Noah McGuire on New Projects, Creativity, & Patience
Updated: Jul 12, 2021
THE RENAISSANCE BOY
I’m very delighted to share the story and creativity of a close friend and an incredible human being whose talent has no limits nor no boundaries, Noah.
American-born, but undoubtedly a worldly person, Noah Madison Longworth McGuire, spent most of his early childhood living in Southern Africa in Harare, Zimbabwe. It was around 9-years old when he first began playing piano and found what would then become his passion for music. Noah and his family then moved to Rome, Italy where he continued his practice in classical piano and taught himself how to play the guitar. Much of his inspiration came from rock artists such as Linkin Park, Metallica, and Dream Theater. However, he didn’t stop there. He had an itch for more, and so he learned drums, bass guitar, vocals, banjo, ukulele, and harmonica (in case the other two instruments weren’t impressive enough). And at the age of 13, he ventured into his first band The Cuckooshrykes, eventually moving onto playing, songwriting, and producing for other local bands around Rome.
(Side note: Noah even had a career in acting during his time in Rome!)
In 2014, the young talent was accepted to the Berklee College of music as a piano player but once he began his studies, he would begin experimenting within the Jazz, Hip-Hop, Electronic, and Soul arenas thus fully realizing his love for Music Production. All of these helped him develop as an artist, creating a sound uniquely his own, but he truly didn’t define his craft until he collaborated with his college friend, current roommate, and electronic design major, Nate Flaks. Together, they would ultimately create what is the project they lead today, Sleeping Lion.
Sleeping Lion is an indie electronic pop duo that delves into both Noah’s prowess in production and songwriting experience and Nate’s connection with storytelling, emotions, and sonic design. Over the summer of 2015, while Noah was visiting Rome and Nate was in New York, the pair wrote a collection of songs remotely under the band name Sleeping Lion. Later, they reunited in Quincy, Massachusetts to record live instruments and vocals for their debut EP, Patient Creature.
After their time in Boston, the two left for Los Angeles, where they reside now. In between the time of their debut EP and their sophomore EP Different Plans, which released this past August, the band has remixed, written, produced, and collaborated with so many artists, it’s too hard to keep track of now. Nonetheless, they continue to write incredible songs and meet with new artists to grow their fan-base. In addition to the music, Sleeping Lion started their own podcast called “Talking Lion” which features interviews with other artists and discusses topics on their own music and more. Sleeping Lion has also opened for touring artists such as Brasstracks, Vancouver Sleep Clinic, Vesperteen, Transviolet, and opened for Phangs & THE WLDLFE. Noah continues to write incredible songs and share his extraordinary art as he carries on through this industry. If you haven’t heard it before, be sure to listen to his music now above this article or linked below at the end of this article. What I can tell you is that his voice is so smooth with a little bit of timidness that it comes across as stunningly shy, his production and compositions are clean, crisp, and cutting-edge, and he, as a person, is the kindest of hearts you’ll ever know.
So, with all of that….
Here is our interview:
Channel Sounds [CS]: Tell me about some of your most recent music projects. Where does the inspiration for them come from?
Noah McGuire [NM]: “I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire at the moment, so to speak. Sleeping Lion just released an EP called Different Plans, a collection of songs that we hadn’t intended on releasing until our previous release plan got shuffled around due to the quarantine. Additionally I’ve been working with a bunch of artists on production projects in various different flavors along the Indie Pop spectrum. Working simultaneously as both a front-facing Artist and a behind-the-scenes producer is something I’ve been doing pretty consistently for years now and I really enjoy the perspective that I get from being on both sides of the equation. I think they inform each other. I’m a better producer for knowing what an artist expects in their work and I’m a more versatile artist for being able to be hands-on with my production. It’s hard to say exactly where inspiration comes from in this work because it’s extremely collaborative, especially in the writing department. The songs I tend to work on are the result of everyone’s collective energy in the room when writing. The initial spark usually has something to do with a real experience from the lives of the writers but actually creating a song ends up being the process of a million tiny decisions getting made very quickly by everyone involved and adding up (hopefully) to something cohesive.”
[CS]: How did music become the way you channel your self-expression?
[NM]: “I’ve been playing piano since I was very young and I definitely always had an affinity for music. I used to spend hours improvising or learning songs at the piano, usually by ear. People used to ask my parents “How do you get him to practice?” and they responded “We couldn’t get him to stop!” When I was a teenager I picked up guitar and drums and started to sing in choirs and musicals. Also around this time I was starting to play with creating stuff in Garageband. Making songs with my friends was this really fun activity and writing and recording music on my own became equal parts fun, lego-esque tinkering with sounds on a computer, and diary entries for my adolescent feelings. As I got older I started to take it more seriously and got really into the craft of music-making. I ended up choosing to go to college for music and really make it my focus. I primarily did production classes at Berklee but also got involved in the songwriting community and developed a finer appreciation for the craft of songwriting. Nowadays that I’m out of school and doing music full-time it can be hard to compartmentalize the parts that are work and the parts that are emotional catharsis but music is definitely still the way I tend to best process my emotions. Oftentimes I’ll write much more clearly about something that I’m going through in the form of a song than I’ll even be able to wrap my brain around rationally. I feel really connected to music as a medium and feel like it’s often a clearer vessel for things I’m trying to communicate than just words by themselves. Especially when i’m writing songs by myself, it’s very much still a diary entry for me.”
