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Top 3 Ways To Gain Label Interest with Special Guest Noah Henson

On this episode, Brett talks with Noah Henson, lead guitarist of multi-award winning Christian rock band Pillar, and country star Brantley Gilbert. Noah shares the three keys to attracting label attention, and what he, as a producer, wants to hear from an artist….

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Brett Manning  00:11
Hey y’all, I’m Brett Manning. 

Noah Henson  00:13
And I’m Noah Henson.

Brett Manning  00:14
And you are listening to the Singing Success Show, and my special guest here [is someone] I have been friends with for like 11 years. I’ve known you for 11. 

Noah Henson  00:24

Brett Manning  00:25
But we’ve been close. 

Noah Henson  00:27
Like bros. 

Brett Manning  00:27
Like bros. Like bro, bro. Like blood brothers. Well, we don’t do that because I might catch his COVID. 

Noah Henson  00:36
I’ve only got COVID-18 though, so you’re good.

Brett Manning  00:39
That’s better than me. It’s better than my COVID-14. It’s four better. 

Noah first moved here in 2009, right?

Noah Henson  00:53
Yes, 2011, actually. But I think I met you in ’09 because we were tracking that record. Or ’08—’08/’09?. 

Brett Manning  01:00
You met me in ’08. I remember. We had that barbecue at my house. A family lost their house in a flood, so I let them come stay at my house for a little while. 

Noah Henson  01:10

Brett Manning  01:11
We used to have a rather large domain. And now I’ve got a small, cute little place.

Noah Henson  01:17
You’ll walk in and be like: “Can I move into the closet? That would be great.”

Brett Manning  01:22
“A 6,000-square-foot closet,” you know. It was big. Seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms. But I don’t care. I’m a little bit happy with my little two-bedroom thing. I’ve got to upgrade.

Noah Henson  01:35
“I’ve got to upgrade.” 

Brett Manning  01:36
A little bit. Three, maybe. Nine. “Seems high.” Christopher Walken. “I’m not good with numbers.” “I don’t know. What do most people say? I really want to win that car.” Did you ever hear him say that? They’re knocking and they say, “How many people you got living here?” He goes: “Um, I don’t know. I’m not good with numbers. About 80.” “Seems high.” And he goes, “Well, just count.” He goes: “I got myself, my wife… We have plants. We’ve got candy bars.” And they go, “We don’t count plants and candy bars.” He goes, “I guess then we only have two.” He said, “I really overshot it with the 80.” [laughter] It’s so funny. Only Walken. 

Noah Henson  02:20
Only Walken, man!

Brett Manning  02:24
Anyway, what are we talking about today with you?

Noah Henson  02:27
We are talking about… 

Can we cut real quick, by the way? Was there something I was supposed to say when you introduced me, by the way? I looked over to Dustin and he was like, [whispering]. I was like, “Oh no!”

Brett Manning  02:40
No, you’re cool. Perfect. 

Noah Henson  02:42
Back to the thing. 

Ooh. What’s this here? That’s also something.

Brett Manning  02:51
That’s something we’re going to be talking about later. 

Noah Henson  02:53
All right.

Brett Manning  02:54
Right here.

Noah Henson  02:55
Yes. All right, cool. 

Well, today we’re going to talk about the top three ways to gain label interest pretty much anywhere—California, Nashville, Chicago, New York, or wherever you are in the world.

Brett Manning  03:13
So, what are those top three things?

Noah Henson  03:16
Well, that’s a small question, broad answer. To me, in my experience, just to put it bluntly, the three top things that stick out to me would be your fan base—and I’ll come back to that as the most important thing—your songs, and your work ethic. There are a number of things that you can identify with success, I think, when it comes to label interest or even just doing it independently. But work ethic is the number one thing. I think when label people take an interest in an artist, they go: “Okay. Well, what sort of things is he doing?” They immediately go to his site or social media and see: “What’s he doing? Where’s he touring?” 

