You might love NoMBe, but if you don't, he isn’t too sore about it. The 26-year-old singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, born Noah McBeth, is more focused on chasing experiences than seeking external validation. With that, his newly-released debut, They Might’ve Even Loved Me, is, as he explains over the phone, a sonic buffet and a deep dive into his “creative reservoir.”
With a hand in ambient, lo-fi, R&B, funk, and more, the album is both dizzying and sleek. The record moves seamlessly from rock influences to electronica without missing a step, all tied together with potent stories of the many women in McBeth’s life: old lovers, friends, and the women that raised him, which includes the legendary Chaka Khan.
“I’ve always had very special relationships with women and I was raised by mostly women,” he explains. “I didn’t realize until later that all songs do have a story and are tied-in together [with women]. I didn’t sit down and say, ‘Hey, let me write this record like this.’ It was one song and another organically having its own story.”
Born in Heidelberg, Germany and now based in Los Angeles, McBeth’s music education began during long car rides with his father, thoroughly engaging with whatever tunes his father queued up. But there was no epiphanal moment for McBeth—he always wanted to be a musician. He began with a passion for piano, but as he moved through his teens and early twenties, the artist flirted with a score of genres and instruments before realizing he wanted to do everything.
“When I first started, I wanted to just be a hip-hop producer. I wanted to just make boom bap and sample jazz,” McBeth recalls. “And then pretty early on, I also dabbled with house [music] and, when I was in Miami in college, I wanted to be a DJ and make more electronic music. I always had a phase where I felt like ‘This [genre] is it, this is what I wanna do,’ but it always changed. I think it just wasn’t time for me, and I think my thing is that the sound is always different.”
As he continues to evolve his sound and grow into even more genres, McBeth’s main focus remains telling stories that are as true to his life as possible, creating without the fear of the subjects of his music lashing out. “I stand by my songs,” McBeth concludes. “They’re just stories. I told them, I wrote them, and that’s the way it is. I can’t really take responsibility for how people react and take them.”
DJBooth’s full interview with NoMBe, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: Your bio mentions this pivotal trip to Las Vegas. Talk about the mythos of that trip.
NoMBe: It was [for] a musical I was producing music for. After I graduated high school, they basically had a sponsor pay for a flight to the US to do a performance, and I just told them I wanted a one-way ticket. I didn’t wanna come back [to Germany].
Were you fearful of that decision?
Oh, yeah! I was scared, but it was like excitement. It was one of those situations, like, where I’m from is pretty boring and I was just dying to get out of there. It wasn’t like I was really worried. It was a different kind of fear because I knew I’d be fine.
Did Vegas, or America in general, unlock something creative within you?
Absolutely! Experiences in general, you know? I think I’m inspired by people and seeing new things, and you gotta keep it fresh. If you always are surrounded by the same thing, it gets very hard to create and write something. I think you gotta fill up your creative reservoir.
Is there a lightbulb moment during an experience where you know a song will be the end result?
Ah, both. It’s happened for sure that I have an experience and know it’ll be great for a song. There’s actually a few songs on the album that are in-the-moment-event kind of things, where I was like, "This is worth recording," and I’ll make a voice memo.
Your debut album, They Might’ve Even Loved Me, is dedicated to all the women in your life. Why women as a muse?
That kinda came because women play a huge role in my life, and I guess most people’s lives. I’ve always had very special relationships with women and I was raised by mostly women. I didn’t realize until later that all songs do have a story and are tied in together [with women]. I didn’t sit down and say, "Hey, let me write this record like this." It was one song and another organically having its own story.
Were there any stories you were too nervous to write? If so, how did you get over that?
That’s a good question, ah, maybe "Freak Like Me." I remember my girlfriend not wanting me to release it because she was afraid that people would judge her. It’s not about her per say. It is kind of a story where I take different parts from different people. "Rocky Horror," maybe? More so because it’s a lo-fi recording, and I was worried that it doesn’t fit in with the other songs.
Along with lo-fi, your debut teeters this exciting line of ambient, electronic, soul, psychedelic, and the list goes on. How do you compile and process all of these influences while making a cohesive album?
