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Art of the Story: For musician and songwriter Lau Noah, the New York hustle makes for better art

Lau Noah.jpg
Leo Sidran
Lau Noah at Joe's Pub

As they say, New York is the concrete jungle where dreams are made of.

While so many aspiring artists move to New York to fulfill their dreams, Lau Noah moved here by chance, and then stumbled into hers.

Taking the stage at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater this week, Noah spent her first moments in silence, perched on a high stool alone at the center of the stage, holding her classical guitar in her lap, surveying the audience with a smile.

The only sound was of collective anticipation, and the signature Joe’s Pub subway rumble below - the roots of the jungle.

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Leo Sidran
Lau Noah performs at Joe's Pub in New York

Then the music began, first a stirring from the guitar, followed by the voice, rising, celestial, a kind of universal lament. Lau Noah’s music somehow defies category while also belonging to various places and times at once. Cuban trova, Spanish Copla, Mexican ranchera, West Village folk, they’re all in there. Or maybe she’s tapping into the same source that so much great music taps into: the mother melody. It’s a sound not quite heard like this before, but something strikingly familiar.

When Lau Noah moved to New York from her native Spain at the age of 19, she did not yet play guitar. But an unexpected encounter with that instrument would ultimately change everything - she picked up a friend’s guitar and immediately wrote a song on it - and within the course of a few short years by the age of 28, she has become one of the most intriguing and seductive new voices on it.

And even though she has connected with many of her fans and collaborators online rather than in town, she finds value in the hustle and struggle of being here.

She says, “It doesn’t matter that I’m in New York. I could be anywhere else. I think you do something good and the internet has its power. But I don’t think I could have reached the level I’m at as a musician and as a songwriter if I did not live in New York. It’s so much hustling and so much brutality in so many ways it’s so demanding, and that makes you a better musician.”

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Leo Sidran
Leo Sidran and Lau Noah

How does brutality translate to art? As Lau sees it, she has to live it in order to sing about it.

“My job is to live an interesting life and then the muses come,” she explains.

For her, the muses also hide in the shadows of the unknown. Lau is proudly self taught, even though she counts among her friends and fans some of the most accomplished musical minds on the planet like Jacob Collier, Chris Thile, Larry Goldings and Blake Mills. Still she’s fiercely devoted to her own singular and even mystical form of finding the music on her own terms.

“I think my story is one of loneliness, and most times a chosen kind of loneliness. I’ve learned a lot by not being with anybody and I think that’s a beautiful part of my music, it’s not a bad part,” she says.

Solitary as her story may be, it hasn’t kept Lau from making deep and meaningful musical connections with others. At Joe’s Pub she was joined on stage at various times by singers Julia Easterlin, Ana Carmela Ramírez and Elliott Skinner.

Lau Noah’s dreamy music sounds like the soundtrack to a story still yet to be told - maybe it’s the soundtrack to her dream, and we’re all characters in it, if we choose to be.

Leo Sidran is a Grammy winning multi-instrumentalist musician, producer, arranger, composer, recording artist, podcast host and creative coach based in Brooklyn, New York.