Singer Noah Francis Johnson on his soulful new sound and his mentor Quincy Jones

Noah Francis tells Tempus of his South Wales roots and why he decided to move away from rock

* Noah Francis Johnson attends Tempus Magazine’s clay pigeon shoot at Holland & Holland London [photos © Steve Makin]

It would be easy to say that singer Noah Francis Johnson has lived a varied life. From becoming world freestyle dance champion to training to be a priest, and almost becoming a professional boxer before committing to his first love – music. Even then Noah, who was born in Tiger Bay in South Wales, took time to find the soulful sound that is sending his career to new heights. He began as a rock singer, with his band supporting the likes of Guns ‘n’ Roses, Slayer and KoRn, before legendary producer Quincy Jones encouraged him to quite literally change his tune and “embrace his blackness”.

”Quincy Jones has been my mentor over the last six years, he’s been my A&R man over that time. He really is responsible for the direction my music is taking now,” Noah tells Tempus. We sat down with the singer at our Holland & Holland charity Clay Pigeon Shoot event, where he treated 50 exclusive guests to a couple of songs from his latest album, accompanied by former Amen guitarist John King.

”I met Quincy Jones and he said ‘Son, you need to embrace your blackness’. I didn’t have a clue was he was talking about,” Noah admits. “I don’t think I even realised how big he was until I went to his house in LA and discovered Michael Jackson’s had been there, Frank Sinatra was his best friend. I went away and six years later I was just about to do a show with Guns n Roses in Los Angeles, and it hit me. I went to the studio with John and never looked back. Quincy listened to it recently, and said, ‘You’ve done it. All you’ve got to do now is walk forward.’”

It describes Noah’s approach to a tee. The spiritual star has lost none of his faith in the future – yet he also had nothing but love for his roots in Tiger Bay. “Wales has got Tom jones, Shirley Bassey, The Stereophonics, Super Furry Animals, the Welsh Choir. There’s something in those valleys, maybe in the water,” he says.

* Noah Francis Johnson performs his new single at the Tempus Magazine’s clay pigeon shoot at Holland & Holland London [photos © Steve Makin]

“My mother’s welsh and my father’s African. The Africans can sing as well, they’ve got a timbre in their voice, and so when you combine those two cultures there’s a recipe for something really special,” he says. “I’ve been very blessed that I can sing and sing and sing. Maybe that Welsh-African thing is the secret. My father was a singer. He sang soul, Marvin Gaye, Otis Reading, Ray Charles. He was my mentor and my inspiration.”

That inspiration carried through into Noah’s own favourites as a child. “I remember when Michael Jackson brought out Bad, and as a boy I was walking in the rain in Wales crying, thinking I’ll never be able to create something like this. But with our new album I feel that every time we play, magic happens. It takes a lot of influences from my life – whether that’s falling in love or dealing with racism. It’s all been a catalyst to express myself in my music.”


Fuelling that courage has been Noah’s faith. “I’ve always been torn between music and spirituality. I was going to be either a priest or a musician – I actually studied at the church for 10 years before they turned around and said, ‘good news, you’re a musician, go sing’. I felt like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. I was torn at first but they told me ‘one song is worth a thousand prayers’ – you don’t have to take your vows to be a good guy. They encouraged me to follow my dream, and I felt like I’d be blessed to do it.

“My spirituality does influence my music, insomuch as it influences me right through my life. You have to try to make the right decision with everything you do,” he says. “Meeting John, and the way he plays, it was all a miracle. His talent is God-given. There’s something special about how we work together.”

To find out more about how Noah got on at our clay pigeon shoot, read our new issue now

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