Noble's cause for 'big' instrumental music comes through 

Percussive guitar, didgeridoo and a helping of tape are all part of the performance

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Plenty of tape Blake Noble tunes his guitar to the breaking point in order to get his sound right.
  • Photo submitted
  • Plenty of tape Blake Noble tunes his guitar to the breaking point in order to get his sound right.

Known for making a "big sound," Blake Noble's 12-string guitar looks like it has lost a few rounds, its bandaged body an advertisement for the virtues of adhesives.

"I'm tuning my guitar to the breaking point. I have broken it several times. That's why I have tape all over it, it's covering the cracks," the instrumentalist says.

"I play percussive guitar and I blend a finger-style technique as well. It's combining a bunch of influences. The finger style that I play is often in alternate tunings and what that means is that I'll tune my whole guitar down... so that I can strum the strings and it is already a chord. It already sounds nice."

An Australian musician living in Seattle since 2012, Noble adds a didgeridoo to his sets and alternates between the two very different sounds.

The low, rumbling throb of a didgeridoo is an added plus to his North American audiences, he says.

"When I was in Australia I would pretty much just play the percussive guitar... but since I've moved to the U.S. it has become a major part of my set," he explains.

"Normally, I will play a few songs at the beginning on a didgeridoo and then give it a break and focus on guitar. When I bring it back for a song, people in the crowd tend to cheer because they are looking forward to hearing the 'dige' again. It's funny.

"You see people play a didgeridoo at some festival and a lot of the time they've just kind of picked it up and played it. That's all cool, but for me it's about the traditional playing and learning. I was lucky enough to learn from the Aboriginal people directly, the traditional way."

Noble plays the Crystal Lounge on Friday, March 21 and Saturday, March 22, his first visit.

"When the two shows were booked for me, I thought Whistler was a lot further away.... We're really trying to push this year to get out to new areas that I haven't been able to get to so far," he says.

This includes a series of gigs in Colorado this month, which brought a problem Noble had never encountered while growing up in Byron Bay.

"I had a little trouble with the altitude. I got a bloody nose one day... I'm from the beach!" he laughs.

He has performed both in bands and solo, and the latter allows him to travel farther and faster at this stage in his career.

"If I was playing with a band, I might not be able to get out to Whistler. It's pretty expensive to be on the road. On my own, I can shoot out to Denver and then go out to Whistler. It's cool to play in a band with six members but it is a lot of work to pull it off," Noble says, adding this approach allows him to play in both France and Australia later this year.

Noble has mastered his sound in a "divide and conquer" kind of way. He never intended to be an instrumentalist, performing without singing, but it is easy to see that it was all down to getting his sound right.

"I will turn up to venues and meet the sound guy and he'll ask what I require, and I'll tell him and he'll normally say 'That's it? It's just you and you don't sing?' I'll get through the first song and look at the sound guy. They're normally a little bit surprised," he says.

"I never really planned it like that. I definitely wanted to take my time (to learn) music side of it and perfect some of these new styles. Some of the things I am doing I haven't seen anyone else do. There's no one out there to teach me."

But this is about to change. Currently Noble is writing new material and this time there are lyrics.

"It's a natural progression. I'm always big on what people are actually saying and I always thought that if people didn't have anything creative and interesting to say, then don't say it," Noble says.

He has released two albums to date, the first recorded in a friend's bedroom in Sydney, the second recorded after a Kickstarter campaign in Seattle.

Noble says it was interesting to put his faith and career in the hands of other people.

"I was really worried for a while. There are a lot of people who do these Kickstarter campaigns and it was a daunting prospect because you put yourself out there," he recalls. "A lot of the times it doesn't come through, not because of a lack of talent, but because they can't build the support around them.

"That's why my second album is called Underdog. I was the guy from out-of-town, who doesn't sing. Part of me always thought that it would be difficult to even make it, then another part of me though that there was no one else even doing it and I may as well try. And it was successful, luckily."

It was, indeed. He hoped to raise $7,000 for the album through Kickstarter. He ended up raising $10,500.

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