.  He interviewed me several times (prior to co-hosting the show).

KTCZ 97 has changed a little bit now, but it used to play a lot more singer-songwriter and a lot more Adult Contemporary music, so I was played on the station, I was interviewed by Brian Oake and he and I knew each other on that level. When it switched over to now and we are co-workers in the morning, we have a great camaraderie. It is pretty easy to get out of bed when you like what you do. Keri Noble Photo two 2014

It is weird and as I look back over it, I looked at it as a cool adventure and I was having so much fun and I was in love. It was like a whirlwind. Now I feel like this is my life (she laughs) I get up early and I go to bed like a senior citizen. I am eating the early bird special. The trade is that I love what I do every day and I am lucky, because I have no intention of stopping music, so right now all of the itches are getting scratched. I am really lucky to be able to say that, because a lot of people don’t have those outlets. They are not able to do them on a regular basis and I am. I think it is a small price to pay to get up at 3:30.

I was losing my passion for music and I think having this job has reignited that love for music. I have had so many good things come to me through music. I have never had to live out of my van. I have been able to live comfortably, but as you get older you are less willing to do the hardcore stuff. I was getting so sick of touring and trying to put tours together. Once I got out of the label industry, I had no intention of trying to get on another one.  Where does that leave me in terms of a career in music? I just felt burned out and I was not excited about trying to make something happen. I knew I wanted to keep writing and I wanted to keep recording, but I just didn’t have it in me to push for whatever else it was going to take to get my music out there, so I could continue to make money, so I could continue to make music. Once I got this job it really came at the perfect time, because I wanted to slow down from touring and that means you have to find another way to make money and now I don’t perform as much as I had been, so when I am writing or when I am making a record, it feels fun again.

Every gigging musician or every fulltime musician who wants to be fulltime knows we all have to take gigs that we don’t want just to pay the bills. The ones that you love are the ones that hold you over when you are doing some loud bar gig or some corporate event that you would hate doing or something. For me, I really get to pick and choose and it comes with the flip side that I don’t gig as much as I used to and sometimes I miss that, but I don’t miss it enough to put up with all of the other stuff that goes along with it.

There is always a little bit of a drawback to anything that you do, but for this moment I feel that I have this bit of a sweet spot and I am really grateful for it. I get to meet a ton of artists who are bigger and out there. I was at a private performance that we had at the station with Ellie Goulding and she was talking to the studio audience that we had and they were asking her what is the hardest part of the job?  She started talking about being on the road all of the time and how exhausting it is and how you feel disconnected from everyone that you love. She really was pretty open about it. I was standing in the back, watching her and I was thinking I don’t miss that at all. I know exactly what she is talking about and I don’t miss it. That is the truth and I feel grateful that I don’t have to do that anymore. I am pretty sure that her experience is much different than mine, but it all comes down to the fact that if you want to make money you have to tour.  Touring as you get older is a bummer unless that’s what you really, really love.”

It was while Keri Noble was on air at KFAN another Twin Cities radio station that she met her husband Mike Morris where he was hosting a show.

“I was making my holiday record. I wasn’t touring, but I was still doing music fulltime. I started appearing on his (Mike’s) show, while I was in town, doing entertainment reporting. I would do shows and movie reviews and things like that. I knew some of the guys and I would go on for that. It very quickly devolved into basically hanging out on the show and laughing. By the end I was going on twice a week for about an hour. We just laughed and talked about whatever.

I was really lucky and I feel like I have had so many different moments in my career or in my life of falling into things. What do they say about success? It is something about there is no luck or luck is when you show up and work. It feels lucky when things happen, but really the whole time you are working hard and you keep trying to put yourself into positions, so you are around when the spark happens. The radio thing started out as a fun little way to get my name out there and that I was making this record and I was trying to keep it fresh in the twin cities. Even though it was a God awful hour of the morning it was so much fun and it felt so much like performing.  The mics go on and anything can happen. You can say anything and you can tell right away when the phones light up if it is working or it is not working. If just felt like another (type) of performing, which I love, because I didn’t have to cut open a vein every time that I stood in front of a microphone, which I do with music. It felt like an easier way to perform without really digging deep. I had been doing that for over a decade.  It is a comment about songwriting. I haven’t been the kind of artist who writes super happy Pop little pieces that don’t mean much, but they make people dance or something like that.  That has not really been my path. My songs are a lot more from pain or from sadness or from introspection or things like that.  That’s how I come to music and those are the songs that I write for whatever reason.  It felt great to get that fun feeling of performance, which I do have in my own shows, without having to stop the fun to go into another song that is about heartbreak or taking me down the road that I have to revisit every time that I sing the song. I could just have fun, which is good after so long of singing songs that were surrounded by pain,” she says.

Songwriting first became a part of Keri Noble’s life when she was eighteen years old and someone gave her Joni Mitchell’s CD Blue.

“She (Mitchell) changed my life. I had never heard of her. It wasn’t that my family was super hardcore (Christians) and we weren’t allowed to listen to secular music, but it wasn’t around much. My parents didn’t listen to secular music. My friends all listened to what was on the radio at that time, which was Hip Hop and R&B, which I loved and then I connected with a singer-songwriter guy and he gave me that CD. In listening to that record it woke something up that I didn’t know was inside me. It was really that dramatic. I listen to the record differently now than I did then. I had heard James Taylor in very little snippets, but nothing major. I don’t know if I knew who Carole King was at that time. That singer-songwriter genre from the seventies I wasn’t familiar with and when I heard Blue every song was just so achingly painful and in the most fantastic and beautiful way. All I wanted to do was to take the things that I had been writing and that were private for me and to put them to music. I really hadn’t thought about doing that before. I heard what she was doing and I thought, I have things that I am afraid to say in my real life, but it seems like she is just taking her thoughts and putting them in words and (setting them) to music. It just felt good, it felt really good.

“It literally changed the course of my life, because had I not heard that record (Blue) or some record that would ignite that thing inside of me then I don’t think I would ever have known that I had a desire to do music. Maybe today, I would be living in Detroit (where she grew up) and doing something very different and wondering why I did not feel complete,” says Noble.

Keri Noble has a concert at the Hopkins Center for the Arts in Hopkins, Minnesota on April 29th and on May 1st she is in concert at the Varsity Theater in Minneapollis.

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Interview Published April 2, 2014, All photos property of Keri Noble and are protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved

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