Tyrone Noonan discusses the inspiration behind each track on his debut album I Believe…
1. The Right Way
As soon as I heard back the recording of the tribal drum intro for this song, I knew it would be the album opener. And I didn’t realise it at the time of writing, but there’s definitely a subtle Hall and Oates influence here! My co-writer Nick Stewart had this latino-sounding riff that I immediately latched onto, and the song built from there, ultimately turning into a deep rock groove. In our youth and beauty- obsessed media age, it’s a wary tale about a guy who’s hell bent on dating the one girl who makes everyone’s heart jump when she enters a room; but ultimately learns a hard lesson about falling in love with a “man-eater”.
2. Make It Somehow
This song was written during two years I spent living in Ireland as a full-time musician, playing in a Beatles tribute band (The Beatless) during the week and gigging with our originals band (The Charm) on weekends. We recorded this as part of a demo at the time and got close to being signed, but alas, ‘twas not to be. We all had a blast anyway! I sat on this song for years as I always thought it was “too Lennon”, but after hearing The Vines, Jet and other bands wearing their musical hearts on their sleeves I thought, “Why not”? I mean there are backwards sitars in there and everything!
3. Tight Black Dress
This song was a late addition to the album, and probably the one I’m most proud of, as it was all recorded at my mate Paulie B’s studio in West End, Brisbane and my apartment across town with my other friend Justin Tresidder’s A1 mobile recording rig, alongside assistance from Brisbane sonic gurus JLM Audio. Then it was sent off to Steve Hodge in the US to mix; and we got so excited when he sent it back. Go Steve! He’s an amazing guy. The song started from a productive and hilarious writing session with talented tunesmiths Russ de Salvo and Arnie Roman in Long Island (New York). Once we knuckled down, we created this ode to the beauty of woman, particularly when enshrined in a Tight Black Dress. This song may be considered frivolous but it puts a smile on people’s faces, so I’m happy!
4. Because Of You
This song came about from a serendipitous connection to legendary songwriter/ producer Chas Sandford (“Missing You” by John Waite, “Talk To Me” by Stevie Nicks etc). My Uncle Peter, a longtime US resident and Professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, had an associate who played in a monthly blues jam band with Chas at the time of my visit, and was able to arrange a lunch meeting with him. On top of this, my other Nashville-based Aussie friend Natalie Howard had a writing session with Chas booked months in advance which coincided with my stay, and very kindly offered up the time; so the three of us got together and came up with this uplifting song. It’s a love poem, a tribute to a wonderful woman who has fallen in love with a man “warts and all”. She can see the good guy inside, and has helped him get back on the right path, and he’s smart enough to realise how lucky he is. On the production side, I was influenced by George Harrison’s slide work and The Pretenders’ jangly country-pop.
5. Magic Carpet Weaver
This was written in the full bloom of love during a long-term relationship, and judging by the response it evokes in people, I think I somehow managed to capture an element of that joy, almost permanently like in a jar!, within the song. Co-writer Nick Stewart had this great riff going, slightly reminiscent of U2 but ultimately more old school, and the song grew from there. I like the cheeky line in the chorus: “She’s a princess, I’m her diva!” That puts a smile on my face whenever I sing it. I certainly ascribe to the belief that sometimes when you’re writing, even if it’s with your own experience in mind, you can become a channel for other energies, spirits, whatever you wish to call it. I try not to question what it is and just let it happen when it does, as it makes me feel part of something much bigger and more beautiful than we can see. And it also explains the chorus line I quoted above, as I really don’t know where it came from, ha ha!
6. I Believe
This is probably the most laid-back song on the album. I love how Steve (Hodge, mix engineer) has mixed my vocals “up close and raw” in the verses, helping to consolidate the intimacy and vulnerability the song aims to express, along with Paul’s (Peterson, co-producer) beautiful cascading piano part, as it slowly builds up to the climactic bridge section. It’s a bittersweet exploration of love and its aftermath. The protagonist has gone through a break-up, and while he may be holding a candle to the past, he’s also saying “I (still) believe in love”, no matter how much it can hurt. So there’s hope! One of my favourite album recording moments involved laying down extra guitars for the bridge section of this song. Oliver Leiber had kindly allowed me the use of his “guitar heaven” recording studio while he was away for a day or two, and myself and Nick Page (“Forever Girl” co-writer) set about creating this wild sound I could hear in my head, which he understood from my description, and seemed just as excited about. With all of the guitars, pedals and amps on offer, I felt like, with Nick’s help, I was finally able to create a part and sound exactly as I had imagined it. I also have a stripped back mix of this song which I love and may release sometime after the album.
