On The Row: Leah Nobel Shares Vulnerable Tracks Inspired By 100 Interviews

Pictured (L-R): Leah Nobel, MusicRow owner/publisher Sherod Robertson. Photo: Haley Crow

Big Yellow Dog’s Leah Nobel dropped by the MusicRow office to give a sampling of her Running In Borrowed Shoes project. Inspired and adapted from 100 interviews she conducted during the course of about a year, Running In Borrowed Shoes is a broad look at humanity. With emotional, honest conversations with a diverse collection of people as her goal, Nobel has created a 10-track body of work with subject matter in vulnerability, love, loss, resilience and more.

Nobel interviewed 52 women and 48 men from all walks of life, ranging in age from 6 to 93. Nobel says 80 percent of them were strangers.

“Sometimes I would go somewhere with this sign that said: ‘Come Talk To Me,'” Nobel explained. “It was really easy to find people to interview with. The truth is people like talking about themselves, it’s just part of being human.”

The questions Nobel asked were specifically designed to avoid small talk. She often started off with the question, “What do you not want people to know about you?”

“I did interview some people that I knew for the project and if I could go back and do it all over again, I would just interview strangers because strangers felt safer,” Nobel said. “They were like, ‘she doesn’t have any reason to judge me. She doesn’t know me.'”

With a programmer on hand, Nobel performed three songs of the electronic project. Running In Borrowed Shoes was produced by Grammy-award winning producer Pete Stewart (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, DC Talk, Toby Mac).


Photo: Haley Crow

The ethereal “Good Enough” discusses contagious self-doubt and how we all feel like we’re not ‘good enough,’ sometimes.

“[“Good Enough”] was inspired by the most commonly spoken phrase in my interviews, which is people confiding that they don’t feel good enough. Whether it’s body image issues or they don’t feel like a good enough parent or good enough at their job, that was a very consistent part of my interview process and I knew I had to write a song about it.”

The dreamy “Coffee, Sunday, NYT” is about breaking the cycle of business and finding pleasure in the smaller things of life.

“This was based off of two interviews that I did with older women who were both ill at the time. One woman is still with us and the other one passed away a few months after I interviewed her, which is a really strange feeling to talk to a stranger in the last months of her life,” Nobel shared. “I asked [the first woman] what her favorite simple pleasure is and she said, ‘A cup of coffee, The New York Times, and a Sunday morning.'”

“Steps,” the only song on the record translated directly from one person’s interview, tells the story of a refugee from the Rwandan genocide. The lyrics talk about betrayal and anger, and are specific enough to tell the refugee’s story, while still being vague enough for anyone to relate to.

Running In Borrowed Shoes will be released in February. “Good Enough,” “Coffee, Sunday, NYT,” “Steps,” and “Slow Burn” are available now.


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About the Author

LB Cantrell is Project Manager at MusicRow magazine. She heads up specific, large-scale projects for the company and assists in day-to-day tasks. LB also manages the MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart and contributes editorial for both the print and online platforms. She joined MusicRow full time in January of 2019, after interning and working part time for the company for a year. She is from Blairsville, Georgia and graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a Music Business degree in 2018.

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