Noah Kahan bets on Vermont for his new album 'Stick Season' (2023)

Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified Zack Bryan, whose music was one of the inspirations for Kahan's new album.

Noah Kahan gets sad easily.

He had built his career as a pop musician, but he didn't enjoy it. He spent his time writing songs and going to the studio to make pop music that he thought would make his label happy, but it started to feel like a chore, like work.

When she went outside, she thought of sticks, especially stick season, that gloomy time of year in late autumn in Vermont when colorful leaves have fallen from the trees but the white snow has yet to fall from the sky.

The musician, who grew up in Strafford, penned another song in his favorite folk style, with lyrics drawing on the life he knew growing up in New England. He called the song "Stick Season". The lyrics use that time of year as a metaphor for relationships where the end may be ugly, but it heralds a new beginning.

Kahan posted "Stick Season" to video site TikTok where, as he put it, the song went "semi-viral". The 25-year-old musician was no longer detained.

Noah Kahan bets on Vermont for his new album 'Stick Season' (1)

"It was a real moment of fulfillment because I can do whatever I want," Kahan said of the song's success. He said he had been "really afraid" of changing his sound, but now that he had started making that change, he saw a way forward.

"Getting that confirmation," he said, "was life-changing."

Kahan's third full-length album will be released Friday, October 14 via Republic Records. It's called "Stick Season," of course, and it was shot mostly in Guilford Sound in southern Vermont. The fourteen songs changed his run in the popular storytelling direction he sought but feared to follow.

"I always felt that what I had to do was what was expected," said Kahan. "I didn't make it clear enough that that's what I wanted."

Noah Kahan bets on Vermont for his new album 'Stick Season' (2)

Udsælger Higher ground

Kahan spoke via video link Tuesday to the Burlington Free Press from Nashville, where he and his band were rehearsing for the "Stick Season" tour, which kicked off Wednesday in Charleston, South Carolina. The tour will take Kahan to the Higher Ground in South Burlington in late October for four shows that sold out weeks ago.

"I couldn't believe how quickly they sold out," said Kahan, who played three sold-out shows at the Higher Ground's Ballroom a year earlier. "The response in Vermont has been insane."

Earlier:Vermont musician Noah Kahan will play sold-out shows at Higher Ground this weekend

It's not just Vermont. Kahan's entire fall tour (27 dates and 40,000 tickets) is also sold out. Fans seem to be reacting to Kahan's change of direction, which they'll hear in full on the new album.

He grew up in Vermont and New Hampshire and spent what he considers his formative years on the Strafford side of Vermont. Now he loves his hometown. That wasn't always the case when I lived in a small town in Orange County.

“As a child I was really bored. I was bored at school, I was bored on weekends,” he said. "I experienced a lot of boredom, beauty and sense of community."

Noah Kahan bets on Vermont for his new album 'Stick Season' (3)

Much of the new album reflects a warm, yet wistful New England feel. One of the few to take a harder approach is called "Homesick," which reflects a touch of nostalgia for one's roots, but more deeply conveys the feeling of being tired of the place you call home. ("Well, I'm tired of the dirt roads / Named after my friends' grandparents from high school.")

"I definitely wanted that phrase to be the pun to tell that story," Kahan said of the song, which reflects how much she wanted to leave her home area and, once she did, how much she wanted to return.

"It's definitely the most ambivalent portrait there is of growing up in a small town," he said. "It is my duty to be completely honest about how things are."

Noah Kahan bets on Vermont for his new album 'Stick Season' (4)

The meaning of the 'stick season'

Kahan, who lived in Brooklyn, returned to Vermont when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in the spring of 2020. He was tired of the routine of writing pop songs and just wanted to be home with friends and family. (He now lives with his girlfriend in Watertown, Massachusetts.)

He released an EP that year, "Cape Elizabeth", which he recorded in Thetford. The softer sound resonated with fans touring the following year and boosted their confidence to follow the direction they took for "Stick Season".

When the song "Stick Season" came out, he worried that the specificity of his place wouldn't resonate with listeners outside of Vermont. The song has lyrics like "And I love Vermont, but it's stick season / And I saw your mother, she forgot I existed", and even deals with midline poetry with the misplaced rhyme of "Vermont" and "you mother".

However, while writing the song, Kahan kept in mind the universality of the lyrics. "Stick Season" isn't about Vermont, it's about the loneliness and isolation that goes on in Vermont. It can be terrifying to be alone, Kahan said, adding that the loneliest he's ever felt was when he lived in New York City. He said he felt less lonely when he accepted people a song about loneliness.

Noah Kahan bets on Vermont for his new album 'Stick Season' (5)

Influenced by Paul Simon, Counting Crows

Kahan wrote much of the material in the Strafford house for his mother,Lauri Berkenkamp. Most of the publicity photos taken for "Stick Season" show Kahan on this property, often with his 2-year-old German Shepherd, Penny, or his mother's German Shepherd, Oma. He said his pattern for writing the songs for "Stick Season" was to get up in the morning, drive to his mother's house, write a few songs, take a break by throwing the ball to his dog and then start writing songs again. .

Some of his songwriting and vocal influences are evident on "Stick Season", particularly Paul Simon and Adam Duritz of Counting Crows. Kahan said Gregory Alan Isakov and British singer-songwriter Sam Fender were also big influences for their ability to take the listener into their sense of belonging.

"I wanted to build the world for this album," he said. Kahan also drew on "singing choruses and soulful guitars" from The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons, as well as singer-songwriter Zack Bryan's narrative chops.

Kahan said she has always loved short stories and her favorite novel is John Steinbeck's "East of Eden," with its strong sense of place set in California's Salinas Valley. Another big influence is his mother; Berkenkamp is a successful author of children's books who encouraged his son during the writing process for 'Stick Season'.

Sometimes, he said, he would feel overwhelmed by the writing process, and his mother would sit him down and say, don't write a song, just write whatever comes to mind, and when you're done, do three more. time. Kahan said she found herself writing "blah blah blah," but the seemingly insignificant strings eventually coalesced into emotions that took shape in entire songs.

"My mom has the biggest influence in the world on me. She's always believed in me. She has incredible taste and amazing ears," said Kahan. "Every time I wanted something, I knew it was right."

Noah Kahan bets on Vermont for his new album 'Stick Season' (6)

It's you

THAT: Noah Kahan met Adam Melchor

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday October 27 to Sunday October 30

WHERE: Stadscentrum Higher Ground, South Burlington


Please contact Brent Hallenbeck at Follow Brent on


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