7. The Family Song
Some people who’ve heard the record say this song doesn’t fit on there, while others feel it’s the “soul” of the record, so it’s true that you can’t please everybody. My Dad said to me one day “You’re always writing songs about your ex, so when are you going to write a song about us?” This was my response! I certainly don’t consider myself a non-secular artist, but I was proud to win the Gospel/Spiritual category at the Q Song (Queensland) music awards with this recording and I admit the song is influenced by American soul and gospel music. I’m very lucky that my folks are still together and love each other, and as a result we’re a pretty close and loving family, and this song celebrates that.
8. All Of My Love
A journo friend from my time in the Brisbane street press (Neil Richards) rang one day to ask if I’d be interested in co-writing with St Paul Peterson, an American artist he was now managing. The name rang a bell, and when I checked his bio (which is nuts!) the penny dropped and I jumped at the opportunity, as he was soon to be visiting Australia. We ended up hanging at Paul’s hotel room and immediately got on really well, and before long we had written the guts of this song together. With things off to a good start, we kept talking and eventually Paul became my album co-producer; a fantastic experience! The song started off on acoustic guitars but quickly moved to a more hard-edged rock feel (the riffs demanded it!), while also emanating soul/funk vibes, as lyrically Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On album was a thematic inspiration, along with the notion of letting go of shackles and stepping out into the world, flowing into the right energy stream and riding it like a wave!
9. Forever Girl
I wrote this song in LA and, lyrically at least, I think it shows! My cohort Nick Page and I had been working on these big riffs and slowly turning them into a song, when he suggested the idea of trying out his buddy Adam Longlands for lyrics. This was part of accepting new processes for me, as previously I had always written my own lyrics, or at least co-written them with someone else. So we sent him our song idea and he bounced back pretty quickly with some great words which resonated with me at the time, and also suggested we keep in the “la-la-la-la” section which we had merely placed in the demo as a “space holder” until we came up with something better, or so we thought … it turned out to be one of the big hooks of the song! It’s a story about a guy who’s just met this amazing girl, but it’s too early for him to tell if she’s his “forever girl” or not. He’s being honest but still feels guilty; he “can’t say, and that’s not right”. Meanwhile she starts dreaming of wedding invitation designs!
10. We’ll Be Gone
This is one of my personal favourites on the album, written with my musical compadre, Sydney musician/producer Josh Wermut. He had turned me onto artists like D’Angelo , whose album “Voodoo” just blew my mind, so when it came to co- writing I expected us to create something more laid back. Instead we soon moved into angular, angry rock and punk reggae vibes, as we wanted to convey our feelings towards the Earth’s politicians and CEO’s who always seem to be at least one step behind the public in the world of spiritual and general evolution. This song took some work to finish off, as I kept changing the chorus melody and couldn’t decide on which one; and then finally it came to me.
11. All That You Need
This is one of my other personal faves on the album, as I really believe in the song’s message, and I also went to town on the production side, expressing my deep love of all things reggae. It was exciting to be able to show Steve (Hodge, mix engineer) reference material for say, an effect on a particular instrument, and then watch him faithfully replicate it, which we applied to several sounds here. This song is an honest look at the state of the world today (a shambles, let’s face it) but is still hopeful in the recognition that more people are “waking up”, jumping off the mind- control ship, recognising we are all connected and choosing to lead freer lives filled with love.
12. You’re Not Here
This is probably the most poignant song on the album, as I wrote it a week after my longest relationship partner left to move overseas, shortly after we broke up. I think the lyrics speak for themselves; a lot of people have been there! It’s also one of the biggest songs production-wise on the album, which is another reason why it sits well as the album’s closer. And it features the previously inimitable Brian May (Queen) guitar sound! A few days before we arrived at Oliver Leiber’s studio to record extra guitars, he received a delivery he had been waiting on for 3 years – made by a Japanese luthier and considered to be the most faithful reproduction of Brian May’s main guitar (originally designed/created by Brian and his Dad). Oliver said he had been waiting for the right song to give the guitar a good workout, and fortunately that just happened to be mine!
Artist: Tyrone Noonan
Label: Frontal Lobe Productions
Release Date: July 24, 2011
People: Tyrone Noonan