Well, thanks for saying it’s cohesive, I sometimes [laughs] don’t think so at all, but I just like trying different things and not keeping myself in a box. I listen to everything in equal amounts, and I wanna try stuff. I wanna be able to break into electronic, I wanna be able to do rock stuff, I wanna perform onstage and give a lively show. It’s just so many influences that made up my taste, so it’s just what comes out.
Was there ever a time when you did want to be in a box?
Yeah, when I first started, I wanted to just be a hip-hop producer. I wanted to just make boom bap and sample jazz, and then pretty early, I also dabbled with house [music] and, when I was in Miami in college, I wanted to be a DJ and make more electronic music. I always had a phase where I felt like, "This [genre] is it, this is what I wanna do," but it always changed. I think it just wasn’t time for me, and I think my thing is that the sound is always different. It wasn’t tough to get out of [the box], I just needed an evolution that happened over time.
There’s a hint of desperation in the title. Where did that come from?
That title came from an acting audition. I couldn’t really tell if they liked me or not—this was years ago. I came home and my girlfriend asked me how it went, and I just told her, "You know, they might’ve even loved me," and yeah, there is desperation there. I wanted to get that role, I wanted them to like me, it seemed like they were humoring me, but there’s no way to tell.
It’s a fine line and when you realize down the line that, "Hey, that was actually genuine," I felt like that applied to the women in my life as well. You might have a falling out and go through relationships throughout the years, or a fight with your mom, and it’s kind of looking back on all of that and thinking, "You know, they really cared, and that’s why everything went down the way it did."
Are you still seeking that external validation?
I’ve never asked myself that. I don’t look for validation much these days in my music. I’m working on the sound, and I feel really good about it. I’m my toughest critic, always. In terms of relationships, I’m probably more so somebody that seeks validation, I would say. It’s hard to say. With music stuff, I’m usually pretty happy with how things are going, at least at this point.
I appreciate the call to action on “Man Up,” and that you're touring with an all-female band. From your point of view, what can men in music do to be good allies to women?
I think dialog is everything. I think communicating more amongst each other … It’s good that we’re having all of these conversations… Appreciating women, appreciating their work, making people feel empowered. Making people feel empowered to also speak up. It can’t just come from women, and it can’t just come from men. It has to be a give and take, where there’s an understanding of how much work we have as a collective.
It’s really hard because it’s so stigmatized and the conversations become very extreme and then everything starts to become about whether there is equality in place. I tell people that with race as well, you know, occasionally you just meet people that are just assholes. Sometimes people just have problems with themselves and they’re insecure.
I think the dialog is super important but within the perspective of a given situation. It’s important to not get into a mentality of accusing everybody all the time because that’s also counterproductive. But men have a huge role in talking to each other and talking amongst each other and raising each other right, from your children to your friends to your social circle.
You’ve said that some of the women who inspired your songs have reached out to you after hearing the music. Any unexpected responses?
Yeah! I didn’t think that the girl that “Wait” was about would find out that the song was about her. I never thought of telling her. I did make a compelling post about it, and it was a mutual classmate that pieced it together. Like, "I think he had a crush on you around that time, didn’t you always hang out?" She reached out a few weeks later like, ‘Hey, this girl told me that this song may be about me.’ That was interesting, that was cool and also a little weird.
The girl from “California Girls,” she hinted to me that she thought the song was about her, but I pretended like it wasn’t. That was a little bit more uncomfortable. Other than that, I stand by my songs. They’re just stories. I told them, I wrote them, and that’s the way it is. I can’t really take responsibility for how people react and take them.
What happens if they didn’t even love you?
That’s a funny question. It’s such a tough question because there’s so many types of love, and then there’s also, you know, I’m not very possessive. I think everybody's free to love whoever they choose to. I wouldn’t take that to heart if I found out that a person didn’t love me and I had hopes that they did.
The way I also pose that question, it’s a bit of a different premise. It’s kind of this idea of loneliness and coming through and just realizing that that’s all in your head, and that people actually care. That’s more of what it is, just giving people credit. I’ve had times where I was brokenhearted and I took it out on other relationships. I think that’s also me acknowledging that, within that title. Like, "You know what? Some girls deserved better at that certain time in my life."