Notes from Norwood, To Your Ears
New York locals Norwood have been gracing the ears of music listeners this Summer with enchanting sounds of Indie-Folk that showcase a familiar tone. Fronted by singer-songwriter Christopher Norwood, the group have released the critically acclaimed record, Notes to My Blood, which has been garnering accolades from fans and critics alike. Their latest single “Moonlight” carries the essence of the band as they bring charming elements your ears, as they recall artists such as Sufjan Steven and the Mountain Goats. We have had the pleasure of catching up with Christopher Norwood as we dive deep inside the inner workings of the buzzing New York-based band.
Recently the group has released the album, Notes to My Blood. Did the group write the record as a collaborative effort, Christopher, did you take the reins?
It’s a bit of both. I write the basic structure of the songs and the lyrics on my own with just voice and acoustic guitar. Once that basic skeleton of the song is ready to go, I’ll bring it to each member of the band one-on-one and we’ll play with what they can add to it. Schedules are always so crazy that if we were to try and write each song all together in the same room, it would never get done. Having that basic structure set down lets the rest of the band experiment and play around. It’s more fun that way and that’s extremely important.
“Moonlight” the first single off of the record, has been garnering attention from fans and music critics alike. When it came to writing the song, how long did it take to put the piece together and find the right sound? How did you decide to choose the piece as the first single?
From writing the first words of the song to having the song finished, it took maybe a year to write “Moonlight”. But that’s just because of the way I write. There’s a decent gestation period with my writing. I just catch thoughts and phrases whenever they appear in my head and save them in little notebooks. Then I’ll be messing around with chord progressions on my guitar and one little phrase comes out of my mouth that I like. And then it’s a long while of slowly unfolding a song from there. Looking back at old notes to see if anything fits, deciding how much or how little I want to explicitly say or leave unsaid and trust the audience to put two and two together.
When it comes to finding the right sound, I’m just really fucking lucky. I mean, I’ll take a little credit for it, but only in so far as saying that I am good at finding solid and talented people to work with. The folks in my band are extremely generous artistically and are all coming from different places musically. I never go for a specific sound. I’m more interested in seeing what sound is organically made between the five of us. We chose “Moonlight” as the first single because we all like it a lot, hahaha. It’s a good introduction to what we do as a band.
In the digital age, you have released the record with a special booklet and download code. What was the driving inspiration behind the concept?
When I was younger, I loved reading the liner notes of every album I bought. I wanted to read the lyrics as I listened to the songs. I loved the band photos and little inside jokes in those CD booklets. It made the music more than just a recording of some sounds. The album became a living thing with it’s own personality among the other albums on my shelf. I wanted to do that with my music. Fewer and fewer people can play CDs as time goes on, so I didn’t want to waste time and money on printing a thousand CDs that I wouldn’t be able to sell or even give away. But I wanted to be able to give people something tangible if they bought the album from me directly. I wanted to have that connection with people who listen to these songs. I was also excited by the idea of giving the lyrics to a visual artist and seeing what would come of it. What would these stories inspire in an artist from another medium? And what ideas would then transpire from putting those two things together (The words and the illustrations) and showing them to a new listener? I love throwing moving pieces together and seeing the beauty and accidental truth that comes from the seeming chaos.
I sense elements of artists such as The Decemberists, within your music. What artists not influenced your sound, but made you want to create music, even early on in your life?
The first band I truly fell in love with was Sublime. I was about to type “a band called Sublime”, but I’m pretty sure most people know who they were for better or worse. At least amongst my peers. Some of them actually give me a lot of shit for liking Sublime, but only because they’ve become associated with douschebags wearing puka shell necklaces and flipflops with socks. Or at least, that’s what people tell me. I don’t care who the other fans are, I like them because I like their music. Bradley Nowell is the reason I picked up a guitar. It was after listening to the album “Sublime Acoustic: Bradley Nowell and friends”. I loved the way he played guitar. It’s not Stevie Ray Vaughn level of technical proficiency, but Bradley played with passion and solid musicianship every time. He took advantage of the percussive nature of an acoustic guitar and made it a part of every song. I learned that you could trash on an acoustic guitar by listening to him play. Folk-rock doesn’t need to be soft. You can be aggressive without losing your compassion.
What connection have you found in Norwood that you may not have found in prior bands? What makes the group ‘click’?
I would be curious to hear what the rest of the band would say about this one, haha. For me, it’s a sense of respect that’s in the room when we play together. We like being in a room with other artists who don’t have inflammed egos about their music. We all like the process of exploring a song and surprising ourselves.
If you had to choose 1 song from the record as your absolute favorite, what would it be, and why so?
If I absolutely had to, I’d pick “I Never Told You”. I promise this explanation is going somewhere, just hear me out. I’m gender fluid, which maybe sounds more complicated than it actually is. Over the years I’ve found the words “Man” and “Woman” to be the most vague and useless ways to describe a person. They give you no information whatsoever because everyone has a different idea of what it is to “be a man” or “be a woman.” Those words are all twisted up in stereotypes that, most of the time, I’ve found to be wildly inaccurate. There are traits of mine that are very “womanly” and there are traits that would be called “manly”, so I don’t use either of those words to describe myself or anyone else really. The song “I Never Told You” has no gendered pronouns. It has no gender descriptors. You aren’t told what the two people look like or sound like because that’s not important. What’s important is what they do; how they interact with each other. What they’re saying to each other. It’s a story about two people who are afraid of telling each other how they feel for any number of reasons. That fear, that hesitance is a weakness we all share, no matter where we come from. And it can be something we cross barriers to connect over. Oddly enough, we don’t share our humanity through a show of strength, we share it through a show of weakness.
In your own words, how would you describe the Norwood sound to new listeners?
Guts. It’s Rock-Folk. It’s thrashing on acoustic guitar and then taking a breath inside a thoughtful moment before going back to thrashing. I don’t know, man. It’s just fun!