Album tackles personal growth and finding your way post-graduation
Ottawa’s singer-songwriter scene has a new powerhouse in Noah Pacheco and the release of his acoustic-focused second album, Elixir, out Friday.
Pacheco graduated from Carleton University’s aerospace engineering program last year. While in school he released his first album, Ever. The follow-up, an acoustic-driven indie-pop record, was released on most streaming platforms Friday.
Elixir is Pacheco’s second album, and the first that came with a release party. It’s more coherent than his first record, which he labels as “testing the water” in several genres.
On Elixir, Pacheco leans fully into the acoustic singer-songwriter sounds he honed at open mics, mostly at Pressed (an Ottawa coffee shop on Gladstone Avenue), where he held the sold-out album release party. The album has an overarching theme of growth and life changes, which came out of Pacheco graduating and thinking about his life post-school.
“My publicist said that there was this large looping theme of growth and evolvement, and I took a second look at it and realized she’s right,” said Pacheco. “I talk a lot about purpose and finding one’s place and how to deal with one’s past and still move forward.”
From the reverb-drenched a capella opener of “Alive” and the hip-hop inspired drums and synth on tracks like “Back” and “Battle Cry,” Pacheco adds depth to his songs from his home, mostly working off FL Studio on his computer. The studio work shifts the album away from basic singer-songwriter, adding in pop elements, especially on songs like “Flashback,” but still through an acoustic lens.
Other tracks like “Coffee Shop Love,” plaintive album closer “Tired,” and the ukulele-driven “Visit” are pure singer-songwriter built around Pacheco’s acoustic skills.
“I started writing around this time last year. I wrote one or two songs while I was finishing up school. And then the big question came up of what to do with my life now,” said Pacheco.
Pacheco’s typical writing process starts with a guitar or piano and notebook in hand. Once he has the acoustic version written out, he’ll go onto his computer and start adding fuller production. He’s found the vocals tend to take the most time to get right.
Pacheco’s slowly been making the shift from open mic nights to more professional shows, though it’s been difficult. He said of the 25 cold calls he made to find a venue for his release party, only Pressed took him on.
Pacheco admitted that one of the hardest things about being a student-musician is balancing music with school. He confessed that usually, if you’re going to do both, you’re going to suffer in both.
“Between social life, music and school, most of the time school took the backseat,” Pacheco said. He credits school for introducing him to lots of new people, but university was more for the social life than the academics. Now that he’s out of school, he finds the music-work balance a lot better.
“I was always of the opinion that I wouldn’t love any job that I did, unless it was music,” Pacheco said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think I could make a job out of music, so I settled to work and then do part-time music … and it worked out.”
“I’ve been more productive than I have been in school, that’s for sure,” he added.
You can find Noah Pacheco’s new album and more on his website.