Since 2007, representatives from To Write Love on Her Arms have been spreading awareness about suicide, depression and suicide. Through various media and viral campaigns, the group has helped start discussions and raise funds for suicide support groups around the world. The latest effort is a series of concerts and performances in cities around the nation. On Feb. 1, the Heavy and Light Tour will stop at The Complex in Salt Lake City.
To find out more about the show, we caught up with Noah Gundersen, a featured musician in the tour and a long-time supporter of TWLOHA. For tickets and more information, go to twloha.com.
How did you get involved with the Heavy and Light Tour?
I met the founder several years ago. He got a hold of my music and we started doing some events together.
Why did you want to be involved with TWLOHA?
It’s a mutually beneficial thing. I think they believe in people and they believe in hope and that’s an important thing. I like the positive focus. But it’s also exposed my music to people that wouldn’t have heard it.
I think the tours encourage people and let them know that they’re not alone. That’s a big part of my connection with fans. I think my music taps into basic human emotions
What happens at the show?
It’s kind of a traveling circus of encouragement. There are a lot of different artists on the bill. Everyone’s playing a stripped-down set. But there’s also other performances, for example, there’s a poet performing. You can expect to come away encouraged and feeling good.
I have to say, I love your music. I love the authenticity of your voice and lyrics. But I guess you haven’t reached mainstream success. For those who haven’t heard your stuff before, how would you describe your music?
To be self-deprecating, it’s kind of sad music. It’s stripped down Americana alt-folk. The broader genre would be singer-songwriter, but I think there’s more to it than that. It’s definitely lyric-based.
Have you been to Utah before?
Yes, I have. But It has been a couple of years.
What do you remember about it?
I was reading Under the Banner of Heaven while we drove through, so it was kind of creepy. It was strange to learn about the history and the dark side of the Mormon Church. But I met some great people and had a really nice time.
I’d love to chat about some of your music. From your latest EP, my favorite song is Family. Can you tell me the writing process behind that song?
I was in Austin, Texas in 2010 at the South By Southwest show. I’m not a huge crowd person. A lot of really great things that happen there, but it’s also kind of mass debauchery. It’s lots of fun, but the dark side of humanity began to leer on me. As I was there, I came to this humbling place of realizing that we’re a global family. Even those I don’t enjoy being around are just as much my family.
The other song that stands out to me is Jesus, Jesus. What role do religion, faith and spirituality play in your writing process?
I was raised in a Christian home and decided it wasn’t for me — in an organized corporate sense. In that song, especially, that was a time I was searching and writing from a perspective of someone in the church and the fallacies and the way people are viewed from within the church. I still draw on religious imagery because it’s something that’s engrained in me, even though I don’t believe in the system. That’s where I’d say my influence in Christianity has led.
Who are you listening to right now? Who’s on your iPod?
I’ve been playing acoustic music for seven years now and as much as I love the genre, I find myself hitting walls. I’ve been experimenting with electronic music. So I’ve been listening to Memory Tapes, Nicki & The Dove, Active Child and Washed Out.
Do you have any guilty pleasure music?
I love Katy Perry. I think she’s kind of a guilty pleasure. She’s an incredible performer and artist. I guess Lana Del Rey, is she guilty pleasure?
We’re the local gay magazine and TWLOHA and suicide and drug awareness are very poignant issues for our community. Do you have any advice for your young gay fans?
I think as cliché as it is, my only advice would be don’t be afraid to be yourself. I know it gets thrown around too much. But it’s important to connect with others who are having the same struggles you are. That would be my only advice.
Any last words for QSaltLake readers?
We’re putting out a new record in 2013, so watch for that.