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How is Noah Zacharin not better known? Heather tries to get to the bottom of it

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Noah Zacharin performs at MooseFest: celebrating 5 years of Roots Music Canada, a one-night festival in honour of this website June 4 at Toronto’s TRANZAC. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Show starts at 7 p.m. Get your tickets HERE

Truth be told, my first encounters with Noah Zacharin did not involve music – at least not his music.

For a time, he hosted Acoustic Routes on the dearly departed CKLN in Toronto, and I was a roots music publicist looking for airplay for my clients.

So for months, perhaps years, our exchanges were of a strictly business-like variety.

I knew that Noah also gigged, but I had no idea just how good he was.

Because I figured surely someone would’ve mentioned this to me, you know?

Thanks, guys (joking).

Listening to his new album, Points of Light, I’m once again dumbfounded that he’s not better known. It’s a masterful singer-songwriter effort by any measure, marked by poetry worthy of being described as literature set to gorgeous finger picking and performed in a manner that radiates authenticity.

Read about our other MooseFest performers: Dave Newland, Onion Honey, Noah Zacharin, Tragedy Ann, Tannis Slimmon and Lewis Melville, Lynn Harrison, So Long Seven and the Memberz.

“I know that I have contributed tremendously to my low position on the hierarchy,” Noah offered when I expressed my surprise to him about his relative lack of celebrity, “by not not being graceful when I was younger with other people, by not having a larger context for what I was doing.”

He began his career with a somewhat narrow and inflexible idea about what a career in music should look like, he explained.

Despite wanting nothing more than to be a sideman, a guitarist, he pursued the life of a solo singer-songwriter, never making any serious commitments to collaborative projects and branching out seriously into other styles of music.

“The whole solo thing is very insular, and it really requires a lot of focus on your own ego and your own image,” he said. “And those are dangerous things to work with when you’re younger.”

Leaving the city leaves more time for introspection

I have no way of knowing whether Noah is just an uncommonly self-aware guy or one that’s overly self-critical and self-effacing.

All I know is that the Noah I was talking to exuded a lot of wisdom and humility.

Noah left Toronto a little over two years ago to settle in rural Medoc. He said he misses the city sometimes, but he appreciates the space and time to think.

“I really think of it as a luxury in some ways, like, compared to my parents who were so busy raising their lousy kids and making a living that they didn’t really have as much time to think about what they were doing and how they like to do it,” he said.

“Honestly, I don’t fault people who don’t become self-aware because it really takes time.”

Rediscovering ‘Red Red Bird’

There’s a lot of self-awareness in Noah’s lyrics, even if the songs are not all autobiographical.

You just can’t write about the nuances of relationships and emotions without having experienced them yourself.

One of my favourite songs, “Red Red Bird,” describes the loving perseverance of a couple whose romance has been battered by age and hardship.

It was a song Noah had written but never recorded until Laura Fernandez covered it in Spanish, prompting him to rediscover it.

“I started playing it on a more regular basis,” he said, “just based on Laura’s having essentially revived it, taking it out of the sarcophagus where I placed it, you know, in tombs beautiful and untouchable. And she brought it out, exhumed it for me. And so it became a living thing again. And I really appreciate that.”

Truthfully, Noah couldn’t have alienated too many people early in his career, because the credits to his new album read like many artists’ dream line-ups. It includes Gary Craig on drums, Burke Carroll on pedal steel, Russ Boswell on bass, Denis Keldie on keys, Drew Jureka on strings, Rolly Platt on harmonica and Kevin Turcotte on trumpet.

It was produced by Danny Greenspoon, an old childhood acquaintance.

Noah plans to start promoting the album more aggressively in the late summer, but he’ll be performing at MooseFest this Sunday at the Tranzac. Get your tickets HERE.

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