UB Interview: Noel Gourdin Talks “City Heart, Southern Soul,” Acting & More

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R&B Singer/Songwriter Noel Gourdin is a fan of powerful music with potent messages. Influenced by iconic voices like Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and Johnny Taylor, Gourdin has learned a thing or two about crafting songs that speak to the heart, mind and soul. His rich buttery smooth alto, flavored with a gritty and bluesy undercurrent and punctuated by agile gospel riffs, make him instantly recognizable. The title of his new CD due out February 18th, “City Heart, Southern Soul” directly speaks to the dichotomy of his roots and influences.

Gourdin burst onto the scene in 2008 with his unforgettable and soulfully charged hit ‘The River,’ which managed to hold the #1 slot at Urban AC Radio for 15 consecutive weeks.

Born in Brockton, MA and having spent numerous summers with his family in Pachuta, Mississippi, Gourdin is the perfect amalgamation of city fire and southern heat. He began singing in Church and was influenced by this father’s soul records but at the same was influenced by the new jack swing his brother introduced him to. Signed to Sony Music at 24, Gourdin contributed the song “Family Reunion” to soundtrack for the film ‘The Cookout,’ starring Queen Latifah. His debut After My Time came in 2008 featuring his gospel tinged hit single “The River.” “Fresh: The Definition” was released in showcasing a refreshing blend of live instrumentation, organic production, and lyrical content as heard on the Top 10 Urban AC single, “Beautiful.” In 2012, Gourdin was featured on pianist Brian Culbertson‘s sultry hit R&B ballad “You’re My Music.”

Noel Gourdin recently spoke to Aries from UrbanBridgez.com about his upcoming release “City Heart, Southern Soul,” his creative control he had with the new album, his goals, his first big break into the industry, breaking into acting and much more!

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UrbanBridgez.com: “City Heart, Southern Soul” is your third release, tell us what separates this one from your previous albums?
Noel Gourdin: I would have to say really, just having more of that creative freedom. With each project that I’ve had it seems like my creative freedom has increased more and more so. Defiently as artists we love to creatively express ourselves. On this album, having hands in every aspect of the record making process as well as the design and the cover, just everything. I had my hands in it all, so defiently having that creative freedom and being able to hand pick who I wanted to work with as well.

UrbanBridgez.com: The first single “Heaven Knows” is getting some great buzz, what made you want to release that one for the lead single?
Noel Gourdin: To me it was almost like a continuation of The River. Seems like it could be after reclaiming that long lost love and this one seems like it’s a continuation of that relationship a few years down the line. I also think it speaks to a lot of peoples hearts. Relationships go through ups and downs and you have people who are outside of the relationship that seem to have a lot of input on how some relationships carry out. So it’s all about that and speaks to people that go through that.

UrbanBridgez.com: You mentioned the creative control you had with this album, what process did you take in choosing what songs you wanted to put on the final cut of the album?
Noel Gourdin: Well that was the tough part. We had a whole bunch of records, I would say about 30 or so and cut it down to 10. The label wanted to only go with 10 records, that’s the way it is on an album for publishing and such. I get why they wanted to do that, but it’s just tough having to cut it down while trying to stick to a certain story that I wanted to tell. The title being City Heart, Southern Soul is almost my motto, I say all the time city to the heart, southern to the soul. Being raised in Mississippi as well which are where my folks are from. I pretty much just wanted to tell a story from different fields of music. Making soul music always related for me going down south, because as we know a lot of the artists we know are from the south. Some of the records I had more of a city influence which was more of the disco and hip-hop. But still always having that soulful feel to it. That’s the type of music I always have on my heart and soul. So just telling the story with all of the elements, made it hard to cut down. But we did, thank god.

UrbanBridgez.com: Well the album flows well, I had to chance to listen this weekend and it’s a great R&B album.
Noel Gourdin: Thank you!

UrbanBridgez.com: What’s a song on the new release that you can’t wait for the fans to hear?
Noel Gourdin: It’s funny you say that because it’s a song I did with Avery Sunshine, entitled Can’t Wait. That was a perfect segue to that. It’s just the chemistry on that record, I asked her to get on it with me. We had a few dates that we did together in Louisiana. Aside from being such a talented and beautiful person, she’s so down to earth and a good person. so I wanted to link up with her. This is my first record that I’ve really did a duet with someone. I worked with Courtney Harrell on Save our Love on my last album. But this is like that official duet and what better person to do it with than Avery Sunshine. I really can’t wait for people to hear that one.

