Exclusive Interview: Noah Kahan reveals how his success was birthed in scars

At times the tranquility of a small town incubates creativity and talent, that when realized, scales international acclaim. From a town whose population barely reaches above 1,000, Strattford, Virginia native, Noah Kahan’s music has reached millions.

Kahan has been writing music since he was eight, but in 2018 his single, “Hurt Somebody” featuring Julia Michaels, made it’s way around the world and netted over a 120 million streams. Currently on an almost completely sold out international tour, Noah is realizing the impact his music has made saying, “It’s been an incredible experience so far. Easily the most fun I’ve ever had performing. Everybody has been singing the words to every song, people have been lining up around the block to see me. It’s really, really crazy, and I don’t think I’ll ever get over how amazing this has been for me and my band!”

But like all things, the success was birthed in scars and Noah reveals some of the painful challenges he has overcome to be where he is today,  “Through some really special people and a lot of failure, I’ve learned a lot about myself and how to find balance in my life.”

When we sat down with Noah, we found him to be candid, raw and everything! Read on to find out what he has to say about his songwriting process which generates such relatable hits, what he has to say about the importance of addressing mental health and what’s on tap next! Be sure to catch him on the back end of his tour too! Remaining dates are listed here.

The Feature Story: It’s rumored you’ve been writing and releasing music via Soundcloud since you were 8. Is that true? 

Noah Kahan: I didn’t start releasing music on Soundcloud until I was 16. I started writing at 8 though. I listened to “American Idiot” by Green Day and just thought it was the coolest thing ever that these guys could say whatever they wanted. I wanted to do the same. I then started listening to more folky, songwriting based artists like Paul Simon and Counting Crows. That solidified everything for me.

TFS: Do you have any of the first songs you wrote saved or recorded?

NK: I do have a CD lying around somewhere with some of my oldest songs. They were all very dark and depressing. I believe one made its way to the school, and I was forced to get mandatory therapy for a while there. I guess I found my muse early.

TFS: Catch us up on where you are today, what was the catalyst for launching your rise to international acclaim as a songwriter?

NK: Right now I am touring the world and preparing to release my full length album this spring. And I think the songwriting spoke for itself. I believe I am able to be consistent with how I write and the style I’ve developed and that’s shone through to the songwriting community. I’m grateful for the reputation I have but don’t believe any hype. I just write my songs and hope for the best.

TFS: What is your songwriting process like and how often are you writing?

NK: I write less on the road because I don’t have as much time, but when I’m at home I’m writing every day. It’s kind of sad that all the recent success has deterred me from doing what enabled it in the first place, but I guess that’s just the business. In terms of process, it truly depends on where I’m at mentally and emotionally. Sometimes a song needs to come out of me and it’s as if I’m just channeling it onto paper in the room and sometimes I have to force a song out for days or weeks and that can be frustrating. I don’t hold myself to a very specific writing process, but I do like to have a coffee and sit out on my porch for a little bit to get inspired.

TFS: You are just beginning a national headlining tour, how has it been so far and what do you have planned for the remaining dates?

NK: It’s been an incredible experience so far. Easily the most fun I’ve ever had performing. Everybody has been singing the words to every song, people have been lining up around the block to see me. It’s really, really crazy, and I don’t think I’ll ever get over how amazing this has been for me and my band!

TFS: Do you have any collaborations or duets planned or in the making? If so, can you disclose with whom?

NK: I can’t discuss unfortunately, but I am featured on a really great album coming out in the next few months.

TFS: What has been one of the most rewarding or defining moments to date?

NK: I think either this tour I am on right now, or the phone call where I was told I had finally written the lead single for my album. It can be so daunting to be faced with an enormous task like that. Songs do not appear out of thin air, especially when there’s pressure to create something great, so after writing the big song and having everyone agree, I felt a release of emotion and a sense of accomplishment that I hadn’t felt in some time.

TFS: What would you say is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to get to the point you are in your career?

NK: I have dealt with pretty severe depression and anxiety in the past years, accompanied with the loss of a dear friend of mine in 2017. These issues combined with the turbulent and stressful lifestyle of a touring musician and songwriter created a really unhealthy mindset for me for a long time. Through some really special people and a lot of failure, I’ve learned a lot about myself and how to find balance in my life. I think it is important that anyone in this business can find balance within themselves, and find balance externally, too. There is little to no recognition or support for artists with mental health issues in this industry. Sometimes it feels like our mental health issues are used and accessorized by people trying to turn a profit, instead of being assessed and treated by the people who know we have them. I think it’s fucked up.

TFS: Let’s finish with the goals or plans you have while wrapping up 2018 and looking forward to the new year?

NK: I’m gonna keep working on my album and hopefully people buy it, so I don’t have to go work at a car wash.

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