The Next Joni Mitchell

KERI NOBLE is the daughter of a Southern Baptist minister who sang in the church choir when she was a youngster, so it follows one might expect to find her music in the Christian genre. Not so; Noble’s debut, full-length CD, “Fearless,” is a fully-realized singer-songwriter CD in the vein of Ricki Lee Jones, Fiona Apple or Sarah McLachlan.

oble is on a nationwide tour to promote “Fearless,” and will be visiting New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta. This coming Wednesday, we have the good fortune of being able to see her locally at Doc Ricketts’ Lab in Monterey.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Noble grew up in Detroit. Her earliest exposure to music was, naturally, at her father’s church and through piano lessons. Her horizons were suddenly expanded, however, when she transferred from her high school in the suburbs to the school in the city where her mother taught Spanish.

Suddenly, she was surrounded by students from different cultural backgrounds and got to listen to rock, hip hop and R&B for the first time.

Noble began writing songs while she was at community college in Dearborn, Mich., but the defining moment in beginning her career truly came when a friend gave her a copy of Joni Mitchell’s “Blue.”

“I had never even heard of Joni Mitchell,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh, does anyone know who this woman is?’ ”

In Mitchell, Noble found a woman who used her music as a vehicle to express her inner thoughts and feelings. She realized that music was what she wanted to do as a career and left college to pursue her goal.

Noble played several nights a week in Detroit coffeehouses, hauling her keyboard and amplifier around in her car, and one night was heard by musician Billy McLaughlin. McLaughlin offered to showcase Noble’s work in Minneapolis. She was immediately taken with the city.

“I was so struck at how much art there was in Minneapolis … (it) was like this mystical place; I couldn’t believe such places existed.”

McLaughlin introduced her to producer Jeff Arundel, who encouraged her to sign with managing and booking agents. Through Arundel, she eventually was heard by Manhattan/EMI executives who signed her to their label. The end result was “Fearless,” produced by Arundel.

Critics already are tipping Noble for the big time, so Wednesday’s chance to see a local show should not be passed up.

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, April 8, 2004

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