By Maxim Mower
After starring in the latest instalment of Zach Bryan's hugely popular Belting Bronco sessions series, Noeline Hofmann spoke to Holler about the process of recording the video in Oklahoma, working with Zach, her upcoming single ‘Purple Gas’ and more.
As is tradition for any Belting Bronco episode, Hofmann spends the 6-minute clip performing from the back of Zach's beloved Ford Bronco, as they drive around the sparse, atmospheric landscape of Oklahoma. In one of those accidental flourishes of poetry that life often gifts us, the setting perfectly reflects the lyrics of Hofmann's viral hit, ’Purple Gas’, which she performs during the video.
The surroundings seem to convey the perennial tussle between the comforting quietude and the weary isolation of rural America, which cuts to the heart of Hofmann's stirringly perceptive ode to a life spent outside the rules of time on a farm (“You can dull the edge, you can look ahead / But can’t get there, it goes on forever”).
Noeline Hofmann touches on the inspiration behind ‘Purple Gas’, which pivots around the dyed, subsidised fuel used by farmers in Canada, “The song is a combination of all the experiences I've had growing up...witnessing rural hardship and watching how people deal with those realities and carry on. Our farmers and ranchers are some of the most resilient folks around...When I wrote the song, it was coming up on a year since I'd left the ranch job I was working on in Manitoba, and I was thinking about my boss...You're part of the family on those kinds of jobs. So I was reflecting on that experience, and how much my life had changed since I left the ranch. I went from working on the ranch to all of a sudden being in a full-blown music career, which was quite a crazy change”.
After sharing the unreleased snippet on socials, it drew the attention of Zach, whose own success was formed off the back of viral renditions of ‘Condemned’ and ‘Heading South’. Zach's interest highlights his keenness to showcase the artists following in his footsteps.
Noeline Hofmann shares how Zach first came across ‘Purple Gas’, “I had a clip of purple gas on TikTok which started to pick up traction, and then I posted it on Instagram. Zach ended up seeing it and loved the song. That's when we connected, and...when he first reached out to us, he said, ‘This would be amazing in the Bronco’”.
Although delighted, Noeline Hofmann confesses she didn't believe this compliment would amount to her shooting her own Belting Bronco session, “I was flattered, but I didn't really think [that's how it] would unfold. Then, a few weeks later, he asked for the full demo and we started working on logistics for it...A couple of months later, they flew my brother and I down [to Oklahoma] and we did the video”.
Excitingly, the Alberta singer-songwriter confirms she'll be releasing ‘Purple Gas’ later this year, with her Belting Bronco performance being the first time she'd shared the full song with fans, alongside the bass and fiddle courtesy of Zach's band-members.
Hofmann recalls how they weren't familiar with ‘Purple Gas’ before the day of filming, “We were just driving around...It was a really relaxed day. It was a lot of fun. We did quite a few takes, you know, to warm up the guys. They didn't know the song beforehand. They did a great job of supporting the song and we had we had so much fun”.
She underlines, “They're such pros and so friendly. They picked it up really quickly and we got to know each other really fast - being cramped up in the back of the Bronco! I was a little bit nervous, because I've only ever performed the song acoustically before, with maybe a little guitar and fiddle on the side. So it was different to add bass to it - but it was the right call, and I'm so glad we did”.
In the video itself, although the spotlight rightly shines most radiantly on Noeline Hofmann, Zach Bryan can be seen towards the end taking some shots and giving direction.
Despite Zach's megastar status, he's still the lifeblood of the Belting Broncos, as Hofmann attests, “Oh, [Zach is] so hands on. Zach filmed a lot of it, and it was filmed by his main camera guy [Louie Nice] as well. But [Zach] was on the camera the whole time. He's really passionate about it, and I believe he edited the video together. [Jamie Hamburg and Austin Madison] did the audio, but it's [Zach's] baby for sure”.
Hofmann goes on to cite the stripped-back nature of the performance, which aligns with the acoustic outdoor videos she's been posting across her socials, as making her feel “right at home”.
The enchantingly bare-bones recording accentuates the evocative rawness of ‘Purple Gas’, and it seems we can look forward to this song appearing on Zach Bryan's previously teased Belting Bronco compilation album - a prospect Hofmann relishes, “We haven't talked about that, but I would be so excited. If that was to come about - and I hope it does - I think it'll be a really great and unique project”.
It's a proud moment not only for Noeline Hofmann, but for her family and all those keenly keeping tabs on her ascent back in her hometown in Alberta, Canada. As ‘Purple Gas’ demonstrates, Hofmann places her roots at the forefront of her music, with her ‘Wild Rose Country’ brand stemming from the official Alberta slogan.
In a scene dominated by artists from US states such as West Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma, does Noeline Hofmann feel the pressure of being one of the few new voices representing the region?
The Canadian prodigy muses, “It's a strange feeling. Because there are so many artists here in Alberta that have been an important part of my musical journey...It's such an honour to have the opportunity to put Alberta on the map a little bit, but it's also humbling...There are others that would do such a great job of it as well, but I definitely feel some responsibility and pride coming from Alberta”.
It's this endearing humility and sensibility coupled with Noeline Hofmann's immense wealth of talent that makes her such a formidable figure in 2024's new wave of artists.
At present, this Belting Bronco session is the high-point of her career, but in the months to come, you can't help but feel it'll be viewed simply as one of the many telling signals of Hofmann's impending evolution into one of the leading lights of the genre.