Country 2 Country Festival (C2C)

Interview: Noah Schnacky talks music, lockdown, the UK and more

While rising young country music star Noah Schnacky’s big plans for this year are still currently on hold, just like the rest of us, he’s still managed to be incredibly productive during his time in lockdown. Aside from regularly singing for his sizeable (over 500,000) fan base on all the major social media platforms, he’s also released a fantastic EP featuring two new tracks, Comeback, and Where’d You Go, which has just been added to Apple’s Spotlight playlist.

Born in Minneapolis, Noah moved to Orlando, Florida, with his family when he was just one year old. By the age of 12 he was making regular trips to Nashville to pursue his passion for country music, and in the years following he built up a big following on social media by performing cover songs, and also by spending many hours per day direct messaging his fans. It’s a fan-centric approach that he still insists on to this day. In January 2018, on his 21st birthday, Noah released his self-financed single, Hello Beautiful, which racked up an impressive one million streams in just eight days.

On hearing the song, legendary songwriter Shane McAnally started working with Noah and offering the benefit of his experience in the business, leading to Noah eventually signing with Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Records in December 2018, and then immediately heading into the studio with another legend, producer Dan Huff. The first fruit of their labours was single I’ll Be the One, which was co-written with Seth Ennis and Jordan Schmidt. It was streamed four million times before even being heard on the radio, and has now exceeded 11 million streams. 2020 was set to be a huge year for Noah, including an appearance at C2C, but that all came to a halt when the pandemic struck in March and he had to return home to quarantine, which is where we got the chance to catch up with him and find out all about his new music, as well as how he’s coping with life in lockdown.

Hey Maura, what’s going on?

Not a lot!

How are you, Noah?

I’m doing good.

I feel you on the “not a lot,” though! I’ve been cooped up in my house for long enough!

But at least you’ve been spending time on a lake!

Yeah! My family’s in Florida, and I quarantined with them, because I’m a smart person! (laughing)

How are things over there? I know we were just kicking things off. I was so excited. For the first time ever I was gonna play the O2 Arena, and by gosh, I’ll be danged, if a couple of days before, something happens and everything just goes to craziness. And then we went from playing show after show to running for the station, ‘cause everybody seemed to kind of go into a panic. It was crazy. We went directly to London, and then when we went to London, we heard news that Europe was getting shut down, with the exception of the UK. That was what spooked everybody.

It was all very scary. It was such a shame.

It wasn’t even that it was super scary, it was really just the unknown that really got to me. People saying stuff about a month’s isolation when you get back home. People were saying you would get stopped and quarantined in the airport. And there was a little bit of truth to that. Some people ended up getting isolated.

Hopefully now it’s been rescheduled for next year, you will be coming back.

Let me tell you this. I love the UK. I can’t wait to go back, as soon as I possibly can.

When I heard they were rescheduling, I was really excited, ‘cause one of my biggest dreams has always been to play the O2 Arena, and I gotta go back and do it. It’s special to me because some of my favourite artists in the world have played that arena, inside and outside the genre. I’ve watched how much it means to artists. Even The 1975, I was just listening to their Live at the O2 Arena album, and I was sitting there thinking to myself how cool it would be to play the same place that this was recorded.

Are you finding it hard to be creative in lockdown?

No. The opposite. I’m much more creative when I’m cooped up. I don’t know why that is, but I just am. So I’ve been really focusing on how can I go deeper with my fans, and connect with them on a more regular basis, ‘cause my ultimate goal is to somehow live a life where I can make my fans feel like my best friends, for me, and for them.

So we’ve been doing these little live streams every night. I go live for like two hours and 45 minutes every single night, just talking to them. Watching the way that that’s impacting the culture, and the people that are part of my story already, is just really special, and on top of that I’ve been doing this thing called Cyber Serenade, which is, I’ll just go on my phone, look for a different girl on Instagram, and serenade her. Write her a song about the information I find online. Like I’ll get inspired that she’s from Ohio, and write a song called Makes Me Want to Go to Ohio, and just throw it out there for the Internet to see and celebrate her. I’ve been doing that for a couple months now, and it’s been really fun.

