Earlier this year, Danielle Noonan, a Missouri City, Texas, singer-songwriter released her latest record, the EP “Your Love,” the fourth recording she’s put out in five years.
The title track is a dreamy ballad, featuring a piano-driven arrangement that builds and builds, undergirding Noonan’s voice acknowledging God the Father’s mercy acting in people’s lives. The lyrics allude to Francis Thompson’s famous poem “Hound of Heaven,” with its emphasis on divine mercy never stopping to save the object of its love.
The release is the latest in a series of songs Noonan, a Catholic musician, has put out since 2013, when she released her first EP “Restoration,” followed by a full-length album in 2014 called “The Awaken Project.” In November 2017, Noonan released her next single, “Come,” and followed that with a collaboration with John Finch from The Vigil Project called “Always Faithful.”
If all that is not enough to let you know Noonan is busy, the artist is a married mother of three boys who has spoken around the country, leading worship at churches as well as conferences and retreats. Her testimony and songs can be heard on Guadalupe Radio, Rome Reports, Catholic Playlist, Catching Foxes, and more.
Noonan took time out of her schedule to answer a few questions from Angelus. Her responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Rob Cullivan: How long have you been playing music, and what inspired you to start writing songs?
Danielle Noonan: I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t playing the piano. I play everything by ear and taught myself to play guitar at the age of 13 after begging my mom and dad for a guitar. I spent three days in my room until my fingers bled and the next week, they had me playing guitar for Mass at our little parish mission in east Texas.
I probably started writing songs when I was 13 or so, soon after I started playing guitar. I actually found some of those songs [recently], and they were your typical overly emotional teenage songs, but it was fun to think about how far I’ve come with my songwriting. Thank goodness for growth and God’s reassurance!
Cullivan: What was the inspiration for the song “Your Love”?
Noonan: The entire EP “Your Love” came from a season of writing that was very lonely, No one really talks about loneliness when it comes to artistry and songwriting. So many of my really good friends lived all over the country because they themselves are also musicians. So, unless we were working together or heading to Nashville for work, which took me away from my own family, it became a heavy weight of loneliness.
On top of that, I had been struggling with chronic illness for a couple of years with the expectancy of some really scary diagnoses and traveling a lot. Surprisingly enough, as God always does, doors were opening up for me as an artist and great opportunities were happening, which on the outside looked really exciting and beneficial.
But I struggled balancing my desire for authenticity and the drive of my career on top of the stress of being away from my family, and being really sick. I lost trust in a lot of people, I pulled away from people, but there were glimmers of God’s presence every step of the way. His love overpowered and overshadowed a really dark time in my career, and that’s the music behind “Your Love.” I poured all I had into it because God had poured so much love into me.
Cullivan: Which artists have most inspired and/or influenced you and why?
Noonan: Probably Edie Brickell, Cheryl Crow, Sara Bareilles, Patty Griffin, Sade, Bebo Norman, and old Texas country [music]. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. So cliché but very true!
Cullivan: How do you select the instruments you use on your songs?
Noonan: I play guitar, piano, and a little bit of mandolin and accordion. There are layers upon layers of production going on in the new EP, but what I love about it is that in every song, you can strip it down to just a guitar or just a piano and it sounds just as beautiful. So, if I’m playing with my band, you’ll get the full sound with all of the incredible layers that my producer Chris Clayton and I worked so hard to create, but if we’re doing a small intimate setting, you’ll still have the beauty and authenticity with just a piano or guitar.
Cullivan: Some Catholic musicians lament that they don’t get the same airplay or attention non-Catholic Christian musicians do. What is your experience?
Noonan: I haven’t really experienced that, I think because I’ve never really wanted my songs necessarily to be on the radio. I hadn’t really thought about it until a couple of my friends who work in the industry in Nashville brought the idea to me and it just wasn’t my goal or focus. I want to write songs for the Church, songs that break chains and that are the vehicles for healing. I think if you’re focusing on getting your music on the radio, then you’re in the wrong business.
Cullivan: What do you think Catholic musicians can offer to the contemporary Christian music world that is different or distinguished from their non-Catholic brethren?
Noonan: I honestly don’t like thinking that we’ve got different goals primarily because in my experience, we don’t. My goals are very similar to the ones of my Protestant brothers and sisters whom I’m very close with and work with on a regular basis. Just like any ministry, it takes getting out of your comfort zone and building relationships that have nothing to do with getting ahead in your career.
One of my favorite things that happens in ministry are people going, “Oh wow! You’re Catholic!” and we begin to have solid conversations about how God has not just brought us together within ministry, but how the Holy Spirit is working in our communities and churches.
Cullivan: Can you describe your songwriting process?
Noonan: If I’m writing by myself, I usually zone out for a good two to three hours and plow through a song. I find myself, a lot of times, singing a lyrical hook and then working through how and why it came to me, building my song around it.
For instance, “Glory to Glory” is probably my favorite song on the EP. A good friend of mine asked me to do a worship night for some of the [children] who were there during the [May 2018 Sante Fe High School] shooting [which killed eight students and two teachers]. I just thought, “There’s nothing to comfort them. What in the world do you say to someone who’s witnessed such a horrific thing?” And the first line came to me, “You see us all, each and every part of us, our hearts in the palm of Your hands.” I just prayed through that and tried my best to discern what that meant, and what could be a salve on their heart.
Cullivan: Describe a moment at a show or service that particularly moved you.
Noonan: At a retreat I was doing, God spoke to me and showed me a woman who’d had a hard impact shoulder injury to her right shoulder. As I was leading worship, I stopped and asked the group of women if anyone had had a shoulder injury, and I explained what I had seen in my vision. This wide-eyed woman slowly raised her hand in front of me, and we walked down and prayed for her. I was so taken aback with joy, excitement and awe in how God works through us to comfort and heal each other. I was finally able to chat with the woman at the end of the retreat, and she shared the story of how she got injured and how through that injury she was able to stay home and care for her special-needs child. God was very clear during that prayer session that it was her turn for comfort and healing. I’ll never forget how God moved that day.
Cullivan: In addition to your website, daniellenoonanmusic.com, where could interested listeners find your music online or on the radio?
Noonan: They can follow me on Facebook or Instagram, and they can find all of my music anywhere they’re streaming music.”