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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen brings heart to High Dive music venue

<p dir="ltr">Musicians Noah Gundersen (left) and Harrison Whitford (right) collaborate during an acoustic performance on Sunday.</p>

Musicians Noah Gundersen (left) and Harrison Whitford (right) collaborate during an acoustic performance on Sunday.

When Noah Gundersen sings, his heart is just as exposed as his voice. The indie folk singer-songwriter brought High Dive’s crowd to tears Sunday night while performing songs from his 2019 album “Lover.”

Gundersen played to a compassionate crowd composed of both longtime fans and new listeners. The 30-year-old Seattle-based artist performed an acoustic set alongside special guest Harrison Whitford.

The first track Gundersen performed was “Robin Williams.” The poignant song continued a tender mood set by Whitford, who had opened the night with selections from his own album “Afraid of Everything.” The honest, evocative songwriting on “Robin Williams” reflected Gundersen’s signature confessional style.

“Noah is very honest,” Tim Reitnouer, Gundersen’s tour manager for the past two years, said. Reitnouer said that Gundersen is unafraid to engage in tough conversations.

Gundersen’s honesty is front and center on “Lover,” which explores various lows of love, art and aging.

“I love when people are really honest and fearless about what they have to say,” said Elizabeth Pasteur, a 40-year-old singer-songwriter and longtime Gundersen fan. “When I listen to his music, I almost feel like I need to get in a fetal position. It’s just like touching my guts. I want to write music like that. That music inspires me.”

Pasteur was seeing Gundersen live for the second time. She had come to his performance at High Dive two years ago and was excited to hear him again. 

“I was surprised that he came here [to Gainesville], but there are a lot of college students here. I would think that they could identify with a lot of his lyrics,” she said.

While the 13-track “Lover” album employs rock and electronic elements, Sunday’s concert showcased Gundersen’s American folk roots, stripping tracks down to nothing but guitar and voice. Gundersen played an acoustic guitar while Whitford accompanied on electric. The rawness of the performance resonated with the same thoughtfulness and authenticity that characterized Gundersen’s full-length debut album “Ledges.”

“I think [Gundersen’s] developed really well [musically],” Emily Elkins, 21-year-old concertgoer from Jacksonville, said. “I don’t feel like his newer stuff differs too much from his older style.”

In addition to selections from his 2019 album, Gundersen played songs from his previous records and a moving cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” following a joke about turning happy songs into sad ones.

Gundersen and Whitford were not the only people to bare their souls on the stage Sunday. Jamie Tworkowski, founder of mental health nonprofit To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA), spoke poignantly about depression, suicide and addiction. Tworkowski praised Gundersen’s support of mental health advocacy and willingness to collaborate with TWLOHA, connecting the singer’s music with awareness and therapy efforts. 

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“I think beyond Noah’s talent, beyond how gifted he was as a singer and songwriter [when I met him], I think his honesty really stood out,” Tworkowski said. “He’s willing to be honest and vulnerable, and I think at times, willing to say things you’re almost not sure it’s okay to say out loud. I think that relates to mental health, and it’s part of why I get excited about being a part of these nights.”

Contact Kaylyn Ling at kaylynling@ufl.edu. Follow her on Twitter @KaylynLing.

Musicians Noah Gundersen (left) and Harrison Whitford (right) collaborate during an acoustic performance on Sunday.

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