Joudi Nox Opens Up about “Off,” Her Guitar, and The Sneeze

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Joudi Nox
Photo: Marise Van Zyl
       

California-based singer-songwriter Joudi Nox releases her new single, “Off,” a song about heartbreak, healing, and the disappointment of dating.

Joudi Nox explains, “The song ‘Off’ is about being disappointed with dating again after healing from heartbreak because after healing you can spot red flags very easily, and the games and inconsistency become very unattractive; a turn ‘off.’ It’s a bittersweet, quirky, and sarcastic song about the reality that hit me after a few disappointing dates and after loving myself and being self-aware during my healing journey. I’m hoping many people would relate to this concept and hopefully, they don’t feel alone going through this.”

Currently studying at Stanford University, Nox began her career performing covers, including Billie Eilish’s “Wish You Were Gay,” Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar,” and Seafret’s “Bad Blood.” Now as she begins her solo career, “Off” creates a lush sonic landscape highlighted by Nox’s silky, nuanced voice.

Guitar Girl Magazine spoke with Joudi Nox to find out more about the person behind the music, her influences, and her writing process.

What three things can’t you live without?

My mom, I don’t know if that counts as a “thing” but I can’t live without her and the rest of my family.

My guitar of course. How else am I going to write music?

And my skin care products ha-ha. I’d feel horrible if I woke up one day and didn’t do my skincare routine

What inspired your new single, Off?

After a very painful breakup, I went through a necessary healing journey where I worked on myself and learned about healthy relationships away from all the games and the push and pull. Then I started dating again, which was a series of disappointments, and that one guy that my friend introduced me to, was the last straw. He was playing games and being vague about his intentions, only this time I found those games unattractive rather than becoming intrigued by the ‘spark’ and the ‘mystery.’ Then the lyrics ‘I guess I’m better off writing breakup songs than to believe only for once that I still got a chance at love’ played in my head over and over again, so I grabbed my guitar, and the song was written in just 5 minutes. The next morning after that failure of a date, I was so sad, so I posted a video of me playing ‘Off’ on Instagram and it got so many views in the first few minutes after posting it. People kept commenting that they want it released and I said if the video gets 15k views I’ll release it, and it did! I guess I have to thank this guy for all of this.

How did you get started in music?

I wanted to join an Arabic poetry competition in fifth grade, so I wrote this cute little poem. At that time, I was already one year into my English language education (since English was not my first language), so just for practice, I thought I could translate it into English. Once it was translated word for word, I thought ‘this looks like something Taylor Swift would sing,’ so I got my little keyboard because when I was 11 I didn’t own a guitar, I played a beat, a few random but not so random notes, and there was a song called “Night of the Nights” (cheesy I know). I went to my parents in the living room and played the song, the next thing I know they were dancing to my song in the middle of the living room. That’s when I decided to write and play music. The next day I begged my parents for guitar lessons and my life changed forever.

Where are you from?

I’m from Lebanon. The land of incredible food and kind hearts. Despite Arabic being my first language, I’ve always written songs in English only for some reason. I’ve moved to Stanford, California in 2021 and I’m loving it!

Did your hometown impact your sound?

I was born and raised in Arab music culture; however, our household was very diverse in music taste. My mother was very fond of classic French music from the ‘80s and ‘90s. My dad loved indie and classical Arab music but also was a big classic rock fan. And of course, Fayrouz is forever a favorite for everyone in our house. I studied music technology and music performance at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. My sound was influenced by the interesting mixture of Egyptian music and the various western genres taught at the university such as pop, classical, and jazz. However, my sound was more influenced by my favorite artists than by my surroundings.

Which singers/musicians influenced your sound?

Definitely Taylor Swift! I’ve always thought I want to write my feelings down in a ‘pretty way,’ but Taylor Swift showed me that it’s possible to do it through songs. At 17, my sound has been also inspired by Gabrielle Aplin, so most of my songs have an acoustic indie folk feel to them. Vocally, I’ve always taken Paramore’s Hayley Williams as my idol. I remember I used to beg my vocal instructors to let me practice at least one Paramore song every week, even when the class was opera singing lol.

Did your sound evolve naturally, or did you deliberately push it in a certain direction? 

It evolves naturally as I grow as a person. Sometimes I think that I should throw away the songs I wrote in university because I evolved as a songwriter so for sure I write better songs now, but I realized that’s not the case. When I play old songs I wrote, I’m like ‘wow this is good! I bet you really felt that way back then huh?’ It’s not that I’ve necessarily evolved to better or worse but the sound and genre changed, although of course vocabulary knowledge grew with time. I’ve written about eight albums so far and each one represents a time period, an era you can say, that I’ve been through. All of them together make me who I am today.

What kind of guitar do you play?

I play the acoustic guitar mainly, but I also play electric and I actually started with the classical Spanish guitar at 12 years old. I’m obsessed with wood and how it affects the sound of the guitar. It was a struggle to find a guitar for a small person like myself. The guitar used to look like a cello on me when I traveled, so after long research, I found the perfect Taylor GS mini acoustic guitar. It looks normal size on me but when my guitarist holds it, it looks like a baby guitar ha-ha. My dream is to make my own guitar one day.

What is your definition of tone? And has your tone changed over time?

Oh definitely! For me, tone is lyrics because my songs and their sound are led by my lyrics. So, my tone has changed regarding what I thought was allowed to be talked about and what I thought was taboo (especially for women). Also, I’m now more aware of what I write because unlike a normal diary where you can cuss the person you hate and close the notebook, people are now listening to my songs, so I need to make sure I use that medium to do good and send good messages that maybe one day help someone do good. I still call out the people who hurt me in my songs though ha-ha.

What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, or other media?

I just get angry lol. As simple as that. One time a friend (not a friend anymore) was saying sexist remarks and I was so angry, so I wrote 15 songs in one night. Although not all of my songs are angry ones, I do have happy and lovely songs as well in which I get inspired by the rush of feelings and emotions I get. I also get inspired by movie characters; like one song I wrote about the beautiful love relationship in the movie About Time. Sometimes I’ll be listening to a song, and it lights up an idea in me like ‘oh I can write about that topic too, I have material for it’ but these songs take longer to write (like an hour or two).

What can you share about your writing process?

I honestly don’t know how it happens. Sometimes I feel like there’s someone or something writing through me, then when the song is done, I’ll look at it and be like ‘oh that’s very good!’ as if I didn’t write it and I’m listening to it on iTunes lol. It usually goes like this: Joudi is angry or feels something, a light bulb lights up, then the lyrics, the melody, and the chords just come to me in a second and I write it down as quickly as I can. I call it ‘the sneeze.’

Which artists in your opinion are killing it right now?

Sabrina Carpenter! I love her, and her music keeps evolving and growing. She knows what she’s doing, and I like how she’s still true to her songwriting and instruments. Her songwriting is very smart, smooth, and authentic. We need more artists like her in the pop industry to keep it alive and real. Also, I have to mention how Taylor Swift is basically doing all artists, especially female artists, a favor whether it’s about owning our own music, maintaining a music career after 30, or being able to experiment with genres and styles as we grow as artists without the pressure of always being ‘young and desirable.’

What can your fans look forward to over the next six months? Music videos? Live gigs?

There will be music videos alright! I can’t say for what or how many, but I can tell you that so much music is coming their way in the next period. The fans asked for certain songs to be released and I listened and I will keep listening. I’ll be going live on TikTok and on Sessions Live. I’m not sure about live gigs yet since we’re making sure health and safety are considered, but they’ll definitely be notified on my socials.

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