Rising Indie-Pop Star Forrest Nolan is Redefining What It Means to Make Pop Music

Having recently toured with Indie-Pop sweetheart Gracie Abrams, Forrest Nolan is set to pick up the mantle and dash forward, never looking back. The 23-year-old singer-songwriter-producer might be a new face to some, but his pen flows with the maturity and emotional capacity of someone wiser than his years. 

Last month, Forrest put out his debut EP, You Make Me Feel Alright, a melancholic selection of tracks that stem from the depths of his heart and the heartbreak he has, unfortunately, experienced. The record, though marketed as Indie-Pop, boasts elements hailing from various others genres such as Hip-Hop and Trap. Forrest’s lyricism and delivery is catchy and effective, indicative of the sensibilities one would usually associate with rappers. 

Recently, Popspoken had the chance to dig the brains of this self-proclaimed romantic to find out more about the behind-the-scenes happenings of the EP. Plus, Forrest shares his diverse playlist and love for Pop music over our virtual sit-down.

Congratulations on your new EP, You Make Me Feel Alright! It’s been a whole month since it dropped, how did you feel when it was first released, and has those feelings changed since then?

I felt really excited and proud when it first came out, and I still feel that way! I don’t think my feelings have changed too much – it’s consistently been a really exciting experience getting feedback from people who’ve listened to it. It’s a project that will always be very, very special to me, and I feel really great about it!

Tell us about the story behind this EP. What was the catalyst for this project? What does “feeling alright” mean to you?

Well, the EP is called You Make Me Feel Alright, and, actually, that title came from a song I wrote a long time ago as a birthday gift for someone I dated. [Laughs] So, years later, after we broke up and I’ve experienced heartbreak, it was almost instinctual for me to write music as a way to figure out my feelings and emotions. I ended up writing a bunch of music, and I thought it’ll be special to go back to that specific song and re-produce and rewrite parts of it. 

To me, there’s an ambiguity to the title. I feel that you can interpret it in a lot of different ways. Sometimes, being alright means that you’re not excited for anything, that you’re not great but just alright. But, other times, being alright can be the most important thing in the world because you’ve had a really rough day, and now you’re finally feeling a little better, so you’re alright.

So, that ambiguity kind of reflected the different emotions of that relationship and all the different songs display all those experiences from different perspectives and times. I think that about sums it up!

In your song ‘MIA’, you make a desperate plea in the midst of feeling a lover slowly distancing from you. How do you feel about re-living these painful moments in the public eye for the sake of making music? How do you then cope with the inevitable heaviness that comes with that?

It can be really challenging, especially when the people who the songs are about hear them! There’s been many conversations with different people about that, so it’s kind of crazy!

Also, it’s very strange having friends listen to those lyrics. I’ve had friends message me things like, “Dang bro, the EP’s so sad, you doing okay?”, and then I need to explain that these songs were from a long time ago. [Laughs] I’ve grown a lot since then and now I’m doing okay, but I’m so grateful that they’re checking in on me. I’m lucky to have those relationships in my life, but it can be confusing and awkward. The stuff I wrote are not things you’d usually discuss in public, so it’s a really strange experience.

At the same time, I think it’s important because a lot of the music I related to growing up were people expressing those same things. Knowing what it did for me, I wanted to kind of pass on that tradition to the next generation. 

Photo by Christopher Nolan

The record makes a strong show of your lyrical prowess. The tracks seem to be written with much intention and thought in terms of flow, delivery, and melody. Do these aspects of writing come naturally to you? What happens, then, if you encounter, writer’s block?

The kind of music that I like to make, the nature of it, I would say is Pop music – obviously my songs aren’t that popular yet, but it is what I’m aiming for. Usually, I would just go with my instinct, you don’t want to overthink it. So, when it comes to melodies, I just try and go with whatever I come up with the first time, and then I try to fit the words in but sometimes it’s a little tricky. 

When it comes to writer’s block, there are so many tools that we have access to these days. You can find chord progressions online that you can merge it into the project that you’re working on, or you can use a software that makes your music for you at the touch of a button. So, I think what’s important to do if you’re experiencing writer’s block is to just start from scratch – scrap whatever you’re working on and try something new, don’t waste your time trying to make a song when you’re not inspired. If you’re not feeling it, that’s totally normal. Just take the rest of the day off or take an hour off and try something different when you come back. 

So, then what do you like to do when you’re taking a day off?

I love to see friends, and I love to meet new people. Someone asked me before what my hobby is, I think it might just be hanging out with my friends, I really love spending time with other people and I’m really energised by that sort of thing. Whatever we end up doing is fine by me, as long as we’re together. 