UrbanBridgez.com: I see that one as a single.
Noel Gourdin: We’re actually tossing that around right now.

UrbanBridgez.com: What inspires you when you go into the lab to create new music?
Noel Gourdin: A lot of things, from what I’ve gone through in my life. I have a pretty big family and we’re tight knit and we all talk to each other. When we’re going through ups and downs and things, I get a few calls a week asking for advice and such. It comes from family and where ever I just choose to pull that inspiration from, it’s a lot of it around me. Love is a powerful thing, people go through things just in everyday lives. It’s really just always trying to find something that people can pull from and find the inspiration in themselves. Through bad time, relationships or whatever, I would love to just make music they can turn to and happen to put a smile on their face. Like if I go through a tough time, they can listen to it and get advice from it. I try to make music that really touches peoples hearts and music they can relate to in their everyday lives. It’s hard enough living so something to make it a little easier. So when they put on some music to help, I would love for them to choose my name (laughs).

UrbanBridgez.com: What goals have you set for yourself for 2014?
Noel Gourdin: Some aren’t even music related, like to be a better person. A better family member as in brother, etc. Reach out to my family more and do a little bit more than I did last year and the year before that, as far as staying on top of my music. I’ve been busy but you can always be busier. Just setting goals like that to try to be a better person, to become a better artist and just working on things like that. Trying to pull wisdom and inspiration from other places, as many places as I can.

UrbanBridgez.com: How did you get your first big break in the industry?
Noel Gourdin: It really came when my music was introduced to KayGee the super producer from Naughty By Nature. I had linked up wit my manager years ago, in like 2004-2005 or so. He knew a guy in Providence, Rhode Island that had worked with KayGee in the past and Koffee Brown, Jaheim, etc. So we had worked on a catalog of music and we started saving up money and whatever we could do and was going to New York. Renting cars and whatever we could do to get out there. He got my music to KayGee and he took a liking to my voice. That was around the time he was working for the soundtrack to The Cookout, he actually put my record Family Reunion that I cut at the beginning of the movie. That was really my big break and my foot in the door before I was even signed. My biggest vindication type of thing even before that was working out in L.A. with Dr. Dre for like a month. That was pretty much the validation that I was doing what I was suppose to be doing. Someone like Dr. Dre doesn’t just take an interest in somebody and keep them in the studio for weeks. So that was my biggest vindication before my first big break with KayGee.

UrbanBridgez.com: If you could change one thing about your musical journey thus far, what would it be?
Noel Gourdin: I’d say just being a little bit smarter and knowing my worth a little bit earlier. As far as any moves I’ve made I don’t regret any of that, but just not going for everything that was pushed upon me. At the time I was a young googly eyed artist that had just been signed by a big major label. So whatever was pushed at me, I pretty much went for it. Now being confident enough and knowing my worth and being able to say no. Looking back now I believe I would of said no a couple of times. But again I have no regrets, I met some great people while I was going into Sony/Columbia. I’m still working with a lot of them so that really says a lot. It’s all about relationships and again I don’t regret anything that I’ve done, just wish I would of said no a few times.

UrbanBridgez.com: Outside of music, do you have any plans to break out in other areas of entertainment?
Noel Gourdin: I want to break into the acting area. I think music and acting almost go hand in hand. So I would love to step into that if I can, I’m always trying to better myself as an artist. Being able to break into the acting game would be great. I’ve had a couple of scripts thrown my way, so we’re going over those and seeing how things are going to play out.

UrbanBridgez.com: Yeah I could see that, with your personality on Twitter alone.
Noel Gourdin: I appreciate that brother, I’m going to have to get you to send some letters.

UrbanBridgez.com: We got you! Anything else you want to share with your fans before we wrap up?
Noel Gourdin: I just want to tell people to stay tuned! Noel will not be sacrificing any of my integrities as far as music making. Get in touch with me on Facebook, Twitter and my website as well as Instagram. I can’t wait for people to hear my new album City Heart, Southern Soul coming out in February. Stay tuned for it, you will not be disappointed.

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