Not in any particular order, but the most important thing to me is the fan base. A fan base can buy you attention, so to speak, from numerous different people, including booking agents, label reps, and even endorsement people and things like that. If you’ve got a solid fan base going in, let’s say you’ve got, let’s say, 30,000 or 40,000 on Instagram or Facebook, that’ll pique people’s interest. They’ll go: “Okay, they’ve got 30,000–40,000 people who are interested in their ND. That’s pretty awesome.” Let’s say you’ve got over 100,000 [fans] on social media—and these are all real fans, not bought fans because they have ways of researching that…

Brett Manning  05:11
Interaction, by the way.

Noah Henson  05:12
Yes. And it translates, man, if you’ve got the fan base.  When you book a show, even if it’s just like a thousand-person venue and you sell it out, that’s an immediate bargaining chip. 

The other thing is, if your fanbase is massive, and let’s say you’ve already got a solid career moving in the right direction… And it translates too. Some people I know have massive fanbases and they don’t ever even consider a label because they don’t need it. But it just depends on what you want. If you want to be the most famous and you want to be the most… 

Brett Manning  05:59
If you want to be massive. 

Noah Henson  06:00
Yes, if you want to be massive, there are certain limitations in the independent world. At least in my experience. Anything’s possible. People break through with new ideals all the time. In all actuality, it’s the people who break through with new ideals that change things. There’s a standard until something different happens to change the standard.

The other thing is the songs. It’s like the perfect storm. If a label is interested in you as an artist—or even slightly interested—and there’s a spark happening, they look [at]: “Okay, what’s your fanbase like?” And unfortunately, it’s not as much about the songs as the fanbase. But it is too, because they can go: “Okay, cool. Man, they’ve got a huge fanbase. Right on. They got good material too. Ooh, we can do something with this!” Of course, a lot of label heads will think to themselves, “If they don’t have good songs, we can give them good songs.”

Brett Manning  07:06
“We can find good songs.” 

Noah Henson  07:08
We can find good songs. 

Brett Manning  07:10
That’s why it’s really not necessary to have written a great song to get a label deal. Like you say, that’s part of that—social media. Like you say, they work at it. Every day, they show up for their social media. They put out their personality and that “Je ne sais quoi.” “Je”—I. “Je t’aime”—that means I love you. “Je” [means] I, “ne sais quoi.” [It means], I don’t know what. What—”quoi.” I don’t know what. I can’t really put my finger on it. And we know people like that. 

Homeboy is definitely a good singer. By the way, Noah played for the band Pillar, if you haven’t read it in the liner notes. He played for years. They were the number one band several times. How many number ones do you guys have?

Noah Henson  07:57
About 11 or 12.

Brett Manning  07:58
One loses count after a while. You get in the double digits and—

Noah Henson  08:01
After the first one, everything else… No, I’m just kidding. [laughter]

Brett Manning  08:04
But they’re the second-most behind Skillet? 

Noah Henson  08:07
I would say probably. 

Brett Manning  08:07
The second-highest-selling Christian rock band.

Noah Henson  08:12
Of the 2000s because in the ’90s you had your Petras. Those guys were huge in their day.

Brett Manning  08:19
But as far as that style of rock that you were doing—the heavy rock—it was the second of all time behind Skillet. And Skillet barely passed you up because you guys are not doing records anymore. You’re still one-off, every now and then. You’ll always be the band in spite of not being in the band, if I understand right. Also, Noah plays for Brantley Gilbert. We can’t count his number ones. 

Noah Henson  08:42
No, he’s got lots.

Brett Manning  08:44
And we’re going to do another podcast where we hear your whole story. Maybe we’ll have to flip these; I don’t know. 

But going back into that, Rob Beckley—he’s a great singer. He’s got a cool rock voice—he’s “Je ne sais quoi”—doesn’t he? He’s just got some charisma on stage.

