Gavin Brown Takes On Noush Skaugen
Noush Skaugen has just released her latest album which is title Hey Sicko and it is an album that is both uplifting and powerful record that Noush herself says is “dedicated all the outsiders, renegades, mavericks, seekers, mystics, starseeds, originals, wanderers and rebels out there”.
We caught up with Noush to get an insight on Hey Sicko and its creation as well as working in the record with renowned producer Michael Beinhorn, her journey through music and how she combines it with her work as a talented actress.
Your new album Hey Sicko is out now. How did the creation and recording process of the album go?
It was a very lengthy process, from the germ of an idea to the concept, to the writing of many many songs, to being introduced to Michael, where the next stage started. Throughout the process I was in several different locations including Nashville, LA and London…Every detail was looked at and developed to create a coherent album that the listener can play from start to finish and go on a journey. It was very important to me that each song that made it on to the album could equally stand on it’s own, melodically and lyrically as a great song.
How was the experience of working with a Michael Beinhorn on the album?
Working with Micahel Beinhorn was an incredible experience, and one that truly helped me find my voice as an artist, singer and storyteller. We worked together on the record as artists did in the old days with true A&R development. I remember sitting in my flat in Venice Beach with Michael after just having arrived in LA and listening to records together, exploring sounds, lyrics and what my vision was. Micahel does not enforce his stamp on an artist, he has patience, lets an artist breathe and discover themselves throughout the process. So few artists have the liberty to take the time to do that and are pressured to push out material just to release material. I feel very fortunate and his guidance on the making of this album was essential to making it what it is. It was very important to us that I had the vision as a captain would captaining their ship, and that no rehearsing or recording would commence until that vision was crystal clear. Rehearsing with the musicians I could see Michael’s skill at massaging a sound or riff with them so that they would be even more passionate to do their best work, likewise with me!
Who else did you work with on the album and what did they bring to the sound of Hey Sicko?
I had fortune of having the immensely talented Nashville musicians Stanton Edward who played bass and guitar on the record, and Jon Radford who played drums, join me in the making of this record. Jon I had toured with in the US and played many shows together, we’re mates and already had a vibe playing. Jon understood what each track needed intuitively, whether that be brushes or a specific drum pattern to complement the vocal rhythm. Stanton was recommended by a friend from Nashville, we immediately clicked musically and actually ending up writing the track ‘Tonite’ together that made it on to the album. His guitar playing is extremely tasteful, melodic and vibey, and the bass tracks he played are full and just rocking!
Any one player can mess up the vibe, and as my intention was for this to be a live sounding record, like a band would do, we rehearsed for months and I was playing with them when they did their tracks. It changes the feel when players are isolated or session guys who come in and do the job, then receive their pay check and leave. I knew that was what I did not want, and clearly wanted a loose band feel like a Rolling Stones record, so that had to be created and the musicians chosen carefully.
The album has a very energetic sound to it, was that what you were looking for with the sound of Hey Sicko and how did you achieve that?
The concept of the album was for it to be a unified piece of work with, simply put, great songs! I did not set out with the intention of an energetic sound or chill sound, but I knew I wanted an ebb and flow of moods, like a watching a movie, with high and low points, varied emotions, empowering songs, reflective songs. When I write it’s a very intuitive process, I’ll have a lyric idea, or melodic idea and then develop that.
There are introspective songs on the album too, did you feel it was important to get a range of different emotional styles on there?
Yes, as I mentioned I did wish to portray a range of emotions. A good record has it’s own soul and life, as you start creating it, the record also starts to have its own heartbeat and drive, ‘Hey Sicko’ did exactly this with me…
You have said that your music has a big storytelling aspect to it, is this the case for Hey Sicko and what are the songs about on the album?
Storytelling is essential to every song I write. I always was like this naturally when I started as a songwriter, I love other artists and band who did this, but then after living in Nashville, hearing Hank Williams and Willie Nelson on the jukebox, aswell as all the other incredible writers who are based there, I realised it was an integral part of my style and honed this into my style.
‘Hey Sicko’ is about transformation, shedding one’s old skin of who we once were and empowering oneself to be who we truly are. Going against and challenging the narrative if need be, if that means staying true to yourself and your path.
Do you have a favourite song from the album for any reason?
That’s a tricky question, as they are like my babies! I love each song for different reasons…’Run Baby Run’ is great fun to play live with the band, ‘Hey Sicko’ is one of my favs to play alone and I love the feel of ‘Tonite’, but they are all like my kids so hard to say…
What are the biggest influences on Hey Sicko?
My influences are varied but mainly classic rocknroll bands like the Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater, Led Zep, Bowie, and folk artists like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and blues and country artists like Bonnie Raitt, Hank Williams..
What has the reaction to Hey Sicko been like since its release?
It’s been truly great, really well received. One never knows with a record if it will align with the public, but great songs connect and that was my goal with this record.
Have you got any plans for any new music at the moment?
I always have a stash of new songs waiting behind the curtains for the right time, I will release them when it feels right…watch this space!
Do you plan any live dates as soon as it is safe to do so?
I miss playing live for sure, at the moment it is hard to plan anything, but soon as I’m able I hope to put together some dates.
What have been some of the most memorable gigs you have done so far?
I love playing large concert halls but also those dirty basement rocknroll bars with the whiskey and tequila flowing…playing the Henry Fonda in Los Angeles was an awesome experience and also The Whiskey or The Mint in LA.
Who are your biggest influences as a singer?
Stevie Nicks definitely influenced me and Janis Joplin, they just owned what they did with ease.
You are also a talented actress, what have been some of the highlights of your acting work?
In my most recent film in which I play one of the leads, a Kurdish guerrilla fighter part of the resistance against ISIS, this is one of my proudest pieces of work as an actress. It’s called ‘Sisters In Arms’, ‘Soeurs d’Armes’ in French. The cause is close to my heart and it was an honour to portray these women who are every day on the front lines fighting for their independence and risking their lives alongside the men. The media does not cover this enough for the world to be aware of these atrocities, and I hope with this film it will open people’s eyes to the Kurdish people’s fight and how brave these women are.
Are you working on anything else at the moment?
I’m working on the soundtrack to a TV show I’m creating, so that is really exciting. Can’t really say more at the moment its hush hush…
Is it a difficult task combining your career as both an actress and a singer?
I find that both roles are complimentary, both are storytellers just in different formats as a painter or sculptor tell stories visually. Timing can be the only tricky thing for scheduling as when I focus one, the other is in the background, but I like alternating, keeps the inspiration fresh.
What came first for you, was it the singing or the acting?
Music came first, I learnt flute, saxophone and piano at school as a kid, was classically trained and then joined bands, played The Barbican…but always dabbled in acting classes and loved movies.
Do you feel that you take your strengths for one and combine it to the other to help you grow as an artist?
Yes I suppose so, they both support each other. One never knows where the inspiration will come from and for me having both is exciting, and often inspires the other.
What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?
The premiere last October for ‘Sisters In Arms’ in Paris was definitely a highlight, it was a great experience to finally see the film, that we spent pretty much covered in dirt the entire time for 3 months filming in Morocco, on the big screen with press and spectators. Musically the making of this album ‘Hey Sicko’ was one of the best experiences of my life…
Words: Gavin Brown