Newman spoke about his album, his musical process and his life outside of songwriting the week before his EP, “Noom,” comes out.
LN: What’s your vision for the album “Noom”? What’s the concept that you’re kind of going for?
AN: The concept of it is songs I wrote that I thought went together that I liked and thought were most true to me. That’s why it’s called “Noom,” because I feel like that’s what most people call me and I just wanted to make music that I enjoyed and thought kind of embodied the time spanning from when I wrote the first song to the last song.
LN: What’s new about this album?
AN: I just kind of started listening to different music, some of which was the same, but I don’t know. I’ve grown up listening to like ’60s-type music. I tried to listen to like, I don’t know what it is. It’s just music I’m into right now. And that’s what kind of influenced it from like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash.
LN: I picked up on some of that kind of like lush sound of the ’60s.
AN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m glad you used that word. Oh, and Phil Spector (was an influence) too.
LN: What is the technical process for making music for you?
AN: It’s always a little bit different, but, once I have a song, I’ll just lay down, instrument by instrument, and then kind of tweak it until it’s finished. And some of them take like 40 minutes and then some of them take like two years to get exactly how I want. But I sample drums and I edit the heck out of it. I don’t know, I just tweak everything until it sounds good enough for me, I guess.
LN: This album is still you working by yourself?
AN: Completely, yes.
LN: On track five, “Great Things,” we get kind of this, like, vision of what you want to do. It’s really dreamy, forward-looking. And, then, you talk on track six, “Bully,” about how there’s something inside of you that’s holding you back from all that. What’s that all about?
AN: I have voices in my head that just hold me back and make me overly critical of everything. Like not even just music. Definitely music, but even just interactions with people. I mean, like, it’s just a depression thing. I’ll just have really high highs, like “Great Things,” and really low lows. Um, and that’s pretty much it. It just gives me doubt with everything.
LN: How do you wrestle with that while putting the album out in the world, all of these songs that you’ve worked for a really long time on?
AN: Oh, I wrestled for sure. It’s, I don’t know. It’s tough, man. And especially since I haven’t really, besides two songs, released anything since high school and I feel like I’ve had a fairly good foundation. And so I just want people to like it, but I also don’t want to compromise me being, like, true to what I like, even if it’s a different sound. And I think it is a different sound. So, yeah, I mean I’m definitely nervous, but I’m absolutely proud and I love listening to it. I love the way it sounds.
LN: What is it like to take like real life things and then put them out there in a form that people might know what you’re talking about, but other people may have no idea?
AN: With that, it’s more about feeling and lots of times the words don’t even necessarily — the words definitely matter, absolutely matter — but lots of times I’ll feel something that’s not necessarily said in the song and the feeling’s more important to me than that. It’s just all about feeling and if I can be true to it.
LN: You put out an EP in late high school, so how much of (“Noom”) do you feel is different because of your experiences in college and just in Oxford?
AN: Just because a lot of things have changed and, like, I’ve grown up a little bit more. There are a few moments in my life that have kind of really struck me to be way more serious about my art. I’ve just grown up a little bit more. I’m definitely not mature. (Newman laughs.)
LN: You said you are “serious about your art,” so what does that look like for you? How do you stay disciplined with something? It’s not like you’re taking classes, obviously, that you’re making this album for. So how do you stay focused on that?
AN: By “serious about my art,” that means not even being overly serious about it. Like, not putting my identity in it, but just enjoying it and creating it. And keeping creating it, and being true. Making sure that whatever I record or write or say is true and honest. So, hopefully someone could be enjoying it, feel what I feel.
LN: With a couple of the shows that I’ve been to that you’ve played at, something that I’ve noticed is — at least at Ole Miss there are very clear social divisions of people. Like, you know, the kind of people that go to house shows and things that are usually not hanging out with people that are in fraternities and sororities. It seems with your shows, that there’s kind of a fusion of those crowds. And I was wondering if you’ve noticed that. What do you have to say about that?
AN: Oh, dude. I mean, that’s what I would hope, that I’m playing for people in general and not playing for, like, a scene. I mean just anyone who enjoys it. Partly because I’ve been ostracized from a lot of things in the past and I’ve ostracized people in the past. So ever since I got to college, I just want to know that anyone can actually end up being friends if they can all just meet in the same place and actually have a conversation and get to know each other. That’s more than even the music. I want as many people there as possible, and I like the fusing of different scenes and for people to not be against each other, to find some kind of common ground.
LN: Thinking about the song “Great Things,” you’re kind of thinking about some possible future plans, and I was just wondering what your actual future plan is. What do you want to do after you graduate?
AN: This semester I kind of made up my mind that I should try to like, go for it with music. Whatever way that could be, whether I’m writing songs and being an artist or working in a studio for other people. I don’t know what that would end up like, but I definitely want to give it a shot because it’s where my mind always jumps off to. And whenever I listen to music, I want to make a song like it.
LN: Do you feel like you need to live more to be as good of a musician as you can be?
AN: No, but I’ll live more regardless. It’s all just like channeling in what you’re experiencing now. Some people are famous … and good musicians whenever they’re 13. Some people have peak moments whenever they’re older, like R.L. Burnside, who made one of his best albums right before he died. So, I don’t know, it’d be different. Like, I’m sure that there are some people who have regular jobs and make music on the side. And maybe there’s someone who’s been successful with it and really became a great musician that way. But for me, I kind of feel like I’ve been trying to do that and I just feel kind of limited, because I spend my creative and emotional energy on other things that have nothing to do with what I actually want to do. So I just want to see what would happen if I was in a situation where my survival mode was turned on and I had to focus on my craft and see what happens.
LN: How, with everything — with all the other commitments with college and everything — do you designate specific times for music-making, or is it just something that’s part of your day-to-day life that you try to incorporate?
AN: I try to play guitar every day, and there are moments I even tried to write a song every day. I’ve written a trillion songs, which is frustrating because I wish I could just record them all and then move on and create another one. But some days I’m so tired and exhausted or I have too many things to do that I don’t end up doing any music. It’s tough right now, but it’s still good. I mean, there are some moments where I’m like, “Man, I’m glad I have this time.” It’s almost the fact that I was held back previously has given me something to talk about or sing about.
LN: What are you doing this summer?
AN: It is up in the air. I’m playing with the idea of moving to (Los Angeles). I don’t know anything about LA. … well, I know some about it, but I’ve never been out there. I might have an internship. They told me they’re going to let me know, and if I get this internship out in LA, I’ll go there and try to work in a studio with some people I know. If not, I’ll stay in Oxford and try to record another album.
LN: To circle back around to the album before we end, what’s your favorite song on it?
AN: They all have different energies or feelings that I like, and some of them were better mixed than others, but I mean, that’s just what’s going to happen whenever I’m doing it myself and can’t make it sound as good as Phil Spector. But, I don’t know, I feel like the truest is “Blue Noom.” I feel like that one’s a play of my life, kind of. If there were a musical or something. That’s just different scenes that I definitely connect with and continuously connect with from my life.
LN: Were there any songs that were particularly difficult to write either because it was hard to write about the subject matter or because it was difficult to come up with the tune?
AN: Actually, all of the songs that are on the album were written in like 20 minutes to an hour, on the guitar. And some of them took forever to get the way I wanted it to sound recording wise. But, yeah, I usually like the songs that are written the most quickly. I feel like that’s a common thing, too, sometimes. But there have been times where there’s been a verse I needed and they came along later. But for these songs, I think they were all written pretty quickly.
This conversation was edited for clarity and length.