Venable's artistry runs strong and deep. The daughter of a writer
father and a reading teacher mother, Noe grew up in San Francisco.
As a small child,
she made up songs, strumming along on an autoharp-- usually tunes about witches
dancing around cauldrons, or about Pan and his nymphs and other characters
from Greek mythology. As a high school student, she obsessed over making
paper maché mermaids. As a college student, she majored in playwriting
and performance. Today, as a songwriter/composer and recording artist, with
four records under her belt, Noe is unique in her artistry and comfortable
in her uniqueness.
Noe became a songwriter when she was sick with mono at the age
of 19. “I’d always written a lot,” says Noe, “mostly
stories and plays. But the mono made me so hazy I couldn’t
write anything longer than three minutes. So I just picked up a
guitar and started plunking around on it.” Within the first
week, Noe had written about ten songs. Shortly after that, she
was sauntering out to test the waters at an open mic. Even then,
fingers stumbling over the fretboard, voice new and warbling, it
was clear that Noe had found her medium, and she embraced it, writing
so many songs that she rarely played the same song twice. At the
open mic, Noe met local musician/recording engineer Tom Meshishnek,
who took an immediate interest in Noe and invited her to record
in his home studio.
Over a succession of rainy November days, Noe and Tom camped out
in Tom's basement. The resulting CD, called "You Talkin' to
Me," (1997), features 12 songs, throughout which Noe’s
voice floats above a Waitsian clamor of electric guitars and clanging
kitchen utensils. This record found its way into the hands of producer
Lee Townsend, who immediately approached Noe about working together.
Lee secured the opportunity to produce a record for the German
indie label, Intuition Music and Media. This CD was "No Curses
Here," which Lee produced. Lee also helped to unite Venable
with two wonderful musicians-- Bay Area luminary, drummer Scott
Amendola (TJ Kirk, Charlie Hunter) and electric guitar player Morris
Acevedo. These two, along with two musicians Noe had discovered,
violinist Alan Lin and bassist/keyboardist Todd Sickafoose, soon
comprised her band, the Ruiners.
In addition to playing with the Ruiners, Noe had begun playing
a number of trio gigs with Alan and Todd. This instrumentation,
which had come about quite accidentally, when one or another player
couldn't make a gig, soon took on a life of its own. Noe's third
record, Down Easy captures a live January 2000 performance of the
Noe Venable Trio at Tom's basement house concert, Mo's Melody Mansion.
Recorded by Lee Townsend, Down Easy was also the last project that
Noe and Lee would work on together. After three years of collaboration,
both felt that they had reached an artistic juncture, and they
decided to part ways.
With heaps of new songs, but no idea how she’d record them,
Noe struck out on her own. She got on ebay and bought a hard disk
recorder for $2000, and she and bassist/keyboardist/producer Todd
Sickafoose set up camp in a living room for six months of sonic
experimentation and obsessive tinkering. In January 2002, Noe released "Boots",
her newest record and her strongest statement to date.
Thematically, Boots is an urban odyssey, seen through the eyes
of a girl. This marks a significant departure for Noe. Unlike Noe’s
previous records, in which she usually seemed to be singing as
characters she had invented-- a servant to a sorcerer, a doomed
Cessna pilot, a dying transvestite, Boots is strongly rooted in
Noe’s own experience as a woman. "In so many of my favorite
stories," says Noe, "these troubled men dream of finding
a woman to save them. You read stories like that and you're troubled,
and you start dreaming of the same thing. Then one day you wake
up and say, ‘Wait, I am the woman in those stories. But I'm
troubled! So now who's going to save me?’ I think that's
where Boots begins."
Since releasing Boots on her own label, Petridish, Noe's life
has taken off. Ani Difranco heard the CD and invited Noe and her
trio to open for her on a month-long national tour. Since opening
for Ani Difranco in February-March, Noe has toured with Boz Scaggs,
They Might be Giants, and Dar Williams. She's also opened shows
for artists as diverse as Rhett Miller, Loudon Wainwright, Gillian
Welch, Tim Finn, and Marshall Crenshaw.
All the while, Boots has been making its steady way out into the
world, selling more than 5,000 copies in the first 5 months after
release, without the aid of a distributor. Sales have come largely
through word of mouth, aided by the incredible support of a few
independent record stores and the strong support of local press
in the cities where Noe has toured. Also, two of Noe’s songs
were featured in the film Cherish, which premiered at Sundance,
where it was picked up for distribution by Fineline. Director Finn
Taylor wrote a scene into the movie where the main character goes
to a record store and asks to buy Down Easy. Noe also recorded
a cover of Tom Petty’s song “Breakdown” for the
soundtrack on Newline Records.
This September, San Francisco Magazine named Noe one of San Francisco's
100 most talented people. For two consecutive years, Noe has been
nominated for Best Female Vocalist at the California Music Awards;
other nominees have included Tracy Chapman, Gwen Stefani, Victoria
Williams and Aimee Mann. This year, Noe was invited to perform
at the prestigious "Sings Like Hell" series in Santa
Catch Noe performing solo, or with kindred spirits Alan Lin on
violin and electronics and Todd Sickafoose on bass and keyboards.
Tour dates, music, press, reviews, photos and much more at www.noevenable.com