Noah Henson  09:03
Yes. It’s the perfect storm, like you were saying. It’s all objective. For me, those top three things we were talking about are probably the most important: Your work ethic, your songs, and your fan base. But the perfect storm—you were talking about image—[can be] your look. If you happen to be a really good-looking human being, that could be an absolute plus, just because people like looking at pretty things. 

It’s also objective. But I think the perfect storm of events that can happen: Obviously, you put in good looks. You put in, like, “Hey, you can also play an instrument really well.” That’s cool because some of the greatest singers, like Freddie Mercury, could sit down at a piano. He was double-sexy. It’s like: “Oh my gosh, the dude can sing. Oh my gosh, you can play the piano too!” So that’s a plus. 

Back in medieval times, the greatest armies were usually led by their king and he also had a sword in his hand. So, when you get up there and see a band, you’re like: “Man, that band is killer. Whoa! That singer can also rip on the guitar. Wow. He just earned way more respect in my book.” These things are not so important. But yes, it’s the three [things I mentioned]. 

Brett Manning  10:32
A leader doesn’t say, “Guys, do as I tell you.” A leader says, “I’m leading.” That means out in front. I go out in front. The frontman, the singer, is in the scariest place. You’ve known singers who almost tucked back in the band, like, “I just want to… ” No. You need to be out in front leading. 

Everybody knows the things that go into a song. It’s a well-written, well-structured melody and lyrics. And a melody is time and height. It’s dimensional. It’s the note that’s either up or down and within a certain time. 

You can take a melody that’s pretty good—as we were working together with an artist—pushing and pulling, squashing certain words, making them shorter, and other words, making them longer, to adjust the phrasing of that melody to make it better. There are things you can do when you get a song that’s almost great. And you can change lyrics, even in this studio. You’ve done this before. You’re like: “Hey, you know what? I don’t like that word. I think there’s a better word” or “it’s not a current word” or “it’s an awkward word.” Some people can get away with that.

Noah Henson  11:41
It’s an awk word. 

Brett Manning  11:42
Awk word. Oh, I like that! 

Noah Henson  11:43
Anyone? No? All right. 

Brett Manning  11:44
See what you did? Rim shot! Where’s my love?

You bring a good song in there, but there’s so much that happens with production and so much that happens with the voice. A great voice can sing the phone book, and you’d be like, “This is compelling!” Wendy Moten could literally sing the ABCs and you’d be like, “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard in my life!” And there are some people to whom you give them the greatest song ever written, and you’re like, “Stop vomiting on this song!” That’s a term you’ve heard producers use, and I know that sounds harsh, but that’s what I’ve heard people say: “Man, this singer is vomiting on my tracks!”

Noah Henson  12:22
Vocal vomit, as we call it. That’s another one. I’m just creating all these catchphrases, man.

Brett Manning  12:32
So there’s that. You have a great song, a great voice, and a great production. If this sounds like a paid endorsement, it’s not, unfortunately. I’ll just get coffee. That’s all I’ll get for it. He makes a great coffee. 

But seriously, as for endorsing him, there are only five producers that I absolutely love in Nashville: Ed Cash, who’s going to be on here. My friends, the [inaudible] Vice brothers, moved out. They’re the coolest indie brothers. They’ve got a great thing. Noah Henson, and the other two, I’m still deliberating because… But these are my big three that I always go to. And Noah has so impressed me on this last pop thing that I’m thinking: “Who knows that you’re this type of producer?” But for you, music’s just music, right? It’s just music. It doesn’t matter.

Noah Henson  13:24
It’s like an artist with art. Just as musicians in general, obviously, people can pigeonhole us. Especially being in the rock world, and then the Christian rock world, people automatically pigeonhole you. They think I’m up there head banging, slinging my hair around, rocking, sweating, and doing everything rock and roll. 