You seem to make the fans a big part of everything you do, like with the fan lyric video for I’ll be the One.

Yeah, because, honestly, what good is the platform that I’ve been given if I don’t use it to celebrate others? I don’t wanna celebrate myself. I’m boring!

And going by your TikTok posts, you’re also very romantic!

I don’t know if it’s the quarantine getting to me or what, but I gotta tell you, I definitely would have rather had a girlfriend during quarantine, but I definitely don’t!

Do you know what I predict though? I mean, I’m just saying. I predict nine months from now, we’ll have a huge baby boom! It’s going to be ridiculous!

It seems that overall, as far as quarantine is concerned, you’ve taken a big negative and made it into a big positive.

We were just travelling the world. We went from the Netherlands, to Germany, to the UK, and we were supposed to go to different countries on top of that. And it’s so funny, that it wasn’t until I came back home that I really felt like I was reaching the world. What I found for myself is that we have such an incredible opportunity, if we’re willing to seize it, and I can touch the person in Germany who’s on their phone, just as quickly as I can touch the person in Kansas who’s on their phone. Obviously it’s hard work, but social media’s something I like, and I’ve always been kind of excited about. So when I saw we were going into this, my goal is just to come out of it in a different place. And I didn’t know what that place looks like, but it was the reason I started working out, and it was the reason I started really trying to exercise my social media too. And I don’t know how long this whole thing lasts, or how quickly things go back to normal, but I’m already grateful that, although it’s a horrible thing that happened, there is a silver lining in it.

Turning to your music, you started going to Nashville at 12. Why did you want to go to Nashville? What was it about country music?

I wish I could tell you that I picked country for this reason or that reason, but honestly, the only thing I could tell you is that country picked me. It’s the truth. I grew up in it. My grandfather did country music, my dad did country music. I still have videos of my dad when he was my age, playing different little clubs and little coffee shops, playing the Garth Brooks hits of the day. And I remember growing up around the household with my dad always playing country music, always singing country music to me, and I couldn’t help but fall in love, over the course of time, with the idea of storytelling, and really changing people and impacting people, and giving new perspective to a song.

And so when I went to write my own music, it didn’t matter how hard I tried, I was a storyteller. Like, I couldn’t not tell you the story. I couldn’t not wanna connect with my music. Just to make sounds is not enough. I needed to tell a story, and that part of me I just couldn’t get rid of. And when you pair that with my ideal instrumentation, it just was so authentically country, I couldn’t get away from it.

And you’re working with Dan Huff at the moment.

I am! When I say my dad played music on the radio growing up, pretty much 90% of those tracks were Dan Huff! So when I went to make my own music, and we put out the first two independently, we had to produce them ourselves, and I’d be lying to say that one of my main inspirations wasn’t Dan Huff, because it’s the country music that I grew up on, and that’s what I’m aspiring to kind of be in the same realm as. So when I found out that even working with Dan Huff was an option, I was mindblown. And here we are with four songs, a full EP coming out down the line, and two songs coming out with Dan. That’s so cool to me.

So you’ve got more tracks coming after Comeback and Where’d You Go?

I do. Well, it’s an EP that comes out, I don’t know if it’s a specific date, I know that they’re hoping to get it out late summer, early fall. The goal is to follow these two songs up with a full EP, to let people know that I’m more than a song. Because I’ve been doing this since I was 21, we’ve only put out three songs, and we’ve already come this far. I’m excited to show people what happens when you can put out a body of work, so that people know more of who I am.

Are these two new tracks representative of your overall sound with Dan Huff?

Here’s the thing. I have the music that I love and enjoy, and I have the music that I make, and those can be totally the same and totally different at times. So my biggest thing is like there is a constant in the midst of all the experimentation and stuff, and that’s me. The storyteller. And so, being in a country core, the most that I experiment is like something like a Where’d You Go, which is the second song of the two songs. It’s country music with a twist of dream state added to it, because the whole song was based on a dream that I had, so it’s important to me that we were bringing the audience, that anybody listening to this song was brought on this story of what felt like a dream state. So we incorporated these elements on top of the country song, and it brought an unusually cool vibe to the song. And that’s kinda where I see my experimentation at, you know.

