Nick Noonan says being from Maine really helped him get through the “crazy” days of pop music success a couple years ago.
Noonan’s group, Karmin, landed two hits on the Billboard singles chart in 2012 with “Brokenhearted” and “Hello.” Soon the duo was on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, and on a slew of TV shows, including “Saturday Night Live.”
But through that whirlwind of success, Noonan grew to count on his family and friends from Old Town to help him keep things in perspective.
“When things were crazy, when we were hanging out with Questlove and going on SNL, I’d go back to Old Town and my friends would be like ‘Wow, that’s really cool. Are we hanging out tomorrow or what?'” said Noonan, 30. “They would acknowledge it, what was going on, but not make a big deal out of. I’ve met a lot of people, but I don’t think anyone is exactly like Mainers.”
Noonan will get to hang out with plenty of Mainers on Sunday when Karmin plays the annual Old Port Festival. Noonan performs in the group with his wife, singer and rapper Amy Noonan, and the pair will be at the Coast 93.1 stage at Middle and Pearl streets at 2 p.m.
The festival, as usual, is a great place to see free live music. More than two dozen national, regional and local acts will perform throughout the day. Students from the Maine Academy of Modern Music (MAMM) will perform as well.
Besides Karmin, musical highlights include: Nick Fradiani, a Connecticut native who won the 2015 edition of TV’s “American Idol”; Parachute, a pop band with radio hits, including “She Is Love”; Scars on 45, a British indie rock band; and Amy and The Engine, a Boston pop band featuring Mainer Amy Allen as lead singer. The festival on Sunday, which is a lot more than music, kicks off at 11 a.m. with a parade and will feature entertainment, food vendors, rides and amusements, a ferris wheel and more. See the complete festival schedule at Portlandmaine.com.
Karmin will play Portland in the midst of a transition for the group. After the release of its second album, “Pulses” in 2014, Karmin left Epic Records to make music independently. Noonan and his wife (née Amy Heidemann) met and became a couple while at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, around 2005. Noonan was there to study trombone, and Heidemann had a vocal scholarship.
They had first gained attention in 2010 and 2011 with YouTube videos showing them covering pop hits, and they were quickly swept up into the music business. As success hit, Noonan said, they felt comfortable in their musical abilities but a little overwhelmed by the business side of music.
So once they had a minute to breath, Noonan said he and Amy decided they wanted more control over what they were doing.
“It was an amazing experience to be on a major label, but we felt like we had gotten everything we could get,” said Noonan. At that level, “there are so many other people involved in a song.”
So Karmin recorded the album “Leo Rising” and began releasing one song at a time, for free, last year. The album in its entirety will be released later this year, by the duo’s own Karmin Music label.
The songs are all based on signs of the zodiac. Noonan says that’s because it was a free astrology reading that advised them how to ask Epic for their release.
Noonan said that during the reading they were given hints and clues about how to deal with their label. They were told when they should communicate with Epic, between certain dates. And they were told that Noonan should negotiate the release, not Amy. The strategies worked, and Karmin was able to leave Epic.
“It’s too bizarre to be true, but it is,” Noonan said.
The song “Sugar” is just starting to get some radio airplay. While not as bouncy as “Brokenhearted,” it is catchy, fun and showcases Amy Noonan’s vocal range and the incredible velocity she has when rapping.
Noonan sings a little on some of the duo’s songs, but he understands that his wife’s voice is an attention-getter. The Red sox fan puts it this way: “If you want to win the World Series, you have to put your best pitcher on the mound.”
Noonan credits the Old Town public school music program, specifically the jazz band, with helping him to get where he is now. When he and his wife were in Maine visiting family in 2012, they were asked by one of Noonan’s cousins to come play at their school, Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth.
They said yes right away. Partly because it wasn’t long ago they to were sitting in a classroom, looking for some guidance and inspiration.
“It was fun to go to Yarmouth and see all the kids, and how the world is still so fresh to them,” Noonan said.
Who’s playing where at the Old Port Festival, Sunday in Portland. All performances are free.
Coast 93.1 Stage at Middle and Pearl Streets
12 p.m. — Tickle, Maine cover band
1 p.m. — Nick Fradiani, pop singer from Connecticut who won TV’s American Idol in 2015
2 p.m. — Karmin, hit-making pop duo featuring Old Town native Nick Noonan and his wife, Amy Noonan.
3 p.m. — Parachute, pop band known for the hit “She Is Love,” among others.
4 p.m. — The Time Pilots, Maine party band
WCLZ Stage at Silver and Fore Streets
12 p.m. — Armies, Portland indie pop group including Dave Gutter and Anna Lombard
1 p.m. — Amy and the Engine, Boston-based pop band with Maine native Amy Allen singing lead
2 p.m. — Scars on 45, indie rock band from England
3:45 p.m. — Jason Spooner Band, Portland roots-rock band
WPOR Stage at Middle and Temple Streets (Emerging country artists)
12 p.m. — American Ride
1 p.m. — Matt Gary
2 p.m. — Drew Baldridge
3 p.m. — Dylan Scott
4 p.m. — Brooke Eden
Dispatch Stage at Fore and Union streets
12 p.m. — Hi Tiger, Portland electronic dance band
1 p.m. — Murcielago, Portland hard rock band
2 p.m. — Sara Hallie Richardson, Portland pop singer
3 p.m. — Jeff Beam, Portland psychedelic rock artist
4 p.m. — Sunset Hearts, Portland electronic pop group
Townsquare Media Stage at Monument Square
12:15 p.m. — Shawn Hook, electronic pop artist from Canada
1 p.m. — The Darren Bissette Band, Massachusetts-based country band
2 p.m. — The Summer Set, Arizona-based pop rock group
3 p.m. — PVRIS, emerging hard rock band from Boston
MAMM Stage at Dana and Commercial streets
Noon — Maine Youth Rock Orchestra
12:15 p.m. — Kids Rock featuring, Rift, The Mean Faces and The Snooks
1 p.m. — Girls Rock featuring The Escapades, Inside Joke, Mad Dads and Yard Sail
2 p.m. — 2016 MAMM SLAM winners, Work In Progress
2:30 p.m. — Kids and Teens Open stage with Toast, Sadie Grant and Liam Swift
3:30 p.m. — Teens Rock with the Allegories, Kid, Crash Culture, Chaotic Rotations
For more information go to Portlandmaine.com