Fantastic voyage: Noah Georgeson’s journey from ‘Nevada City kid’ to the Grammys
January 31, 2018
Growing up in Nevada City, Noah Georgeson had no inkling that he'd one day win a Grammy award, much less two of them.
These days, the self-described "Nevada City kid" is a successful musician, producer, engineer, mixer, and solo recording artist living in Los Angeles. Georgeson was recently honored with his seventh Grammy nomination, this time for mixing the album "Musas" by Mexican artist Natalia LaFourcade.
Georgeson has an extensive resume, and has worked with such notable artists as The Strokes, Devendra Banhart, and fellow Nevada County native Joanna Newsom.
Growing up in Nevada City
As a kid, Georgeson had no idea he even wanted to be a musician. However, a serious plot twist transpired for young Georgeson while he was a student at Nevada Union.
"I didn't even begin playing music until I was a teenager. I knew that I wanted to be a musician, [but] I was never sure how viable a career it could be until I was already doing it," Georgeson said.
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"Nevada City is a special place — there is all of the natural beauty of the woods, mountains and the Yuba, and there's this persistent feeling of wildness. Maybe it's the long shadow of the gold rush or something — it seems to have drawn interesting characters," he said. "I felt safe in the confines of the small town, but knew that I had access to the culture and craziness of a real city. Also, that culture percolates up to our little town, so as kids we got enough of a taste of it to know it's out there."
Luckily, his creativity didn't suffer from any lack of support; Georgeson's parents were not only inspirational, but were behind him all the way.
"My parents were incredibly supportive — without exception," he said. "My mom has always been a super creative person, and she applied that to being a parent. My dad is also creative in his own way, but also very practical and amazingly industrious and hard-working. I think that combination of influences brought out the creativity in me, but also made me understand that I'd need to work very hard to achieve anything with that creativity.
"I can't stress enough how important parental support is — especially in this country, where the arts are treated as a luxury at best, disposable at worst."
The teachers who made an impact
Looking back on his Gold Country childhood, Georgeson credits a number of local teachers who helped him "more in a general sense than a specifically musical sense."
In the fifth grade, "my friend Ben Vierling — an incredible painter [who] still lives in the area — and I would draw these enormous, fantastical scenes full of dragons, elves … stuff straight out of Dungeons and Dragons," Georgeson said. "Our teacher, Steve Belch, found us working on one and we were sure we'd get in trouble. But Mr. Belch loved how creative they were, and he ended up putting them up in the classroom.
"Also at Seven Hills, I had a teacher named Nancy Gillespie, who was super encouraging of our creativity."
While at Nevada Union, "I had an English teacher — Mr. Lehman — who was a super passionate guy, and he loved Shakespeare. Every year he would organize a trip to Ashland, Oregon to the Shakespeare Festival. It wasn't only getting to experience the plays and professional actors and musicians — which was great — it was also that Mr. Lehman treated us like more than just kids," he said.
Once the music bug bit him, there was no turning back. Again, Georgeson found himself most fortunate in having the support of a number of musical mentors.
"There were definitely a few people outside of school who were very influential as well; my private guitar teacher, Brent Weaver, probably most of all," he said. "Not only was he my teacher for years, but when he moved away, I took over [teaching] his students.
"I taught privately for a few years at a store called Music Depot. The owner was also a very encouraging guy — Sheldon Colin. He provided me a place where I could teach and, for the first time, engage in the business aspect of music."
Georgeson is the first to admit that a career in the arts presents its own challenges.
"For me, there was never really any indication that I was on "the right path" or anything," he said. "Suddenly it was my career, and then, just as suddenly, I was getting some awards. Through all of it, I just kept working. I'd be doing the same thing without any of the validation [but] I'd probably have a real job too! There's nothing wrong with that."
His advice to aspiring musicians of Nevada County and beyond?
"Really develop your own unique voice and approach — not someone else's — and be prepared to work at it forever without any guarantee that it'll pay off in any tangible way," said Georgeon. "Doing it because you love it has to be its own reward."
For a man who used to scoff at the notion of receiving any outstanding award, Georgeson has learned that anything is possible.
"Even a few years ago," he said. "I would've laughed if you asked me 'How many Grammys do you think you'll win in your career?' It really wasn't something I thought about or thought was possible.
"But I can't pretend that it's not exciting to get one! I just have to convince myself that the records I work on are the exceptions."
Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer for The Union and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.