Even a cursory listen of Noah Jessup at work behind his Gretsch White Falcon will reveal the soulful touch that belies his 16 years.
Jessup, a junior at Indian Hills High School, will be leading his band 12 North at in Boulder Run, Friday, Feb. 24, at 9:30 p.m.
The singer, songwriter and Wyckoff resident sat down with us for an interview in which he opened up about everything from his hallowed reverence for The King to his rocky relationship with high school.
Wyckoff Patch: You seem to play guitar with a certain maturity that most grown men aren't comfortable revealing. Where does that come from?
Noah Jessup: I eat, sleep and live not only music, but performance itself. Over the years venues such as the School of Rock, several of my own bands and projects, auditions, and other outlets of opportunity have really motivated me to perform. They've also introduced me to the idea of originality and independence. Much of what I display on stage has come from trial and error... different situations enable me to constantly revise, edit and motivate myself.
How long have you been playing music? Who were some of your teachers and influences?
I've been playing guitar for about 8 years now. My first real guitar teacher and musical mentor was Ed Littman, who I continue to learn from everyday. He is also the bass player of 12 North.
I've been blessed with the opportunity to introduce myself to quite a few popular artists and on special occasion I've also performed with them. I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Leslie West of Mountain, KT Tunstall, Anton Fig, and a few others. Meeting artists like John Mayer and Derek Trucks have also really inspired me and pushed me.
Does your interest in performance stretch beyond guitar? Do you play other instruments or write music?
Since picking up the guitar, I've learned to play the harmonica, bass, ukulele, mandolin, drums, piano, and sing. Vocals and guitar are the main focus point of both my original music and my popular projects. Everyday I challenge myself to write a new piece of music. Sometimes it sounds OK, sometimes it sounds like a blender. The more I write and the more I fail, the more valuable that one riff or melody becomes.
Do you plan on performing professionally?
I made a promise to myself that I'd be playing music until the day I die, no matter what stretch of life I end up on. That being said, I have strong plans to enter a college for music and performing arts and pursue a career and lifestyle as a performing, recording and touring musician. I have so many dreams, most of which I refer to in my original music.
If you could play a gig with one musician — living or dead — who would it be?
I would die for the opportunity to play with Elvis. There's a soft place in my heart for the King. I've learnt and stole every ounce of music and stage presence I could absorb from him. Elvis had a way with charm; he was the greatest interpreter of music.
When you're focused on music, what do you do for fun?
When I'm not playing I'm either out with the family doing whatever needs to be done in a household with four kids and three dogs, or I'm partying and chilling out with my friends and having a good time; or out watching live music. or having long and deep conversations with my puppy Layla (the best listener in the whole world.)
And just recently I met an amazing girl, the two of us go on dates and spend great time in each other's company. Her name is Maddy and she's been the closest and freshest inspiration for my original music in the past few weeks.
How important is your education?
I'm currently a junior at Indian Hills High School. School has been rough so far. Most of the time I feel independent and more along the lines of a minority there — it's more of a social game then an academic challenge.
Most of the material is dull and dry and disconnected to reality. But I sit there and suck it up with a smile on my face just like everyone else I know. I feel as if it's a hobby of mine to challenge authority, and public school starting at 7:30 in the morning is a great place to do so.
That's not to say I take don't take intellect very seriously — reading and writing is key. Learning of origins and ancestry is vital. I study people while others study textbooks, I make relationships while others make test grades. Somethings can't be taught.
What can we expect at your performance at Blue Moon? Tell me a little about your band.
The Blue Moon is a great venue for 12 North to explore our classic repertoire of bar hits and catchy originals.
Everyone is invited to sing along and have a great time participating with the live music. I've learned that an audience craves a piece of the chemistry between a live band, and Blue Moon offers 12 North the opportunity to spread that love with everyone.
12 North consists of bass player Ed Littman and drummer Dean Rickard — both full-time professional musicians. We'll be playing a huge variety of covers and originals, everything from Jack Johnson to Dave Matthews to the Allman Brothers to Stray Cats to Hendrix to the Beatles to Elvis to Jazz and Johnny Cash and the popular music of today. On top of all those covers we sprinkle in a good amount of original music.
A lot of young performers are charting their path to fame through reality TV, have you considered taking that route?
Reality TV is great for some because it gives them a shot at a life they never saw before. Reality TV isn't for a musician like me where writing and connection is the most prominent feature. The idea of wearing my heart on my sleeve through my music wouldn't sell tabloids like pop stars and reality TV.
At the end of the day I just want to play. I want people to feel the way that I do. I'm an aggressive promoter, but sometimes I think back to the days when art and creativity were tangible feelings undiluted by electronic screens and hand-held devices.
What chord describes you best?
E7 sharp 9 [See the video above to hear Jessup play the jazzy chord.]
If readers want to hear more of your music where can they connect with you?
Gigs for the spring are in the works now and we'll play at any venue with enough space to cram us in! This is what we love to do, it's who we are and we do it everyday!