Review Fix chats with singer/songwriter Noah James Hittner, who discusses his origins in music, new album, “willing,” as well as his goals for the future.
Musician, author and entrepreneur, Noah James Hittner, was born and raised in the beautiful driftless region of the rural Midwest, where his work has led him to appear on both radio and network television.
Despite being raised the son of a local Country-Rock legend, Noah procrastinated for well over a decade before finally picking up the guitar to begin the new year in 2009. Influenced by everything from folk-rock to hip-hop, Noah has recorded and released several albums which blend the singer-songwriter, acoustic, rock, urban, and electronic styles into a singular Acoustic-Tronic genre. This collage of influences creates a sound that begs listeners to feel something. Now based out of Madison and regularly touring southeast Wisconsin, Noah performs with the use of a looper pedal and various effects, creating a wildly entertaining, full-band sound.
Noah’s 3rd solo album, willing, was written, performed, recorded, mixed and produced entirely by Noah in his tiny basement home-studio on the blue-collar east-side of Madison, WI. This latest collection brings Noah’s talent for multi-genre music into focus using Blues, Folk, Hip-Hop, R&B, and Electronica to successfully paint a sonic canvas which not only emotes—but grooves hard. willing is available now on all major streaming and download platforms.
Review Fix: How did you get involved in music?
Noah James Hittner: My mother, Joy, is something of a local country-rock legend back home. She put food on the table playing in two different bands when I was a kid. Her influence was immeasurable. Often, she’d play us to sleep at night; just her, an old Alvarez classical acoustic guitar, and a book full of folk and classic rock tunes. My favorite was when she would bust out Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”.
Strangely, though I wanted to learn how to play the guitar all throughout my childhood and young adulthood, I procrastinated. I’ve said it many times, all those strings and frets were very intimidating. (Still are sometimes.) Finally, in my mid 30’s, it was appropriately my mom that bought me that first acoustic guitar. A Hoover damn’s worth of pent-up creative energy jumped out of me.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Hittner: I write, record and produce all of my music and, honestly, I’m not sure it’s much of a process. Sometimes songs are inspired by other songs I’ve heard. Sometimes when playing guitar I’ll stumble across a lick or a random chord progression which inevitably leads to a song. Sometimes an emotion drags the prose out first, and the music comes second. I never know when or where it’s going to happen, and so I’ve learned to keep either a pen & paper (or my phone’s voice recorder) handy at all times because that spark fades fast into forgotten realms.
My studio is very minimalist. A basement, a laptop, some software, an interface, a mic, an amp, a guitar. Recording alone is tricky. Manning the mic, guitar, and board all at once is challenging at the least, maddening at times, but always rewarding in the end.
Review Fix: What inspires you?
Hittner: I’d like to give you some kind of enlightened response to this. The truth is, nothing inspires me more than a good old painful struggle—and the overcoming of it. Witnessing it, or living it. It is what it is.
Musically I’m drawn to strong rhythms, bluesy melancholy melodies, and lyrics that are brutally honest and don’t use one word more than is necessary to say what needs to be said.
Review Fix: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?
Hittner: It’s like if David Gray, Citizen Cope and David Huckfelt all got locked in a studio together and were forced to listen to each other’s music before being equally forced to record some tracks together. Figuratively speaking, that’s kind of how it’s worked for me.
When I first started playing, I thought, “I’m a guitar-playing middle-class white male. I’m supposed to be a singer-songwriter guy.” Now, ten years in, I don’t want any restrictions whatsoever. Folk, Blues, Hip-Hop, R&B, Eectronica, I want to make it all with no hesitation. That’s the process.
Review Fix: How are your live shows different from your studio work?
Hittner: A recorded piece of music is a permanent moment in time, a permanent representation of that particular song or album. And because of that, I want it all to be as good as it can possibly be, with no slop or unnecessary flaws, period. This is not perfectionism. There are PLENTY of flaws on my albums. (A cat “meow” comes to mind.) This is, however, a simple dedication to excellence—to being as excellent as my current level of skill allows me to be. When recording I use hundreds of takes if need be, to get it right. What better avenue than art is there for such an exercise in excellence?
Live, things are much different. I perform with a looper and several effects pedals in order to create a full-band sound. This means building entire songs, layer by layer in real time. Which in turn means tons of room for error. I’ve had to learn to relax, to breathe, and to find that place where the music comes from in order to stand before large groups of people—flaws and all—and let if fly. Sometimes it’s painfully humiliating. Other times is exhilarating, liberating. Always, it’s humbling.
Review Fix: What inspired your latest album?
Hittner: My latest multi-genre album, “willing,” uses Blues, Folk, Hip-Hop, R&B, and Electronica to tell stories about loss, frustration, hate, love, divinity and all the stuff to which I hope others will be able to relate. In really considering that collection of songs, the only central them that I can surmise has something to do with becoming more aware of how I’m relating to the world, and how I’m creating my reality moment by moment.
Review Fix: What are your goals for the rest of 2019?
Hittner: Rest. I work a full-time job, run an online business at home, and keep a fairly rigorous gig schedule. I’m looking forward to a few weeks of slower downtime this fall. But then, it will be back to work, booking shows for 2020, and generally moving toward the ultimate goal of autonomy: artistic, financial, personal, spiritual.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Hittner: I’ve also authored several books on the topic of human consciousness, spirituality, and personal freedom. Currently, I’m working on my first novel—an epic journey tale of love and friendship.