I’m a character, too. I’m a goofball. I like to have fun and goof around. But in all seriousness, music is literally the thing that makes my blood rush through my veins. I think about my family, I think about providing for my family, and I think about music. And that’s pretty much it. And of course, God is at the top there. 

For instance, you go to the zoo. It’s like, “There’s a bunch of different animals here.” But it’s a zoo. There’s a bunch of animals. I’m coming here to see a bunch of animals. I’m not coming here to see just the lions. I’m coming here to see the tigers too. I’m coming to see some… I don’t know; they’ve got cougars there? Yes, they’ve got cougars. I’d like to think of myself as a musical zoo. But a musical zoo, man. I want to do it all, so I try to verse myself in all styles of music, especially pop. 

Pop is a huge style of music. And everything is heading that way more and more. You’ve got metal bands now that are incorporating pop into their metal music. If you had told that to an 80s rocker back in the 80s—that one day his music would turn into pop—he would have had a conniption. If you had told me 10 years ago that I was going to be playing guitar for a country artist, I would have had a conniption.

Brett Manning  15:38
That’ll be on our other podcast.

Noah Henson  15:40
Yes. The thing is, if you close your mind to all styles of music and only focus on one, then you will get pigeonholed. But it has been a large step for me—having to prove to people that I’m not just a rocker and that I can do country. I can do pop. I can do blues. I can do R&B. I can do whatever you put in front of me. And I say that humbly but I try to keep myself well-versed in all styles of music.

Brett Manning  16:13
Any musician who’s been at it for a while—we all have some kind of ego. We’ve got to have a little bit of ego. I mean, there’s ego and there’s confidence. Sometimes it’s a fine line. 

Noah Henson  16:23
It’s a fine line.

Brett Manning  16:24
Ego is like, “I’m never going to learn this.”

Noah Henson  16:26
Ego is not knowing your limitations. It’s such a balance because I’ve worked with people with egos bigger than the room we’re in and I’m like: “I can’t be in there with this guy.” But I always find a way to make it work, no matter what. That’s part of being a producer. It’s like a pull and a push and it’s going back and forth and knowing when to give and when to push. It’s almost psychology. 

There are times when I’m working with somebody and I’m like: “They’re not really open to a lot of the ideas and pushing, so I’ve got to find a different way to approach these things.” So we’ll keep going and going and going. Then I’ll just let them throw all their ideas at me. I’ll throw them all down. And then I’ll go, “Okay,” and I’ll hit play. If we’re listening back and they go, “Ooh, you don’t like that?” I’m like: “No, that’s weird.” I’m like, “I’ve got an idea.” And sometimes you’ve got to do that. And sometimes you work with people who, no matter how much crap they deliver, still think it’s the best. So then it’s on the backside. It’s a balance.

Brett Manning  18:00
Let’s talk a little bit more about this. We talked about the songs. We talked about the socials—in other words, your fan base. Let’s talk about the third point a little bit more.

Noah Henson  18:13
Which goes hand in hand with all of them. I think those three that I’ve mentioned are personally a trifecta because the work ethic will eventually lead to a fan base. You’ve heard artists who were pretty good—some who are huge. Sometimes it’s because a label was just like, “Yes, we’re going to pull them on.” Sometimes, if you push garbage enough, a bunch of times, people will eventually eat that garbage. That’s just a simple factor of music in general, because music is such a universal language. How many times have you heard something and you’re like, “That’s not great,” and your buddy’s like, “This is the best thing ever!” And you’re like, “I don’t want to tell my friend that I don’t want to be his friend anymore because this sucks so bad!”

Brett Manning  19:13
It’s the same chord progression that you hear a million times. Look, there’s a certain movie in which you hear this all the time: [plays wistful melody on piano]. You heard vi–IV–I–V over and over. 