[CS]: What projects do you have coming up and what are you excited about that are to come?
[NM]: “Speaking of diary entries, one of the projects on my horizon that I’m rather excited about is a solo album that I’m part-way through creating. The project is called “music4birds” and each song is named after a type of bird and the songwriting is equal parts homages to classic songwriting and these more tongue-in-cheek, slice-of-life details that are very specific to my personality. It’s very much an exploration into making the kind of record that only I as Noah Longworth McGuire could possibly make. It’s the project that I’m allowing myself to be a crazy perfectionist about so it might be a while before these songs see the light of day but at present I’ve written about a dozen of them and I’m really proud of the writing and excited to spend the time getting production just right for what I’m hearing in my head. In addition to that, Sleeping Lion is gearing up to finish our next EP, Most Improved, which is the collection of songs we were supposed to put out this year before the world shut down. We’re aiming to roll the songs out strategically through 2021 and they’re honestly some of my favorite songs that I think Sleeping Lion has. I really see this next EP as a step towards putting out music that we’re really proud of and excited about and that showcases all the things that we’ve learned over these past few years as a duo.”
[CS]: How have you navigated your creativity through quarantine?
[NM]: “My creativity has truly been all over the place in the quarantine. When this all first got started I was like “great, I finally have the time to dive into my solo record and really experiment with things” and I wrote like 3 or 4 songs in a burst of energy and then essentially didn’t write anything for months after that. I had another recent burst of inspiration and wrote a couple things but it’s definitely been difficult to maintain enthusiasm in this time. At least that’s been true in the case of creativity for creativity’s sake. I’ve been working pretty consistently on production for other people and that’s been a bit smoother cause there’s deadlines and other parties involved so it’s easier for me to kick into gear and treat that stuff like a job. It’s particularly hard when I’m in a dry-spell of songwriting and/or production and the anxiety of “what if I never create anything good ever again” starts to creep in but I’ve also been through enough ebb and flow in the creative process to know that it tends to bounce back eventually.”
[CS]: What’s your detour?
[NM]: “My Detour! I’m excited to finally talk a bit about this in a formal capacity. Almost a year ago I made the somewhat rash decision to completely archive my instagram page and start posting these interconnected collage panels instead. The idea is that every picture on my feed fits seamlessly in some way with the pictures around it and it forms a part of this ever-evolving collage. The focus of the pieces is usually in the middle third, with some kind of symmetrical support on either side of it. On occasion I’ve integrated pictures that are sort of like things I would have previously posted normally on instagram but I’ve extrapolated them out into these triptychs and allowed them to integrate into my feed as part of the art project. The idea is to maintain some semblance of documentation and personality but also give me the opportunity to try to provide some artistic value to the platform of Instagram when my actual life doesn’t have anything particularly interesting to share in it. Like with music being a way I like to express myself, I’ve always felt an affinity for visual art. I spend a lot of time in art museums (probably the thing I’m missing most in this quarantine) and I’ve taken quite a few art history and art theory classes. This instagram project is another way for me to display my personality through a more abstract medium than simple text and pictures of my everyday life. The images that I’m splicing together for these collages are sometimes pictures that I take, often of buildings I find aesthetically fascinating, combined with oil paintings that exist in the public domain. It’s honestly incredible the wealth of art that’s just sitting around on the internet available for people to use. I feel like it’s something that people don’t really know about but I absolutely love crate-digging through art archives and finding the stuff that looks really cool and I know that I can combine together into something new. A motif that pops up a lot is this interaction of flowers and buildings, which has always been an image I find beautiful and profound, the idea of nature reclaiming human structures. Also the mix of this old style of realistic painting that’s chopped up and sampled in this digital way and juxtaposed and reimagined with these modern elements I think is also just aesthetically something I love. Tinkering with these source images and creating something with its own vibe and context is a similar joy for me to the process of tinkering with sound and creating songs on a computer. Part of why I embarked on this journey of creating visual art was to develop a visual style that I can translate into other things that I’m working on. I’ve created a few triptychs for Sleeping Lion promotional material and I hope to incorporate some of these visual collage techniques into the artwork for music4birds so that the visual component can match up with the sonic component as they’re both coming from a similar part of my brain. If any of this artist ramble has interested you, you can follow me @noahmcguire to check it out :)”
[CS]: How would you describe yourself in one word? [NM]: “If I had to describe myself in one word it’d probably be Patient. I’m very patient with the people in my life and equally patient with the creative process in the many forms it takes. I like to let things evolve naturally over time and I feel like a huge part of how I operate in all aspects of life is creating the space for interesting things to happen. Perhaps I’m even patient to a fault, waiting too long to get something started or putting up with things I ought not to, but I can’t deny that it’s a huge part of my personality.” ——————————— Thank you so much for your time, Noah! We are so excited for you and can’t wait to see all the projects to come. BE SURE TO FOLLOW NOAH ON INSTAGRAM, AND SLEEPING LION ON INSTAGRAM AND SPOTIFY.