This EP, although touted as Indie-Pop, has obvious Hip-Hop and Trap elements. It is also known that you are personally influenced by the likes of Radiohead, Gorillaz, James Blake, and Bon Iver. What has each of these influences brought to your artistry? Do you think that your sound fits into a specific genre?

This EP is made up of a lot of songs that I wrote two or three years ago. So, what’s crazy about that is I’ve really developed so much as a songwriter since then. I think some of the tracks do fit into the Indie-Pop sound, but a lot of it is probably more experimental than that, only because I didn’t really know how to write Pop music yet. 

Those influences are the music that I listened to the most during that time period, so I just took a lot of sonic and harmonic textures from them, and even lyrical inspiration, too. Those are some of my favourite artists for sure and I don’t think any of those would be considered Pop. Nowadays, I’m probably listening to a lot more Pop music, but those people are the ones I grew up on so they’ll always be deeply ingrained into my musical DNA. 

Pop music is, in essence, what the public likes in a specific period, what’s popular among listeners of that time. What place do you think Pop holds in the streaming age when the lines of genre are getting blurrier by the day?

I think that’s a really great observation, and I think there’s so much truth to that. I feel that the nature of people’s tastes and interest lies in something that they haven’t already heard before, otherwise they could just listen to the music they’re used to. 

We’ve almost covered most of the ground there is to music, and the most modern sound I’ve heard lately is this genre called Hyperpop – in which they basically just make the drums sound really crazy, super loud and distorted. But then that means that you can essentially take any song from any genre, distort the drums, and you have Hyperpop! [Laughs] But it sounds fresh and new, though obviously everything is very cyclical when it comes to music.

I think that’s what I love about Pop music because it changes with the times and it isn’t defined by a sonic palette – it’s much more defined by the songwriting itself. 

Forrest Nolan

You’ve just got off tour with Indie-Pop sweetheart Gracie Abrams. What are some of the most memorable moments from the tour?

I wish I had specific stories for you, but I would say getting to travel was really, really special. And obviously, getting to play for her fans is such an incredible experience. They were so respectful and receptive to the music, which made the whole time so enjoyable! 

But I really had a lot of fun getting to travel and experience different cultures – even if it’s just within the United States. It was also nice getting to visit friends, like when I got to New York. I have, maybe, more friends in New York than I do in my hometown, and they came through to the show, which was so exciting.

Getting to spend time with Gracie was also really special, too. She’s such an incredible songwriter and musician, and on top of all that she’s an incredible person, she’s so sweet and compassionate. So, yeah it was a really special time. 

Which other artist do you hope to collaborate with or tour with in the future?

Funny enough, my booking agent asked me this the other day, and I didn’t really have a clear answer for them because I don’t think I’ll fit in the lineups of my favourite artists. [Laughs] Probably one of my all-time favourite artists is Drake, but I don’t really see myself fitting on his bill any time soon. Or like Radiohead or something, that would’t really work out. 

But, I don’t know, besides them, I would say that getting to tour with Gracie was as close as it gets to a perfect tour because it was a very similar fanbase and I love her music too, so it can’t really get much better than that!

Photo by Christopher Nolan

This year’s Spotify Wrapped playlists have recently been unveiled. Who’s on the top of your Spotify Wrapped playlist?

Probably my favourite song that’s come out this year is a song called ‘Lil Baby Crush’ by Jordan Ward. Otherwise, I’ve been going back to music from 2005-2006, especially the R&B stuff. Right now, I’m obsessed with this song called ‘Baby, I’m Back’ by Baby Bash and Akon. 

Besides all that, I’ve been listening to a bit of Bow Wow and Kelly Clarkson as well. My playlist is really all over the place, but those are the ones that stand out to me right now. 

Lastly, with 2022 just around the corner, what’s the thing that gets you the most excited about the new year? What else can fans expect from you? 

The thing I’m most excited for is getting to make new music, actually. I’m kind of just starting from scratch after releasing this EP. I have way too many demos, probably in the hundreds, but I think I just want to let them be and start something completely new. So, it’s going to be a huge experiment and we’ll see what comes out of it now that my songwriting is better than it has ever been. I hope that the new music will, hopefully, be everyone’s favourite yet.

Forrest Nolan’s debut EP, You Make Me Feel Alright, is available now on all streaming platforms. You can also find him on Instagram and Twitter via @forrestnolan.


Explore latest trends in contemporary culture


Explore latest trends in contemporary culture