Rebecca Noelle
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Rebecca Noelle

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2015

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Established on Jan, 2015
Solo R&B Neo Soul

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"Soulstice: Ottawa's Rebecca Noelle finds her sound"

After years of singing music written by other people, Ottawa’s Rebecca Noelle has come up with a soulful sound of her own that will knock your socks off. Her gorgeous new album, Soulstice, came out this week.

Noelle’s second solo album is nothing like the first, which was a collection of jazz standards that paid tribute to her roots. This one was co-written with Ottawa saxman Brian Asselin and co-produced by Noelle with Jason Jaknunas, the same engineer responsible for capturing the groove of acts like SoulJazz Orchestra and Chocolate Hot Pockets. Soulstice features meaty slabs of funk-laced soul, brimming with horns and topped off by the melt-in-your-ears vocals of the 31-year-old musician.

The album marks a major stylistic shift for Noelle, who says she’s always wanted to sing her own soul tunes but wasn’t sure how to go about it.

“It’s the sound I’ve always wanted to achieve but I didn’t have the know-how to bring it to fruition,” she said. “I know the basic instrumentation of a jazz quartet but then there’s a whole world of horns, backup singers, funky Rhodes electric piano sounds, and all these things I hadn’t had much experience with.”

A glamorous singer with a three-octave range, Noelle is a familiar face on the Ottawa music scene, dating back to the days she was known as Becky Abbott and sang backup for bluesman David Gogo. In addition to being one of the colourfully coiffed singers in the theatrical pop troupe the PepTides, she also sings Fleetwood Mac tunes with a cover band called Rumours, croons jazz standards with a trio and performs with a big band made up of military personnel.
Despite her extensive experience and training in various vocal techniques, she couldn’t see the path to a big-band soul project until she met Asselin, a songwriter, recording artist and touring musician who’s worked with everyone from the Funk Brothers to Colin James. He first brought Noelle into the studio a few years ago to contribute harmonies on a Commotions album featuring Delbert Nelson, lead vocalist for Detroit’s legendary Funk Brothers.


“Everything I studied was all about vocal technique,” said Noelle. “I didn’t learn a lot about chords. It was one note at a time all the time. I think that’s what really intimidated me about the process. How long is it going to take me to arrange this song if I have this one-note-at-a-time idea? I just didn’t have the tools.”

When she met Asselin, she found a guy who could handle multiple notes at a time effortlessly. “I got to watch him in action, starting with a chord progression and writing parts for every horn, and they were all different,” she enthused. “He’s a magician. Just to see how he did it, it was a no-brainer. I’d been working on some stuff and I knew I wanted him to help me build it into something.”

The album features a who’s who of players, including bassist Ken Seeley, keyboardist Clayton Connell, guitarist David Gaw, drummer Jeff Asselin, trumpeter Fred Paci and backing vocals by Dale Waterman, Deedee Butters and Amy Noubarian, who is Noelle’s aunt.

As for lyrics, ideas often emerged when Noelle couldn’t sleep. “I find sometimes if you have a problem that’s keeping you up at night, try to break it down into one complete sentence. For me, that’s often the opening sentence of the song. If I can just articulate the message or the thing that’s bothering me then I can build on it in a much clearer way.”

One of the things that keeps her up is the feast-or-famine nature of an arts career. While her friends are buying houses and starting families, Noelle is booking gigs, arranging promo, juggling her calendar and taking care of all the other details that go into self-management. Her take on the 9-to-5 rat race is expressed in the sultry groove of What You Got.

“I have friends who work really demanding jobs,” she says. “We’re all the same age, and a lot of them went down the path of security. They get up at 5 a.m. and drive to work before the sun’s up and they come home after the sun has set, and then they watch TV for a couple of hours, and then they go to bed and do it all over again. They make great money, and they have nice houses and nice things, but is it worth it?

“I went down the path of passion. I knew there was a risk in choosing this career path. I might not always have the security I want. I might not always have a brand new car. I might not always have the most expensive shoes. But I feel like the experiences I have on a day-to-day basis — writing music, playing music, performing music nightly and doing what I love — I feel like it’s totally worth it for me.”

Noelle and her band launched the new album with a sold-out gig on Dec. 21, celebrating solstice, her favourite time of year, by dancing the long, dark night away. Now it’s back to the business of applying for festivals and tour funding for 2017.

“There was a period of darkness, a prolonged silence from me as a solo artist,” she said, riffing on the significance of the title Soulstice. “I was busy learning hard lessons and writing from my experiences. I see this album as a promise of the light to come.”

lsaxberg@postmedia.com

twitter.com/lynnsaxberg

Instagram @lynnsax - The Ottawa Citizen


"Rebecca Noelle's Soul-Soaring Soulstice"

Standing on the edge of the end of a year, when singer-songwriter Rebecca Noelle looks back she sees behind her days full of song, frenetic choreography and various neon hairstyles that could possibly be seen from the International Space Station. And that’s just her work with The PepTides!

It's been a busy 2016. In between multiple gigs with Ottawa’s glitziest party band, Noelle managed to find time to not only tour her own music for some solo shows but also record a new album. Looking ahead to the year to come things don’t show much sign of slowing down. She doesn't mind. For somebody who has been performing since she was 4-years-old, a life in music is exactly the one she wants to be living.

One of her earliest memories is singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” to her paternal grandfather while he was ill and bedridden. It made for good medicine (and a cherished memory before his passing) as she was asked to sing the song again and again. She discovered young how her voice had the power to affect people in such positive, uplifting ways.

Not content with an audience of one, however, Noelle would often invite the elderly couple next door over to perform impromptu songs she had just written. Singing made her soul soar but it was the influence of others –even those who tried to sway her away from a path in music– that eventually moved her to really finding her voice.

Noelle tells Ottawa Life that “it was a strange combination of the people who believed in me and the people who discouraged my plan” that propelled her forward.

“I truly needed both: someone to make proud, but also someone to prove wrong.”

Proving the naysayers wrong wasn’t going to be easy. Right out of high school Noelle’s early career –one she admits was full of her own newcomer’s naivety– would be off to a rocky start. It would be wrought with hardships that included a bad contract, worse business deals and a creative partnership with somebody who didn’t have her best interests in mind.

“I should have listened to my gut, but my logic convinced me that I wasn't educated enough on the music industry to be calling someone far more experienced than I out on their malpractice. Always go with your gut, no matter how inexperienced you feel,” she says now reflecting on these early experiences.

Not discouraged and with some hard lessons learned, Noelle set out to achieve her goals she pretty well set out when she was a kid. She wanted to be a solo musician. However, now armed with a bit of road wisdom, she realized that she needed to put in the work with other bands, collaborate and network before taking that plunge into solo gigs. She would tour with David Gogo and along with the Juno-nominated blues musician she’d open for ZZ Top, Bonnie Raitt and B.B. King traveling extensively in Europe and the United States. It was the best kind of school and eventually, her efforts paid off when she was able to create her own backing band of people she already felt comfortable working with.

Noelle fell back on her early influences for her solo work. She was raised on Ella Fitzgerald and those lively jazz crooners. Her maternal grandfather had a jazz band and her mother loved to play Ella’s scat jazz styles in the car. The child was mystified and as an adult would use such fabulously frenetic vocals in crafting her own style while peppering in some more modern divas like Tina Turner or Mariah Carey. Discovering K.D. Lang provided the wrapping around her voice to complete the package.

Now she just needed to record it!

Her bad business dealings, however, stalled her efforts to put out an album. Fate shows up at the strangest of times. After one of her club shows a fan walked up and asked if he could purchase some of her music. When Noelle reluctantly explained her legal dilemma, the fan revealed himself to be a lawyer. Jackpot! Her new friend in law would help her out of legal bindings leaving her free now to record her first album, A Night at Maggies.

“It was pretty magical,” Noelle says of her first time recording in a studio, one suggested by her jazzer grandpa.

“He had done many of his previous albums there, and since my first album was a collaboration between he and I, it only made sense. It was a standard jazz album, so the material was made up of old classics that we had massaged into our own versions by gigging together over the 10 years leading up to the record.”

Her gorgeous three octave vocal range makes for a thrilling and uplifting release as Noelle puts her touches on some standards as well as some fantastic covers of Shirley Bassey’s “(Where Do I Begin) Love Story” and Van Morrison's "Moondance". The way was paved perfectly for Noelle to become a lovely weaver of soulful jazz, a lounge singer that would have you forgetting to order your next cocktail being so transfixed by the music, but then things took a mighty left turn full of flash and fire.

“I think when I first joined The PepTides, I was intimidated by not only the sheer brilliance of the writing, but also the work ethic of everyone involved! How was I to stay afloat?” recalls Noelle of her shift into an almost alternative persona for a band that mixes everything from Broadway style showmanship to elaborate dance pieces and perfectly timed harmonizing into their act.

The woman who always wanted to be a solo singer was suddenly surrounded!

Though worried about possible burnout, Noelle is still standing four years after the current incarnation of the The PepTides that included her first took to the stage at the 2012 Ottawa Jazz Festival.

She may not have thought she would last but now says it’s all very addicting work that allows her to showcase different sides of her personality, vocals and, of course, from a partnership that has brought much success.

The band continues to receive praise and collect a strong, loyal following wherever they go! Their fanbase is rabid and their 2012 release Revenge of the Vinyl Café provided all of them with much exposure when they were asked to play the 20th Anniversary of the popular Stuart McLean CBC radio show. Their live show often leaves both those on and off the stage exhausted.

“Here I am four years later, happily treading water after having stayed afloat through all of our great floods of work, tidal wave projects, and the showers of praise that always seem to follow. Yes, it's a boat load of creative work –which is usually the most emotionally exhausting– but it's never for nothing, and that's why I'm addicted.”

Noelle has also felt very strongly about sharing her talent with another group of people who live demanding lifestyles far different than that of any road weary musician. Last year, she was given the opportunity to travel with The Canadian Armed Forces, performing for the troops here and abroad. It was a life-changing moment.

“The Canadian service men and women live very demanding lifestyles: minimal sleep and maximum expectation. I can't really relate because I'm self-employed. I only have to answer to me. I set my own goals and create my own missions. If I don't successfully execute a personal operation, I just take a break and try again tomorrow. But these men and women have to answer to an entire country, ready to respond to whatever world affairs, emergencies, and rescue missions are currently unfolding.”

Wednesday, December 21 will see the launch of her new album appropriately titled Soulstice. The album of all new material took shape over many Saturday mornings with Brian Asselin and David Gaw. Noelle would pen the lyrics and basic melodies and Asselin and Gaw would hammer down the musical arrangements until something would emerge best reflecting their collaboration. After trying out some of the songs live, they found Jason Jaknunas at Metropolitan Studio.

“Jason had opinions, and stood his ground whenever we had an idea that didn't serve the album. When a recording environment opens up a whole new world of possibilities (as Metropolitan did), it's easy to get carried away. Jason really helped us focus our efforts on the things that count.”

You can hear for yourself this Wednesday at the Mercury Lounge or catch Noelle on one of her coming dates for her solo Soulstice tour.

If multiple tours weren't enough, believe it or not, Noelle actually has plans to return to the studio next year with her aunt (musician Amy Noubarian) and grandfather to record a Christmas album. There will be three generations of her family on that recording! It’s a perfect culmination of the dream that started with a four year old kid never doubting her want to one day join the musical members of her family no matter what colour her hair might have to be! - Ottawa Life Magazine


"Ottawa‘s Rebecca Noelle salutes her roots Sunday by launching her new album in tribute of an old haunt with a dear granddad"

A jazz family reunion jumps generations and salutes a dearly departed London venue on Sunday afternoon.

“Maggie’s was my first-ever experience singing in front of an audience and getting paid for it as a professional vocalist,” Rebecca Noelle said of the old Richmond Row jazz haven this week. Noelle (who previously performed as Becky Abbott) is launching her new album A Night At Maggies on Sunday.

Accompanying Noelle on Sunday at Idlewyld — where the Maggie’s vibe has moved — is a trio led by grandfather, London jazz icon John Noubarian who arrived here from Brantford in 1948 to play with the old Ted Pudney band. He worked at Maggie’s Supper & Jazz Club for its 12-year run, playing hundreds of gigs there before the club closed last year facing financial problems. Noelle first played there when she was 18, 10 years ago.

Of all the singers Noubarian backed up, Noelle, 28, would have to be a favourite. It was at Maggie’s she found her jazz voice and gradually left her rock self behind. It’s where she instantly felt at home.

“When I was first starting out, I was singing rock music more when I was in Ottawa and I was singing a lot of jazz when I was in London because my grandfather plays jazz,” Noelle said.

“I’ve moved on from that and evolved into more of an R&B-soul-jazz type of a vocalist . . .I decided that the stuff I was performing was definitely more true to me as an individual.”

She’s had many adventures on the way to the new album — and not just because Becky Abbott rock fans used to turn up at Rebecca Noelle jazz gigs and wonder what was happening.

She toured with Canadian bluesman David Gogo as a backup singer. Noelle was around U.S, blues rocker Johnny Winter when his manager would fire up the frozen tacos — a Winter fixation — when the short-sighted star sensed a Taco Bell somewhere nearby and needed to feast. Immediately. The frozen tacos were microwaved, served to Winter who was happy and none-the-wiser.

Before that, she was one of the true talents Canadian Idol let get away.

Belleville-born and Trenton-raised, Noelle was living in the Ottawa suburb of Barrhaven when she turned Van Morrison’s Moondance on its head and received rare unanimous raves from all four 2004 Canadian Idol judges for her efforts

Performing then as Becky Abbott, she failed to advance in fan voting almost nine years ago but told QMI Agency she could only benefit from the exposure that came with a Top 32 spot in the CTV pop vocal contest.

“All of the judges commended her,” her grandfather said this week, still beaming with obvious pride. “But then it (came) to the vote — the public vote.”

The Canadian Idol voters needed their hearing checked. Noelle kept on singing.

By the next spring, the then-vocal coach and Marshy’s waiter was performing in London with Noubarian — at Maggie’s of course. Now, then, and forever, Moondance was a song she made their own.

Her old job during the Idol era at Marshy’s had another London tie. Its owner was London Knights’ and NHL defenceman Brad Marsh.

“He’s the nicest man. I loved working for him,” she said.

“I was off in Toronto shooting this show. Meanwhile. back home, my picture’s appearing on the cover of the Ottawa Sun and I had no idea — and here Brad is cutting them all and having then laminated, framed and mounted . . . I thought, ‘wow, what a sweet guy, ” she said.

The singer, pianist and bassist Darryl Stacey have a dinner-and-music show on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Chatham’s Rossini’s restaurant, 634 Grand Ave. E. That is part of Rossini’s monthly series of jazz and dining. It’s $55. Call 519-352-2920 for details.

These days, she could be following the advice her grandfather gave to those helming Maggie’s in its early days.

“If you’re going to go jazz, you have to stick with it,” he said, looking back.

Sounds like a life lesson.

james.reaney@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/JamesatLFPress

- - -

A NIGHT AT MAGGIES

Maggie’s in the spirit, not the club: The album was recorded at EMAC Recording Studios, with Rebecca Noelle and John Noubarian, as producers. While an earlier performance at the Richmond Row club had been musically fine, technical issues marred the sound. A similar setlist was used for the album with the same band — Noubarian, bassist Darryl Stacey and drummer Jeff Christmas. London percussionists Richard Brisco and Rob Larose each guest on a track.

Outstanding: Moondance, Believe It (by London’s Ben Heywood), Summertime and a super-torchy Cry Me A River.

Secret track: Keep listening after the finale of Love Story and you’ll hear something from that night at Maggie’s before the final bar.

Jazz in the blood: Noubarian’s daughter and Noelle’s aunt, Amy Noubarian, is also a singer. Noelle’s mother would put on Ella Fitzgerald tapes when driving her daughter to music lessons.

Selected credits: Album engineered by Matt Grady with Kyle Ashbourne. Mixed by Matt Grady. Mastered by Rob Nation.

Yep, he knows the singer: “It has been an absolute delight to see, hear and perform with my granddaughter Rebecca, who in my estimation is the whole package. She displays an amazing voice, great stage presence, poise and beauty all of which should take her right to the top.”

— John Noubarian of Rebecca Noelle in the album notes Prediction here: Juno nom. - London Free Press


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Description


Blessed with a searing three octave vocal range, Rebecca Noelle has had the privilege and versatility to try her hand at just about every musical style she wanted to over the years. But it’s her natural affinity for soul, that has set this stunning singer apart. With a sultry voice that is simply unforgettable, Noelle brings to mind some of the artists of whom she has been influenced by over the years – Etta James, Jay Kay (Jamiroquai) and k.d. Lang. Noelle also has a natural charisma and confidence as she struts around onstage that bring to mind performers like Tina Turner and Mick Jagger. Backed by her 9-piece ensemble Rebecca brings you on an honest lyrical journey from heartbreak to triumph (and everything in between.) Infectious bass lines, sizzling horns, and flawless harmonies will conjure up memories of Motown, while the subject matter reflects an honesty that nurtures the trust between audience and artist.


Biography


Rebecca Noelle has toured in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, and even performed at the magnetic North Pole. Her voice has been featured on national frequencies such as CBC Radio, BBC Radio, and Radio Bremen (Germany). She's shared bills with artists such as B.B. King, Johnny Winter, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Buddy Guy and Bonnie Raitt. Rebecca's vocal stylings and songwriting were featured on the album “Revenge of the Vinyl Café”, a soundtrack written and recorded by Rebecca and her comrades: "The PepTides" in collaboration with Stuart McLean, and CBC’s The Vinyl Café. At the beginning of her working career as a musician, Rebecca Noelle was the touring back-up vocalist for Canadian blues vet, David Gogo. After years of touring the blues festival scene as a support musician, and honing her solo craft in jazz clubs along her Ontario circuit, Rebecca recorded her debut solo album; “Rebecca Noelle: A Night at Maggie's” - a collaboration with Rebecca's grandfather, renowned jazz pianist John Noubarian. That same year, under the direction of composer Brian Asselin, Rebecca co-arranged and recorded back-up vocals for Delbert Nelson (of Motown Records' legendary Funk Brothers) in his release “Delbert and the Commotions: Let Me See Ya Dance.” Founding members Brian Asselin & David Gaw were an integral part of The Commotions project. Rebecca began to work closely with the duo, coming from an eclectic background, creatively drawing from their roots in jazz, hip-hop, funk and pop. This union became the launchpad for the Rebecca Noelle project. In 2016 Rebecca's solo touring circuit broadened to include dates in the High Arctic and the Middle East entertaining the Canadian troops (billed with comedians Shaun Majumder & François Massicotte) as part of the Canadian military's morale-boosting show tours. She spent most of summer 2016 recording her second studio album: Soulstice. This past fall, Rebecca travelled to Abruzzo, Italy, to work with prominent Italian filmmaker Paolo Ceritano on the video to accompany Rebecca's Soulstice single "Go With You". This video shoot was paired with an Italian tour that featured Rebecca's European band. After a successful Italian welcome, Rebecca's 2017 European "Soulstice" tour is already in the works!

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