♪ I hope you dance… If I were a boy… Too late to apologize ♪ 

[It’s in] 6,000 other songs. And it works really well. I saw somebody come in and go: “Yes, I wrote this song. It’s got these really cool chords.” She was going: [plays reflective melody on piano]. And it sounded good. It was. It’s a good thing. The ear likes that vi–IV–I–V and the I–V–vi–IV. Tons of Ed Sheeran songs [are] I–V–vi–IV.  

What’s his song? 
♪ I’m getting tired and… I need somebody to heal… Somebody to touch… ♪

It’s that. It’s the simple I–V–vi–IV: C–G–Am–F. And it’s a cool song. But like you say, when people think, “Ah, I’ve done this thing; it’s really genius,” for our ears, it’s like, “Man, can you give me something a little bit different?” And it’s important that you realize that you may actually come up with the number-one hit and it’s just three major chords. 

Chris Stapleton’s best song, in my opinion, is not even close to “Tennessee Whiskey”; it’s “Drunkard’s Prayer”. And he plays it so simply. He just hits this nice, beautiful E. You know that E on the guitar just rings so well. There are so many riffs. He bends the note coming into it: Bom-bom. He says, “When I get drunk and talk to God, I tell him sorry for all the things I’m not.” I’m like, “Ah!” [slapping piano stool]. I heard that last summer. I tried to learn it and I was like: “I can’t get through this. This is so rich.” Three chords. One of the best songs. He goes, “When I get drunk and talk to God… ” Three simple songs. Great work ethic, great production, a great fan base. And then sometimes the simplest stupid song. And it’s not the most known song, but for me, it’s…

Noah Henson  21:52
It’s the conviction in his voice.

Brett Manning  21:54

I see him walking by with his guitar—just another guy. And suddenly I see him on this show and I’m like: “Chris Stapleton is big? When did he get big?” And you’ve seen that too. There are so many people we’ve talked about in earlier podcasts that I’ve hung out with and they used to call me: “Hey man, can you hook me up with a quick little warm-up?”

Noah Henson  22:12
Yes. The songs he sings are not modern country pop radio songs. What was it? He was in this town for 10 years writing huge songs for Luke Bryan and some other cats before his own thing ever blew up. I think that’s the dream too, man. He gets to write these huge epic radio songs with all these other artists and then he gets to do his own thing. But when he’s on stage, he gets to do the thing he really wants to do. 

Brett Manning  22:55
Let me give you this lyric. He says: “When I get drunk and talk to God, I say I’m sorry for all the things I’m not. I mean every word I say and I promise I can change when I get drunk and talk to God.” [laughter] That’s so good and it just gets you right away. And you hear him, he says:

♪ When I get drunk and talk to God… ♪ 

That first night, you were like… Even his lick. I have said, and this will surprise you—if you’ve not heard this particular song, go back and listen to it—I think it is the most soulful song recorded in modern national history. In modern national history, I can’t think of a more soulful song than this. And soulful doesn’t mean you’ve got: [briefly imitates singing in a pentatonic pattern]. That’s not soul. That’s tricks. Tricks are not soul.

I think Coldplay has way more soul than a lot of divas who can just do: [briefly imitates singing in a pentatonic pattern]. Good. You know pentatonic patterns. Great. They’re not even that interesting. It’s just your fast. Good. You’re fast, but it doesn’t make you good. You know a lot of guitar players who have so much ridiculous speed, but you don’t want to hire them. You never hire that person. If you can’t slow down Gilmore and bend a note beautifully… You know what I’m saying? Or like Noah.

Noah Henson  24:08
To me, soul is when you can literally manifest your spirit into a song. 

Brett Manning  24:15

Noah Henson  24:17
It’s not just singing. We deal with that on the daily with artists. They’ll be [like]: [briefly imitates singing in a pentatonic pattern]. You’re like: “Oh man, they’re going off.” That’s cool if you’re drag racing, but I just want to cruise around town, man, with your voice. 

I produce a lot of radio country, pop, rock. I’m always thinking radio, because that’s what people want. They equate radio with success, so if we can get their songs on the radio, that’s cool. The songs I love the most are songs like this one.

