Rising indie-pop star Forrest Nolan redefines what it means to make pop music
Having recently toured with Indie-Pop sweetheart Gracie Abrams, Forrest nolan is configured to pick up the mantle and rush forward, never looking back. The 23-year-old singer-songwriter may be a new face to some, but his pen flows with the maturity and emotional capacity of someone wiser than his age.
Last month Forrest released his debut EP, You make me feel alright, a melancholy selection of tracks that come from the depths of his heart and the grief he unfortunately experienced. The record, although marketed as Indie-Pop, contains elements from various other genres such as Hip-Hop and Trap. Forrest’s lyricism and performance are catchy and effective, indicative of the sensibility one typically associates with rappers.
Recently, Popspoken had the chance to brainstorm this self-proclaimed romantic to find out more behind the scenes of the EP. Plus, Forrest shares his diverse playlist and love for pop music during our virtual session.
Congratulations on your new EP, You make me feel alrightt! It’s been a whole month since it fell, how did you feel when it was first released, and have those feelings changed since then?
I felt really excited and proud when it first came out, and I still feel it! I don’t think my feelings have changed too much – it’s always been a really exciting experience to have feedback from people who have listened to it. It’s a project that will always be very, very special to me, and I feel really good about it!
Tell us the story of this EP. What was the catalyst for this project? What does âfeeling goodâ mean to you?
Well the EP is called You make me feel alright, and, actually, this title comes from a song I wrote a long time ago as a birthday present for someone I dated. [Laughs] So years later, after we broke up and my heart was broken, it was almost instinctive for me to write music to understand my feelings and emotions. I ended up writing a bunch of music, and thought it would be special to go back to that particular song and play it back and rewrite some of it.
For me, there is an ambiguity in the title. I think you can interpret it in different ways. Sometimes being good means you’re not excited for nothing, that you’re not great, just good. But, other times being well may be the most important thing in the world because you’ve had a really tough day, and now you’re finally feeling a little better, so you’re fine.
So that ambiguity kind of reflected the different emotions of that relationship and all the different songs display all of those experiences from different perspectives and different times. I think that sums it all up!
In your song ‘MIA’ you issue a desperate cry in the midst of feeling a lover slowly pull away from you. How do you feel about reliving those painful moments in the public eye for the sake of making music? How then do you cope with the inevitable heaviness that follows?
It can be really difficult, especially when the people speaking the songs hear them! There have been a lot of conversations with different people about this, so it’s kinda crazy!
Also, it is very strange to have friends who listen to these words. I’ve had friends who texted me like “Dang bro, the EP is so sad, are you okay?”, And then I have to explain that these songs are from a long time ago. [Laughs] I’ve grown a lot since then and now I’m fine, but I’m so grateful that they take care of me. I’m lucky to have these relationships in my life, but it can be confusing and embarrassing. The things I wrote are not things you usually discuss in public, so it’s a really weird experience.
At the same time, I think it’s important because a lot of the music I grew up with was about people expressing those same things. Knowing what this has done for me, I kind of wanted to pass this tradition on to the next generation.
The record is a strong demonstration of your lyrical prowess. The tracks seem to be written with a lot of intention and thoughtfulness in terms of flow, delivery, and melody. Do these aspects of writing come naturally to you? What happens, then, if you come across Writer’s Block?
The kind of music I like to do, the nature of it, I would say, is Pop music – obviously my songs aren’t that popular yet, but that’s what I’m aiming for. Usually I’d be content with my gut, you don’t want to think about it too much. So when it comes to melodies, I just try to go with whatever I find the first time around and then try to adapt the words but sometimes it’s a bit tricky.
When it comes to Writer’s Block, there are a lot of tools that we have access to these days. You can find chord progressions online that you can merge into whatever project you’re working on, or you can use software that creates your music for you with the push of a button. So I think the important thing to do if you are having writer’s block is start from scratch – give up whatever you’re working on and try something new, don’t waste your time trying. to do a song when you’re not inspired. If you don’t feel it, it’s completely normal. Just take the rest of the day or an hour off and try something different when you get back.
