Ben Noble wants you to come on and feel the anxiety

Ben Noble

Ben Noble Laura Nickel

In 2017, Ben Noble found a modicum of peace. 

He’d overcome the “nagging darkness” of being an unprepared father and released a sweeping meditation of a record. But three years after the catharsis of Whisky Priest, there’s still much left unresolved.

From the first notes, Where the Light Comes In feels unsettled. “Night Wakes” opens in a disorienting scribble, Noble’s angelic voice layered over itself, sometimes clear as polyethylene, sometimes so processed that his words sound like notes on a synthesizer. Interlude “Wolf Eyes” wanders further adrift, opening to the nervous keys of “Bluebird.”

If you’re feeling anxious, it’s intentional: Where the Light practically twitches. Unlike Whisky Priest, this is not a record of resolve—it’s a chronicle of trial and loss. In 12 self-produced tracks, Noble strives to communicate the unrest that’s been jerking him out of sleep at night.

“My biggest goal for this was dynamic movement,” Noble says. “I just started making sounds. I just wanted to run crazy with creativity.”

Noble credits Aaron Ankrum, who mixed Whiskey Priest, for much what he achieved.Noble is self-taught and produces his own music; under Ankrum’s mentorship, Noble was given access to new equipment and skills. Through hours in Ankrum’s studio, he developed Where the Light’s crowded electronic sound. Then, Noble took the songs to another friend, Matt Patrick, who mixed the record and helped the musician create the “higher highs and lower lows” he was looking for.

“That was huge,” Noble says. “It gave me a lot of new ideas and confidence that I could do it. I compare it to when I was a teenager and I was first starting off. There’s a youthful energy that comes out.”

Noble suffered a year of writer’s block after Whisky Priest, but he found the impetus to write again through his experience with therapy. Both he and his wife began seeing a therapist to help resolve some family trauma. Noble is tight-lipped when asked for specifics, but says there are “threads of mental illness” along with the interpersonal stressors that he wanted to be sure weren’t passed on to their two children.

Inherited trauma is at the heart of Where the Lightthe unconscious ways that people echo sins past. Noble’s son was born during the writing process (a triumphant moment recognized on “Lionheart”), and the record’s anxiety is anchored to his worry that there may be unseen evils at work. Where the Light is Noble’s attempt to own the bad shit instead of burying it down.

“In the places that we’re most vulnerable, that’s where the growing happens,” Noble says. “All of these songs, in their own buried way, they all kind of speak to that same thing.”

For the lyrics on Where the Light, Noble drew from literature: The album title is taken from a prominent Rumi quote, and Khaled Hosseini and Nayyirah Waheed references shroud Noble’s meaning elsewhere on the record. Noble jokes that “the meanings in all the songs go two or three levels deep.” You’d have to do a deep exegesis to pull out the miscarraige story told on “Beneath Your Wings.” The only obvious influence on the album is Bon Iver, who influenced Noble’s coded songwriting style.

“In order to get my feelings out, I have to go read poems and books,” Noble says. “There are five or six books and poets that really informed this. I just pull quotes and write them down as they hit me. Once I have a database of things that have hit me, I read back through them, and I’m like, ‘What’s going on here?’”

Noble calls Where the Light his “ultimate catharsis,” and that’s what he’d like listeners to get out of it too. He wants his words to be a parcel of someone else’s growth, and his hope is that someone will take his words and stash them away until it’s time to piece together their own healing narrative.

“I want people to feel a renewed energy to work on themselves and try to deal with their inner demons, for the good of humanity,” he says. Then, he takes a breath. He simplifies and reattempts. “To shrink the goal down a little bit, just be reflective. There are so many forces outside of our control in our lives, so just be aware.”

Ben Noble
With: Maple & Beech 
Where: The Parkway Theater
When: 7 p.m. Fri. Feb. 21
Tickets: $15 advance, $20 door; more info here