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Noble Oak: The Keys To Success

The west coast piano-pop songwriter goes back to his roots on When It Finds You.

by Stephan Boissonneault 

Photo by Devon Scott Wong

For songwriter Patrick Fiore, otherwise known to his fans as Noble Oak, inspiration is like a drug he can’t get enough of. But instead of being able to indulge in a timely smoke break, it decides haphazardly when to find him and put him on a creative highsometimes at the most inconvenient time, like in the middle of a traffic jam or a heated bike ride. In fact, he believes he’s actually lost full songs by not getting to his piano quick enough to play the initial idea out. 

“There’s a good chance that if I don’t record it then and there, even if it’s this secret pop banger, I’ll lose it forever,” Fiore says. “I can’t control it or harness it whenever I want, and that’s very fascinating to me.”

This fascination ties into the theme of his just-released album When It Finds You, the titular “It” being pure moments of inspiration that he’s experienced in his life as a songwriter. Within this context, When It Finds You thematically feels like a creative university paper searching for the answer to the unexplainable question: Do the songs find us, or the other way around?

“Even from a purely mathematical point of view, there is a finite combination of notes that work together,” he says. “They’re in the universe. And we sometimes find them, or sometimes they find us. It almost feels a bit academic to me.”

Though he wrote a whole album about inspirational discovery, there have been creative dead spots Fiore has experienced, especially recently. He hasn’t been writing his typical brand of cinematic, lyrical bedroom pop music for quite some time. Even the adrenaline he got from his album’s release wasn’t enough for him to jump back into it.

“The world has changed in the last few years, and my ability to pull inspiration from places has changed,” Fiore says. “What I think I require to feel inspired is now a very specific laundry list of things that need to be laid out in the world—like how the world is behaving at a given point, and the safety I feel in this world.”

All of this—partially deriving from the world shutting down because of the pandemic—has taken a massive toll on the kind of creative output Fiore’s fans expect, almost grinding it to a complete halt. But he hasn’t given up on writing music. He’s actually been working on a solo piano album that he hopes to release next. 

Noble Oak’s moniker isn’t just for show—this decision finds him going back to his roots, as he’s been trained in classical piano, been a piano teacher, and has been playing since he was seven. He’s also using his childhood piano, one that he grabbed from his grandparents’ place after he moved to Vancouver, to write his instrumentals. He calls the instrument a “very special, constant reminder.”

“It’s almost full circle for me now, and I’m being reminded that piano is my musical home,” he says. “Even in this creative dead drop, I can still improvise a piano piece without thinking about it.” 

Maybe it’s a sign, as Fiore had a bit of success with an instrumental piano EP, Stories, that he put out a little while ago.

If his newer endeavours take off, When It Finds You could go down as Noble Oak’s last pop album for a little bit. Maybe he’ll come back in a few years, reinvigorated with another batch of cinematic, keyboard-led pop songs. But right now, at this very moment, he’s in a different head space.

“You know what?” Fiore says, pausing for clarity. “That would be my touring dream. Just hitting city to city, playing piano music. I think I’ve finally come to that realization. That’s the dream.”