So what do you like to do when you take a day off?
I like to see friends and I like to meet new people. Someone asked me before what my hobby is, I think it could be just hanging out with my friends, I really like hanging out with other people and I’m really energized by this kind of thing. Whatever we end up doing is fine with me, as long as we’re together.
This EP, although billed as Indie-Pop, has obvious elements of hip-hop and trap. We also know that you are personally influenced by Radiohead, Gorillaz, James Blake and Bon Iver. What did each of these influences bring to your art? Do you think your sound fits into a specific genre?
This EP is made up of a lot of songs that I wrote two or three years ago. So what’s crazy is that I’ve really come a long way as a songwriter since then. I think there are some tracks that fit into the Indie-Pop sound, but a lot are probably more experimental than that, only because I didn’t really know how to write Pop music yet.
These influences are the music that I listened to the most during this time, so I just took a lot of sonic and harmonic textures from them, and even lyrical inspiration too. These are some of my favorite artists for sure and I don’t think any of them would be considered Pop. Today I probably listen to a lot more Pop music, but these are the people I grew up with, so they will always be deeply rooted in my musical DNA.
Pop music is, in essence, what audiences love about a specific period, which is popular among listeners in that era. What place do you think pop occupies in the streaming age when the genre lines are getting more and more blurry by the day?
I think that’s a very good observation, and I think there is so much truth to it. I think the nature of people’s tastes and interests lies in something that they haven’t heard before, otherwise they might just listen to the music they’re used to.
We’ve almost covered most of the music ground, and the most modern sound I’ve heard lately is this genre called Hyperpop – where they just make the drums sound really crazy, super loud, and distorted. . But that means you can basically take any song of any genre, twist the drums, and you’ve got Hyperpop! [Laughs] But it sounds fresh and new, although obviously everything is very cyclical when it comes to music.
I think that’s what I love about Pop music because it changes over time and it’s not defined by a sound palette – it’s much more defined by the writing itself.
You just left the tour with indie-pop sweetheart Gracie Abrams. What are the most memorable moments of the tour?
I wish I had had specific stories for you, but I would say traveling was really, really special. And of course, playing for your fans is such an amazing experience. They were so respectful and receptive to the music which made the whole time so enjoyable!
But I really had a lot of fun traveling and learning about different cultures, even if only in the United States. It was also nice to visit friends, like when I first came to New York. I maybe have more friends in New York than in my hometown, and they attended the show, which was so exciting.
Spending time with Gracie was also really special. She is such an amazing songwriter and musician, and on top of all that she is an amazing person, she is so sweet and compassionate. So yeah, it was a really special moment.
Which other artist do you hope to collaborate with or tour with in the future?
Funny enough, my booking agent asked me this the other day, and I didn’t really have a clear answer for them because I don’t think I will fit in the lineups of my favorite artists. [Laughs] Drake is probably one of my all-time favorite artists, but I don’t really see myself in my place in his bill any time soon. Or like Radiohead or something, it wouldn’t really work.
But, I don’t know, other than them I would say touring with Gracie was as close as you can get to a perfect tour because it was a very similar fan base and I love her music too, so that can’t really get much better than that!
This year’s Spotify Wrapped playlists were recently unveiled. Who’s at the top of your Spotify Wrapped playlist?
Probably my favorite song that came out this year is a song called ‘Lil Baby Crush’ by Jordan Ward. Otherwise, I went back to music from 2005 to 2006, especially R&B. Right now I’m obsessed with this song called ‘Baby, I’m Back’ by Baby Bash and Akon.
On top of all that, I also listened to Bow Wow and Kelly Clarkson a bit. My reading list is really all over the place, but these are the ones that strike me right now.
Finally, with 2022 just around the corner, what is the thing that you most passionate about in the New Year? What can fans expect from you?
What excites me the most is making new music, actually. I kind of start from zero after the release of this EP. I have way too many demos, probably hundreds, but I think I just want to leave them and start something completely new. So, it’s going to be a huge experience and we’ll see what comes out of it now that my writing is better than it’s ever been. I hope the new music will be everyone’s favorite, I hope.