When Noah Gundersen opens his album release show tonight at the Neptune Theatre, expect him to do it by singing the haunting, mostly a cappella “Poor Man’s Son,” just like he’s done for years now.
The song, written by Gundersen upon moving out on his own for the first time at age 18, is meant to grab the crowd’s attention and force them to pay attention, he said. It serves the same purpose as the lead track to “Ledges,” Gundersen’s new full-length collection of hard lessons and earnest reflection.
“It felt like a cool way to open the album with space and breath and allow people to settle in,” Gundersen said.
Not that people need too much introduction to Gundersen, who sings with an authority that most 24-year-olds only dream of mustering. He was raised in Centralia but has been a staple of the Seattle folk scene for some time, with three EPs and a live album recorded at the Triple Door to his name.
“To me it’s just another step in the journey, one that I’ve been on since I was I guess 13, when I started writing songs,” Gundersen said. “It’s really exciting to come to a place where I can present this collection of songs long enough to actually fill up the disc and put on vinyl. And these songs have been around for a couple years, some of them I’ve been playing live, so it means a lot to have them all in one place.”
The response to “Ledges” was immediate. It sold 2,300 units on iTunes in its first day last week, a response that Gundersen said was “overwhelming” and already has him scheming for his next album.
Whatever Gundersen records next, he’ll probably be doing it with his sister, Abby. Two years younger than Noah, Abby is in many ways her brother’s secret weapon and is the perfect compliment to Gundersen’s already rich voice.
“Her harmonizing voice can switch into this space with anyone’s voice where it doesn’t call attention to itself but it fills out and enriches anyone’s voice she’s singing with,” Gundersen said. “She just makes other people sound really good. It’s an amazing talent that I honestly don’t have. I can harmonize but I don’t have that blending skill that she does.”
Before the next project, there’s a tour that starts in earnest Sunday night in Portland. Things are getting serious for Gundersen. He said for the first time he’s got a publicist, lawyer, booking agent, business manager — “the whole thing.”
“It’s going to be a busy year,” Gundersen said. “But I like being busy. I like working. It keeps me sane.”
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails