Rebecca Noelle
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Rebecca Noelle

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

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | AFM
Established on Jan, 2015
Solo Jazz Neo Soul




"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.”

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


Rebecca Noelle - Soulstice
Rebecca Noelle - A Night At Maggies
The Stellasonic - EP
The Commotions - Vol. II
The PepTides - Galapagos Vol. I
The PepTides - EP
The PepTides - Love Question Mark
The PepTides - Revenge of the Vinyl Cafe



Blessed with a searing three octave range, Rebecca Noelle has had
the privilege and versatility to try her hand at just about every
musical genre she wanted to over the years. But it’s her natural
affinity for jazz that has set this performer apart. With a velvety
tone that is simply unforgettable, Noelle might bring to mind some of
the artists of whom she has been influenced by over the years such as
Etta James, or k.d. Lang. In the the 2017 season alone, Rebecca
Noelle, with her various projects, sold-out the "National
Arts Centre Presents" series in Canada's capital, a
record-setting 5 times. In an effort to expand her audience beyond
her wildly supportive home region, Rebecca has also performed in
Mali, China, the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Kuwait, Belgium, Italy,
Netherlands, Germany, & in the arctic 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, Norah Jones, P!NK, Johnny Winter, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Buddy
Guy and Bonnie Raitt. In 2013, Rebecca collaborated directly with
Canadian icon Stuart McLean as a songwriter on “Revenge of the
Vinyl Café”, an album for CBC’s The Vinyl Café. At the
beginning of her working career as a musician, Rebecca Noelle was the
touring backing vocalist for Canadian blues vet, David Gogo. After 5
years as a support musician, 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, Rebecca was asked to arrange and record the backing vocals
for Delbert Nelson of Motown Records' legendary Funk Brothers. In
2016 Rebecca's solo touring circuit broadened to include many
military outposts entertaining on UN bases and for Canadian troops
stationed abroad. Rebecca spent most of summer 2016 writing her
second studio album: Soulstice. In support of Soulstice, Rebecca
travelled to Abruzzo, Italy, to work with prominent Italian filmmaker
Paolo Ceritano on the a music video. This video shoot was paired with
an Italian tour that featured Rebecca's European band. In 2017, after
making waves among 3-million viewers as the 1st runner-up on TVA's La
Voix (The Voice : Canada), Rebecca was invited by The Jacksons to
make a guest appearance on their Canadian tour. That year, she also
performed alongside UK's: Birdy, USA's: Florida Georgia Line,
Canadian heros Roch Voisine, and Patsy Gallant, and French-Canadian
Stalwart, Marc Dupre. Rebecca is currently writing her 3rd solo
album, she also records and performs with her electronic duo The
Stellasonic, soul big-band The Commotions, and pop-art troupe The

Band Members