What was the dream about?

Where’d You Go is based on a conversation that I had. When I was 14, 15, I had this dream about a girl I had never met. And we had an awesome time hanging out in this dream. We went to a theme park, ‘cause we were young kids in this dream, and we were having a great time, and I don’t remember much about what she looked like. I remember little things. But what I really remember is how it felt to be around her. It was like nothing I’d ever felt before. Pure joy. And I woke up from that dream, and I had no idea who she was, or where she came from, or how I remembered her, but I felt like maybe that dream was a vision of the girl I was one day gonna marry. And I know it sounds kinda corny and stuff, but I’d never really talked about it until I put it in this song. And I’d talked about it a little bit with my dad and my best friend, but when I put it in the song, the idea was to call out to wherever she is in this world. And so, it’s kind of fun for me to see a song come to life, with the ultimate team I could have picked, and to know that potentially it could reach the ears of the person that the song was made for.

And with Dan Huff involved, the whole thing really is a dream!

It is. I can’t take credit for this, I don’t know how I got this lucky to have that kind of team behind a song like that. And the way the song came together was such an accident, like lightning in a bottle. It was ridiculous. But it was two of my favourite people in a room, and we all brought these ideas, and somehow these ideas, from totally different aspects of songwriting, from like a clappy beat to like an electric line, to like an interesting kinda rhythmic melody line for the vocal, all perfectly laid on top of each other. We would have never anticipated that we’d make the sound that we did. I’ve never heard a song that sounds anything like what we’ve put out. It sits in its own genre, and it emotes a totally different feeling, it’s so cool.

Let me also add why I’m excited for Comeback, which is the main track of the two that we’ve put out, because it’s authentic. It was based on a relationship that I legitimately had, not too long ago in my past. And to be truly honest with you, there are these moments where you wonder if you’re doing the right thing, ‘cause a part of the reason I had to give it up was because I knew I needed that energy and time just to adequately chase my dream, without having any “what ifs.”

You know what I mean? Because relationships, they take time, and they take effort, and I knew that to pursue this with everything I had, I had to be willing to let go of everything else. And there’s still an insecurity in that, wondering if you made the right decision, or if one day you’re gonna find out that the girl was the dream, at the end of it, and that you were always wrong, and that things don’t come back to you. And so there’s an insecurity in that that I’m really excited to share with my audience, just because I think we all go through that in our own lives in our own way. And I think that we all have our moments where we wonder if we’re making the right decision. And it’s really cool for me to get to be authentic and show a different side to myself than ever before.

Last question! Why does the anchor symbol have such a special meaning for you and your fans?

The anchor is a symbol that my whole audience knows me for. It’s based off my faith, and it’s based off a story I read way back in the day about Christians in the first generation. A lot of them changed their tattoos of crosses into anchors to hide their identity so that they wouldn’t be persecuted and killed for their faith. And what’s cool is that although they weren’t outwardly expressing their faith, they were acting on it through action. Although they weren’t putting it on their bodies, they were treating people with love, and that continued to grow the religion, and I love the idea of not leading with words but leading with action, and only using words when necessary.

And so, I kind of bring that into every aspect of what I’m doing, ‘cause I don’t wanna be the guy who shoves my faith down somebody else’s throat. I don’t wanna be the kind of person who writes people off because we have different beliefs, when 99 percent of us are the same. That we can have one percent difference and 99 percent the same and be divided is just kinda silly to me.

So, I started leading by actions, and I’d explain that whenever somebody like you asked me about it, and I just watched as ten turned to a hundred, turned to a thousand, turned to five thousand people online. They’d put these anchors by their name on social media, and it’s just a constant reminder to love people where they’re at, and not force people to be something that they’re not. And people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. That’s what I always say.  

By Maura Sutton

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