I’ve had people come into my studio when we’re talking about working together and they sit down and play me two songs. And I’m like, “Those are cool songs, man. Those will be radio.” And I’ll be like, “You got anything that’ll just rip my heart out?” And it reminds me of the scene in Walk the Line where he’s like, “I got something else,” and he just starts singing. And they’re like, “Where did this come from?” 

Johnny Cash is another perfect example of a guy who didn’t necessarily have the greatest voice, but his conviction was so grand and huge that you couldn’t help but be sucked into his music, man. But when somebody pulls out a song that… And sometimes that’s the song it takes for me to see that they’ve got what it takes—the one that just rips my heart out—because that’s the one that makes me believe in them to know: “Okay, dude, we can do anything with this guy.” 

If you’re a Hyundai, own it. If you’re a 350Z… Sorry, 370Z for all you millennials. It’s about to be a 400Z, my son says; I don’t know. Own it. If you’re a Ferrari, own it. The cool part about a Ferrari is that you can drive it slowly too. But it’s good to know you can always hit that top speed if you need to. But I need to know before anything that you can cruise. For me as a producer, that’s the thing, because if you’ve got a voice that can grab me by the ears, we could do anything with you.

All that being said, going back to the work ethic thing: Nashville. I’ve met a lot of people who are like: “Man, I think I could do it. I don’t have to move to Nashville.” I meet people who are like, “I’m moving to Nashville tomorrow.” And there’s a healthy balance. If you can get here often, that’s an important part. But the work ethic also goes hand in hand with songwriting with numerous different writers. And that’s also how you get great songs—by writing with different people. 

That’s not to say that you can’t do it on your own. Freddie Mercury would sit in a room by himself and create songs that no man in history will ever even get close to again. I mean, I say that lightly because there’s always somebody who comes out of nowhere. I have yet to see them. But maybe they’re coming. Maybe they’re coming. 

When I was working with Kane Brown, that kid would drive to Nashville from Chattanooga. He’d get up at five o’clock in the morning. He was 19 or 20! I was thinking: “Dude, when I was 19 or 20, somebody had to drag me out of bed to make me go to work.” Sorry, bosses, if you’re watching this—from when I was in my teens. Seriously, it was bad. But dude, Kane would get up at 5:00 in the morning, drive to Nashville, and be doing a session at 8:00 a.m. Usually, he’d stay with other people. He’d stay with me sometimes if he was doing sessions and stuff. But he’d go write, write, write. And then we’d get in the studio and produce the stuff he was writing.

Brett Manning  28:38
So many people tell me: “Oh, Kane—that guy just popped out of nowhere. He showed up and he’s pretty and he just sings.” And I say, “I kind of know the guy who discovered him and built that career.” He came in with a voice and I’ve had a chance to train him, as has Benny. He’s got a hard work ethic. You brought this guy because he was willing to meet your work ethic. 

Noah Henson  29:09
He kicked my work ethic in the face, because I didn’t even know yet. My wife had already booked him in the studio for me before I had even known. She was like, “I found this kid.” The short of it is that I got home from a two-week run. I was absolutely exhausted. As soon as I walked through the door, she was like, “Hey, I found this kid.” She was like: “A lot of the fans and other people are talking about this kid. There’s a buzz going on. I talked to him.” 

He was just doing videos in his bedroom or wherever he was. He’d be walking down the street, and he’d shoot a video of him singing or something. He had a fan base. It was a small yet strong—and even large at the same time for his size at the time—fan base. When she showed me this, at first I was like: “Babe, I’m tired. I don’t want to think about anything.” She was like, “Just shut up and listen to him.” She hit play on a video that he did singing in his house and laid it on my shoulder. I was like, “Oh, my gosh!” And then I saw his face. I was like, “He’s pretty too!” 

