Alex Noelle is a singer/songwriter and an emotional storyteller. Throughout her childhood, many experiences with loss, love, and mental health challenges led her to rely on music for healing and she dedicated her time to training, performing, and songwriting. This later became her inspiration to become a music therapist in Philadelphia. In 2018, Noelle officially relocated to Nashville to pursue a full-time artist career. Noelle hopes that her upcoming series of single releases can offer connection and catharsis for all of the life stuff that is hardest to sit with alone.
What are your fondest musical memories from growing up in New Jersey?
My fondest memories all come back to the music I had at home. It was how my family liked to connect. I woke up hearing Santana and Norah Jones playing in the kitchen, and I fell asleep listening to Todd Rundgren and Foreigner (yes, Foreigner.) We listened to everything and we played everything. All of this early exposure to music did lead to a ton of ensembles, lessons, and shows, but the familiarity to all kinds of music at home is what I loved the most.
What made you realize that music was your path?
Honestly, it never seemed to be a question for me. I wasn’t always sure what I would do with music, but it had been such a staple in my life from day one that I knew it had to be a significant piece of my future.
What lead you to become a music therapist?
I didn’t even know music therapy existed until I did a research project in high school. It clicked immediately, made perfect sense. Besides my obvious passion for music, I’ve also always been interested in understanding why people feel and think what they do (including myself!) I wanted to learn to help people, because I and a lot of my loved ones growing up were dealing with illness, loss, and mental health challenges. I had also loved working with my peers with autism and other diagnoses since a young age, so overall I knew it could be a great fit.
Do you find traveling, like your recent trip to Yellowstone, inspires your song writing?
Absolutely. Any moment of change brings new feelings and thoughts, and for me that means new songs. This trip was special though. We had 21 family members traveling together for ten days! And since nature is the center of my spirituality, and family is the foundation of my support system, it was a really moving experience.
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
Honest, emotional, sometimes playfully dark, often syncopated, and unintentionally always mid-tempo. Basically, I sing what I feel, I like to groove, and I can’t seem to pick a genre. I like to write about my people-experiences that can’t be labeled. I don’t think I even have a straightforward love song, but “Philadelphia” is the closest.
You said you named your single “Philadelphia” for the city where “people prioritize being real.” If you were to write a song for Nashville, how would you characterize the people in the city?
I love this question. My song for Nashville would be about how deeply youthful the city is. I’ve met people here from age 14 to 70 who all go out every night to sing, write, connect, hang, network, emote, party, whatever! This city never stops, and I love it. You can have a conversation with almost anyone you meet here. People seem significantly less inhibited than a lot of people I’ve met elsewhere. Nashville is down for anything!
Your “Philadelphia” co-writer, Adam Sickler, according to you, was able to “help you dive into feelings from your past that you couldn’t even put into words.” What was the moment where you felt the connection allowing you to express those feelings?
It was a slow drip of patience and trust. We both sat down, and I said we should just jam for a second to see where it goes, because honestly I had no idea how to start a cowrite at this point in my life. But improvisation always seems to reflect whatever feelings I already have going on, and I, as always, had a lot of feelings that day. His willingness and the fact that he didn’t question my request made me feel like I could trust him to be present in that moment with me. It turned into a melancholy vocal melody from me and a steady fingerpicking accompaniment from his guitar.
He picked up that I was feeling a lot of something, and asked what was on my mind. I said I missed home, but as we tried to write that song I couldn’t give him any clear answers on what I missed about it. After five hours of Adam’s patience with my confused responses, I was able to realize it was a person that I was missing, and not just Philly.
At 24 you’ve said that the people in Nashville show you how important it is to be tuned into your own self and to accept the kindness and care others around you want to offer. Do you feel this is part of why Music City is home to so many artists?
I hope so! It’s been the reason Nashville has become home for me! This town challenges you to put yourself out there and stand on your own two feet to get stuff done. But in return, you’re surrounded by a community of fellow artists doing the same exact thing. So I’ve gotten the chance to bond over the fact that my friends and I are all learning to be successful on our own. I hope others are finding the same kind of thing!
Through the LGBTQ community you are able to, as you wrote, “promote acceptance for all the weird (*hence* queer) things you could possibly be. There’s less emphasis on fitting in to society’s boxes and more emphasis on embracing every corner of your complex identity regardless of labels.” How has your music allowed you to express this message?
There’s a lot of ways to answer that. My music is always personal, so it inevitably includes stories or feelings or thoughts of mine that the world might judge, or call “weird,” or try to label. The trick is finding the courage to share it, and I don’t always have that. Luckily, the LGBTQ community has provided me with some of that love and acceptance, as well as other friends and family, so I often end up sharing my truest self in my music.
So my stories don’t always fit in labels of “good” or “bad” experiences, “bisexual” or “gay,” and I’m ok with that. Humans are fluid creatures, and labels are only convenient for simplified communication. “Philadelphia” is about a woman I had a complex relationship with, both as friends and partners, and I wrote it because I felt it, not so that I could label myself as a certain kind of artist. The story lives in the grey area between a lot of categories. I share it as part of the LGBTQ community so that I can try to bring light to the beauty of this community and share my gratitude for its support.
You wrote “Me and the Moon” at a time you were struggling to sleep well. What other songs help you find peace during difficult times?
I love Ben Howard, he is my go-to when I need to find some calm.
Who would you say are your favorite or most influential musicians?
What is the backstory to “Brave Little Child”?
Honestly, it represents a lot of different moments. I wrote it as a message of hope and encouragement for the little kid in all of us that got hurt once and decided to close off their vulnerability and risk-taking for self-protection. For me, one of those moments includes being bullied at a young age and in turn developing some really difficult social anxiety and avoidance of friendships. Another example is when I got into an incredibly unhealthy relationship in which I felt stuck for a long time. I was scared to leave someone I had come to rely on, but this song was my grown-up self asking my fear to take the chance anyway and move on. I now use this song to encourage myself to open up to new relationships despite my fear of getting hurt again.
What inspired your song “Home”, bringing your foundation to wherever you are?
I have an easy answer for that! I moved away to college. I had never moved in my life, and I am very close with family. It’s a strange moment to want to feel at home but not be in the place you used to call “home.” I started to learn that you make the most of where you are, and home is a feeling you bring to a place, not the place itself. Now I feel at home in several places! I’m pretty lucky.
What’s the most important thing you want people to know about you, your music, and your craft?
I just want to connect. I really think that this life is about learning to connect with ourselves and the life around us. That includes finding the courage to feel your most difficult emotions and confront your most risky challenges (whether it be feeling something risky, confronting another person, quitting a job, etc.) Only then are we really living out all of what and who we are and feel and think! And only then can we learn what to do with those thoughts and feelings so we can keep living our lives to the fullest reality. So I hope my music can bring catharsis, connection, understanding, courage…or even just enjoyment would be cool.
What’s next for you?
I’m so excited to say I’ve got a few more singles in-the-works, and plans for an acoustic EP to come out by next spring! And hopefully we run into each other again. Thanks so much for having me here!