Guthrie talks ‘Glee,’ music career
October 27, 2015
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Earning his initial fame from a cover of LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It,” which went viral on YouTube, Guthrie is the definition of a 21st century artist. Hailing from the small town of Greer, S.C., Guthrie is on his way to international success.
After his Internet success and sultry, soulful voice landed him the leading role of Roderick Meeks in the last season of Glee, Guthrie appeared on “Dancing With The Stars” and released his first studio album in 2013, “Amongst The Wildest Things.” He visits Pittsburgh on Nov. 1 to perform at Club Cafe.
Guthrie talked to The Pitt News about his start and rise to fame, what sets him apart from other contemporary artists and his next big dreams.
The Pitt News: What kind of upbringing did you have?
Noah Guthrie: Growing up I was always surrounded by music. I was always in the studio with my dad. My dad and my stepmom always sang and played music, and me and my brother were always around them and always around really good musicians. I just kind of tried to surround myself with it as much as I could throughout my life, and then I picked up a guitar at 14 or 15 and just started writing music and fell in love with it … Of course, I went through phases. I wanted to be a football player, then a baseball player, and then I went through this weird magician phase, but it always came back to music.
TPN: Is this what you want to do with your life? Do you have a plan for what you want to do from here on out?
NG: Honestly, I’ve been a very fortunate case in this industry. It’s not every day that people my age can actually do this and make a living. I’ve just been super blessed. I’m kind of already doing what I want to do with my life. Songwriting and my music have always been my passions and dreams. It’s always a building process, but I play music, I write songs, record. It’s great. I’ve got a really good team working for me, and hopefully, the next couple of years are going to be pretty big for me. I’d really like to progress as much as I can. But really, I’m already living my dream, just on a smaller scale.
TPN: How would you define success?
NG: That’s always a good question. I mean, honestly, just being able to play the music that you want to play and also, having a pretty good following for it. Fame is not something that is first on my mind, I want to be known for my music. I guess that would be more the success for me, to be a household name for my music. That would be pretty nice.
TPN: Based on that definition, would you consider yourself to be on the path towards success? What is one final goal or the one thing you want to reach or accomplish?
NG: Yes and no. I would say I’m successful now on a smaller scale. I’m definitely not a household name, and I still have my target audience that I’m trying to hone in and craft and define. But, I’m happy and I’m doing what I love, so yeah. I would definitely love a Grammy some day, or any kind of songwriting award of something like that.
TPN: So, how did you get started on YouTube?
NG: I’ve been mainly posting cover videos on there and that’s kind of how I got started. It’s a very weird platform these days, but it’s a very efficient one. You can get your music from your bedroom to across the world in 30 seconds. So, yeah, it’s pretty weird, but I’m very thankful for it. It’s really gotten me into a lot of cool places. Some cool people have seen my music because of YouTube … I posted a cover of one of my favorite songs, “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2, and I made my own little spin on it. It was pretty different from the original, and I just posted it without any intention. It was just one of those things that got more attention than I thought it would, so I just decided to keep doing it, and it’s paid off.
TPN: Talking about your originality, one of your songs that gained the most popularity is your cover of “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO because of the big difference between your version and the original. Is that a style of yours? Do you enjoy changing it up and making your own arrangement?
NG: Definitely, I like changing the song around. I think that’s kind of what set my channel apart. I try my hardest to make the song different than it was because I just don’t feel like anyone wants to hear the same song over and over. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I find a song where just putting my voice on it changes it. It’s always a guessing game, but there is also a little bit of method to it. It’s better when I find a big pop song that I’m not a huge fan of, where I like one part of it, and then maybe I can take that part and run with it, and tweak it and make it my own. Then it becomes a whole new process and really fun.
TPN: What do you consider your music style? Is it related to the kind of music you listen to?
NG: I would say it’s very singer/songwriter Americana, kind of soulful or rock sometimes. I don’t know, it’s really hard to say, but I would say like Americana/soul.
I would say it’s related. I grew up listening to a lot of soul records and older music, but really all types of music, so I say I draw from everything. But I’ve always been drawn to more soulful voices, and honestly, ever since I could sing, that has just been the way I sing. That’s just how it happens. A lot of people ask me if I smoke a lot or something, and I don’t, it’s just how my voice happens, but I mean, I’m very thankful for it.
I listen to everything and I really do try to draw inspiration from everyone, but I guess I would say, as far as voice, my inspiration would be John Legend, Ray Lamontagne, just tons of people.
TPN: So, YouTube led you to playing the role of Roderick Meeks in the sixth season of Glee. How was it in terms of casting, the experience, recording in relation to your YouTube channel? And what was most challenging?
NG: Yeah, it was very random. I was playing my music on the road and doing what I’m doing now and never thought about acting at all. Then I got a phone call from the casting department at Glee and they said they had seen my videos and heard my music and thought I would fit this role they were trying to cast, and I told them that I’d never acted and that I’d audition. I sent in a tape and a couple of weeks later, I got the part. It doesn’t really happen like that, but it’s thanks to YouTube … I tell people that Glee was basically acting school for me. I’ve never done anything like that, where I completely switch gears and have to learn how TV works. I had a lot of really cool people with me, and I just learned a ton from all of those people.
I could add my flare here and there, but not too much. When doing Glee, they have a very set arrangement that they follow. But I got to put my voice on it and play the role in my way. They’re both very different in terms of recording, but for YouTube, it’s all live when I record on camera, there are no overdubs or anything like that. With Glee, you record the song and then have to lip sync it later. I really enjoyed both, but I would say the Glee way is really cool just because you have to use a bunch of different parts of your brain, and dance and lip sync at the same time.
The most challenging part of Glee was probably the dancing. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, it was just very different.
TPN: Going off of that, Glee is known to combat certain social issues at school like bullying and trying to fit in. There were a couple of episodes that focused on your character and your body type. In the past Glee has done all different types of bullying, but only briefly mentioned bullying towards bigger people. What did you think about being a part of that?
NG: That’s part of why I signed on to do it. I was that kid in high school, I was picked on because of my weight, and I know a lot of high school kids deal with that. It is something, no matter what people tell you, that sticks with you for the rest of your life. Anything that the show could do to back up the point of not picking on people is really good because [bullying] doesn’t help anybody. And it’s the one time in my life that I could use my weight as an advantage and on a TV show to bring awareness to that kind of thing.
TPN: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Do you see any international performances in the future?
NG: Hopefully still playing music, still writing, still recording. Absolutely. I’m actually going to Germany in February, and I also have some dates in England and the Netherlands, as well.
TPN: What advice would you give to any new and upcoming musicians?
NG: Practice as much as you can, and really hone your craft. Try to be the best you possibly can at what you’re doing, then really just get yourself out there. Play shows, start YouTube or any other social media out there. I really think playing shows is such an important thing and, really, having that live aspect is really good. If you have something good, then don’t be afraid to share it.