Sure enough, I went and looked on his page. I was like, “This kid’s got 100,000 followers already.” And these were just followers he built from YouTube and stuff. It wasn’t a massive buzz, but it was a buzz. It got my attention. So I was like, “Babe, I need to get him in the studio.” She was like: “It’s already done. He’ll be here on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. He’s driving up from Chattanooga,” sure enough. And I was like, “Oh, my gosh!” 

We sat down and wrote a song together. We were just goofing off and getting to know each other. We wrote a song that ended up going on his first EP. 

Brett Manning  31:07
Which charted at what? 

Noah Henson  31:09
It went number one. 

Brett Manning  31:11
[laughter] It went number one. That’s the beautiful side of it. Without a record label.

Noah Henson  31:17
Yes. I remember having a conversation with Scott Borschetta about him. 

Brett Manning  31:21
Wow. Big Machine, by the way. 

Noah Henson  31:24
Big Machine. He texts me one day, and he’s like, “Guess who’s interested?” I’m like, “Big Machine.” He’s like, “How’d you know?” I’m like, “I talked to the dude.” Then, of course, when he came to Nashville, everybody wanted Kane, man. That was such a cool scenario, man. I’m so proud of that guy, dude. He’s done some amazing things.

Brett Manning  31:53
A final thought. Let’s talk about all the work that goes into prepping to make a great song. Then you make a great song. And then some people think the work is over. Talk to me about rehearsals.

Noah Henson  32:09
I don’t know if we’ve got time today.

Brett Manning  32:12
Or will this be for a different podcast where we just talk about rehearsals and that whole process?

Noah Henson  32:16
How about, in a nutshell, I give it to you? And then we could talk about it coming up. Because the next one we do, we’ll be talking more about the touring world anyway—kind of the [inaudible] stuff. The Pillar stuff. But I get artists who are fully developed. I get artists who are green. I get artists who are coming out of nowhere, like Kane. When I was working with Kane, he had never performed a show—not one. He sang in front of people with a mic in his hand, but he’d never performed a show. And I remember talking to his management going: “I’ve never seen him perform, so maybe we should get him with Tom Jackson.”

Brett Manning  32:57
What’s up, Tom?

Noah Henson  32:59
What’s up, Tom?

Brett Manning  33:00
A bad dude. 

Noah Henson  33:03
Who’s the man at performance coaching? And of course, Kane has evolved into his own thing anyway. But there are times when I’m working with somebody who has zero experience performing. In the recording process, there are times, if they’re that green, where I’m like: “Okay, just remember—you got to do this live. If you’ve got to drop it a whole step, a step and a half, a half step, or whatever, to do this live and to do it well…  Because, man, the reality is that we can give you great songs all day long. We can produce great songs on you, but… ” That’s another thing: If your performance doesn’t translate to your music and doesn’t translate to who you are on the record, people aren’t going to believe it. But that also translates to the voice, which is where you come in. 

Brett Manning  34:05
This is where I come in. 


How many times have you done that scale? The Rossini scale: [inaudible].

Noah Henson  34:21
Rossini—I do it every day. [laughter]

Brett Manning  34:23
Rossini, yes. With you and all your artists. You just roll them through the CDs. Do you still have the old CDs? I think I got you all the streaming access now. But you practice with them. You warm up with them. Then you go in there. If you’re warmed up, you give a pretty good performance. But it’s the same thing that I was talking about with our fellow brother, Dustin, about when you’re in the back, you’re warming up. And I’m sure before the gig, just put on the guitar. You get those fingers loose because you get there and they can feel sticky. 

Noah Henson  34:54
Normally I’ll eat Cheetos and I just lick my fingers and go up there and play. Nah, I’m just kidding.

Brett Manning  34:58
[laughter] I was like: “Please be joking. Please! Please be joking because you’ve stolen all my thunder.”

Noah Henson  35:04
The organic Cheetos, okay?

