Shannon Noll - A singer and songwriter's career in music

Shannon Noll
'It's really gratifying when you've worked so hard on a song and it resonates with people so well that they actually know the words and are singing along. They are really focused on my performance and it's a great feeling.' 

Since appearing on Australian Idol in 2003, Aussie singer and songwriter Shannon Noll has become a household name. His first two albums have made him a multi-platinum artist more than 11 times over. Shannon talked to Career FAQs about the realities of a musical career and his journey from first job in music to fame.


Did you always want to have a career in the music industry?

Since I was 14 years old, everything about music felt right.

Who was your idol when you were growing up?

John Farnham was a massive hero of mine.

What was it like living in Condobolin and working on the farm?

It was great. My brothers and I had a great upbringing on the farm –it's something I'd recommend for sure. It's a great environment where we really cared about each other, we enjoyed working together every day, and being out in the open and clean air.

What were the music opportunities like in Condobolin?

We had a trio, my two brothers and I, and then I went to stay in the city for a while and my brother and I formed a duo – we used to sing at cafes. Then when I got back to Condo we started a four-piece covers band and we used to get heaps of gigs around the place like the B&S balls.

At what point did you decide that you could pursue a singing career?

During my time in the band we had an original that my brother and I wrote, 'The way that I feel', which made my first album. We also had a remix of 'I was only 19', the Red Gum song. We had a couple of songs there that I thought were candidates to get someone to take some notice of us. I sort of had hopes that something would happen and then Australian Idol came along and that seemed my best option.

What did you hope to achieve out of Australian Idol?

I just wanted to get noticed so that I could get some jobs in musicals or anything. In the audition, you have hopes and dreams and they are about to be clarified right there in front of you, it was a very scary situation. Idol gave me the opportunity to take music on full time, and obviously hone my skills and to focus on music in general – it was a massive opportunity.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

It depends where I am with an album cycle. I could be doing promo from day to day, or touring, or writing and recording – it depends on what cycle or area I'm at with an album.

What process do you go through when you create a new album? How long does it usually take to go from an initial idea for a song to a final product?

I do co-writes and work with a lot of people, collaborating all around the place, internationally and in Australia. Then we do the demos up, get as many demos together as we can, and then we go through and pick songs that we think are the best quality from the demos. It all depends on where we are in the album cycle. I wrote and put out a demo with two guys in Sydney in one day and, if that made the album, it could have been turned around in a month, but it all depends on the album. Normally from demo to recording the finished products can be anywhere from six to 12 months, or even two years. It all depends on the individual really.

Where do you find inspiration for your songs?

It comes from anywhere. Once I was in a session with a couple of guys in LA and we were trying to think of an idea. I looked down and there was a guitar case with 'Fragile' written on it so I thought, there's an idea. I wasn't writing about a guitar case, it was about a girl who was fragile in nature, but it goes to show that inspiration can come from anywhere.

What do you like most about being a singer and songwriter – writing songs, performing in front of crowds, or being in the recording studio?

I enjoy the performance side of things mostly. That's what I've always sort of done it for, and that's what grabs me the most.

You have your Turn it Up tour coming up, how do you decide where you are going to play?

We look around at where we've played and done gigs at recently and go from there. I have a booking agent who puts runs together. We've got a run that we normally do in each state and we work out how long it's been since we've been to different areas, if it's worthwhile going back and if the people haven't got sick of me in that area yet, and then go from there. The whole aim of this next tour is to go back to basics, back to the venues that were so good to me initially in my career and to get that closeness with the crowd and the performance side of things.

How do you feel when everyone knows the words to one of your songs?

It's really lovely when I do a gig and the whole crowd knows the words. 'What About Me' is a bit of a crowd favourite – everyone knows the words. When it gets to the chorus they don't hold back, they dive straight in and have a bit of a singalong so it's really good fun and something to behold. It's really gratifying when you've worked so hard on a song and it resonates with people so well that they actually know the words and are singing along. They are really focused on my performance and it's a great feeling.

What has been your career highlight so far?

That's a big question. I really honestly couldn't say. When I start thinking about things there have been so many. Performance wise, there's been the State of Origin decider, where there were 80 000 people at the ground. The NRL grand final and all those sorts of things – there have been many things that have been unreal.

What are some of the challenges of being in the public eye?

Your private life is thrown out there for everyone to see and it's a bit difficult at times. The hardest part is getting quality time with the family in public. I went to the Royal Easter Show one year with my kids and tried to show them the cattle and the things that I grew up with, but it was a bit hard to get around without people wanting photos, so that's probably the hardest.

How do you balance having a family with the demands of your career?

Having a family is awesome, it keeps you grounded and down to earth. It's hard to think of yourself as a rock star when you come home and change nappies, it gives you a bit of levelling and contrast and takes your mind of your work. Otherwise you can get consumed by your work, so it's a great thing to be able to look at the big picture.

Does your family go on tour with you?

It's too hectic to take the family on tour with me. I do five nights in a row, I'll do a show then I get in a Tarago and stay in a hotel and then move on to the next place. If I had a bit of time spent in each area it would be better for the family. As it stands now, it's just too hectic.

Who do you enjoy working with?

Working with Richie Sambora was great. He was really accommodating, really nice and down to earth and a real breath of fresh air. He was a real pleasure to work with.

Are you interested in marketing your music to an international audience?

Yeah, I'd like to find out and see what another country thinks of my music. I think music is very broad and people are very different around the world so if it's something that hits home with one market and a population of people, I can't see why it would be too different in any other country.

You were an ambassador for G'day USA. How did you find that?

I had a ball, it was terrific, absolutely terrific, I had a great time. Everything over there was a celebration of all things Australian – it was so much fun doing it and being a part of it.

What advice do you have for people aspiring to careers in music?

Write as much as you can. Writing is the key, it's where people can make their money, I think it's the most important thing and people who want to become musicians should try to spend as much of their time doing it.

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