One listen to Noel Gourdin’s purifying anthem “The River” and it’s evident that this newcomer from Boston is no carbon-copy crooner. His debut album, “After My Time,” serves up back-porch soul that evokes memories of musical legends like Sam Cooke, while still keeping it young and fresh. The result? A cross-generational appeal that’s bound to earn him success. ESSENCE.com sits down with this rising star to discuss crushes, heartbreaks and humility.
ESSENCE.COM: Congrats on your album. The music and words of your single the “The River” are so nostalgic. What inspired it?
NOEL GOURDIN: I remember visiting Mississippi to see my grandfather, and whenever I was going through something I always felt better being surrounded by my family. I was looking to capture that same feeling of serenity I felt in the Delta in this song. Back in the day, they performed river baptisms, and I believe everyone can relate to a renewal of spirit once you’ve been cleansed and made whole and that’s what the song is all about.
ESSENCE.COM: How has the reception been? I hear you have some really young fans.
GOURDIN: It’s crazy because I’ve been getting so much love on MySpace. My youngest fans are 3- and 6-year-olds. I had a mother write and tell me she packs them up in the car to take them to day care and plays “The River” and they love it. So I’ve got some fans as young as 3 and some who are 65. It’s amazing.
ESSENCE.COM: You had to experience a label change early in your career. Were you ever discouraged?
GOURDIN: You really need patience to deal with this industry because it will build you up and tear you down. That’s why I’m so grateful for my team for continuing to encourage me and keep me positive. I was signed in November 2005 and then suddenly everything was put on hold. Trust me, I have gone through bouts of depression that made me question whether I was doing the right thing with my
ESSENCE.COM: As a debut artist, what is your musical game plan?
GOURDIN: I didn’t do a bunch of collabos with popular names because I want people to fall in love with me as an artist. There is something for everyone on this album and I’m comfortable in going other places musically. We touch a lot of different genres, including hip-hop, New Jack Swing and a little bit of rock. We accomplished bringing something different to today’s R&B. “The River” is a beautiful song and has done very well for me, but it’s an anomaly—my album is not that at all.
ESSENCE.COM: Did you inherit your musical talent from your family?
GOURDIN: My pops, who’s my mom’s second husband, would take me on road trips, putting on his oldies but goodies. It was about the time that I started loving music.
ESSENCE.COM: How has your mom influenced your manhood?
GOURDIN: My mom went through a real abusive relationship. She said, “If you ever feel you have to hit [a woman], walk away. Never ever hit a woman—it’s just not something you have to do.” So those lessons had a lasting effect on me, molded me and helped me treat people with respect.
ESSENCE.COM: When did you discover you had a voice?
GOURDIN: I’d say junior year in high school. I was listening to Prince’s “Morning Papers.” I started practicing that one song before I’d let anyone hear me. When they finally did they were like, “Where did you get this voice?”
ESSENCE.COM: At times, your music is so emotional. Who was your first heartbreak?
GOURDIN: I was in middle school and had a crush on my teacher until I saw her get picked up in a Corvette by some dude. I was hating her after that [laughs].
ESSENCE.COM: Hilarious! What about your first love?
GOURDIN: It was right after I graduated high school. I was in a relationship with a young lady for three years. I was doing the music real tough and explained to her I might need to be out of town [a lot] and she just couldn’t deal. I really did care for her and hoped that she’d be able to hang in there. I really thought we were going to be able to make it.
ESSENCE.COM: What advice do you have for the fellas in regard to getting along with women?
GOURDIN: A lot of times we’re preoccupied with showing how tough we are rather than showing love to that special one who deserves it. We’re much too busy sticking out our chests, trying to show that we’re men instead of knowing that we’re men and being comfortable with our manhood.
ESSENCE.COM: Amen to that! What would your fans be surprised to learn about you?
GOURDIN: Folk think that artists are really unapproachable but I wasn’t raised to be vain. Jesus was humble so I don’t think there’s such a thing as being too humble.