Brett Manning  34:58
Well, anyway, we’re going to have Noah on again, probably somewhere between 2 and 30 times. Somewhere between that.

Noah Henson  35:14
Oh, heck, I’ll just come on every day! 

Brett Manning  35:19
Eventually, it will be a daily podcast. But today, we’re really excited to have him here. What an honor! What a great musician! My best description of the first time I heard him really play guitar on some production… because you play what it needs. And that girl said, “Well, rock it out a little bit.” So you did that song, “Isn’t enough.” Alexandra. She has actually reached out to me. She was like, “I’m ready to do music again.” Well, of course, because you have a perfect voice. Remember, you were like, “She can do anything.”

Noah Henson  35:46
She was 16 when I worked with her. 

Brett Manning  35:48
She’s like 22 or 23 now. 

Noah Henson  35:48
And I called you. I was like, “You didn’t tell me she could do that.” You were like, “I wanted her to surprise you.” I was like: “Oh, crap! She surprised me for sure.” 

Brett Manning  35:57
She can do anything vocally. But she had this thing. It’s about talking to her best friend: “Nothing I can do is ever enough. I turned my hair from blonde to black. You criticized me, so I turned it back. And there’s nothing I can do.” It was a lot of sarcasm. And you had this lick that kind of said, “Na-na-na-na-na” on the guitar. And it was like, “The guitar is talking.” I don’t know if she ever released that. If she didn’t, I would be mad about it. But I can probably talk her into sending you an MP3 if you want to hear that. 

But go online. Listen to… You produced “Wicked Game” with the Drew Hale Band. Mind-blowing, beautiful soundscapes. Who else are you excited about right now?

Noah Henson  36:53
Our LA girl. We can’t really talk about it yet.

Brett Manning  36:54
Oh, we can’t tell you. We’ve got a best-kept secret. Let’s just say that whatever Mariah Carey did back then, this girl’s doing that now. It’s insane. Tons of voice.

Noah Henson  37:04
Modern—up to today—production [and] pop with that voice. Honestly, I’m excited about all the bands that I produce.

Brett Manning  37:19
I know. You put your heart into it. You’re not like, “I’m going to leave somebody out.” And then they’re like: “Hey, what about me? You didn’t talk about me.”

Noah Henson  37:26
The Drew Hale stuff, man, that guy is more in the vein of Stapleton as far as his sound. He’s kind of got that almost Southern red dirt with a slice of radio. Just a little slice. He’s just that guy. He’s like, “Man, I don’t need to do anything except what I want to do.” And that’s awesome. That’s a great place to be as a musician, being content with where you want to be.

Brett Manning  37:51
But those guys had that work ethic. 

Noah Henson  37:54

Brett Manning  37:54
They worked their butt off. And you worked your butt off on that production. Just go on a drive and listen to it through a great stereo. If you don’t have a great stereo, get great headphones and listen to that thing.

Noah Henson  38:06
The legendary Vance Powell mixed that record and then Pete Lyman mastered that record. Two of the Nashville greats. You know who I’m talking about. 

Brett Manning  38:19
No wonder! But still, those soundscapes that you produced were just amazing. I’d be embarrassed to tell them how many times I’ve listened to that. But it’s one of those songs that you show everybody and say: “Listen to this.” And they go, “Oh, I’m firing my producer.” “No, no, you don’t have to do that. Finish your thing. But be thinking about your next project and stepping it up,” because not everybody can afford you. You’re not cheap, but you get what you pay for. 

Brett Manning  38:48
Anyway, it’s good to see you! And I’ll see you on the next podcast. Thanks for tuning in. 

Noah Henson  38:53
Yes! Peace!

About Noah Henson: Brett’s long-time friend, Noah Henson, is the guitarist for Dove award-winning Christian rock band Pillar, as well as the guitarist for Brantley Gilbert. Noah is also the CEO and Founder of Dredrock, a company that provides artists with consulting, publishing, songwriting, development and recording services.

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