Artist - Noah Kahan & Hozier 2
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‘Northern Attitude’ by Noah Kahan & Hozier - Lyrics & Meaning

November 10, 2023 12:01 am GMT
Last Edited December 18, 2023 9:10 pm GMT

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Noah Kahan & Hozier - ‘Northern Attitude’

Label: Mercury Records & Republic Records

Release Date: 10th November 2023

Album: Stick Season (We'll All Be Here Forever)

Producer: Gabe Simon

Songwriter: Gabe Simon & Noah Kahan

The Background:

After a plethora of teasers and snippets and live performances, Noah Kahan and Hozier have finally teamed up to release a brand new version of ’Northern Attitude’.

The haunting, anthemic song appears as the first track on Noah's widely acclaimed Stick Season (We'll All Be Here Forever) project, which was released earlier in the year.

Throughout the latter half of 2023, Noah Kahan and Hozier have joined forces on-stage a couple of times, first to perform Hozier's ‘Work Song’ and then to deliver a stunning duet of ‘Northern Attitude’ during Noah Kahan's Nashville show in early October.

This led fans to speculate that a Hozier-assisted version of ‘Northern Attitude’ could be the latest in Noah Kahan's fun and hugely popular 2023 series of duets, with the Vermont native releasing collaborations with Kacey Musgraves (‘She Calls Me Back’), Zach Bryan (‘Sarah's Place’), Lizzy McAlpine (‘Call Your Mom’) and Post Malone (‘Dial Drunk’). At long last, Noah confirmed the new rendition of ‘Northern Attitude’ with his good buddy, Hozier, would be released on November 10th 2023.

The Sound:

Both versions of ‘Northern Attitude’ open with a lively, zig-zagging strum of a mandolin, with Noah Kahan's soft, intricate vocals gently entering the foray. We get a contrast between the vivacity of the instrumental and the sparseness of Noah's delivery, with the energy of the backing hinting at the rip-roaring hook that's on the way.

The mandolin gains momentum as we approach the chorus, with Noah powerfully drenching his vocals in his now-signature reverb, giving the hook an additional sense of gravitas.

The introduction of a cinematic piano intensifies the ambience of ‘Northern Attitude’, which ensures this has become one of the keystones of Noah Kahan's live setlist this year.

Hozier keeps the lyrics to the second verse the same, but his hauntingly soulful and evocative voice brings an entirely new feeling of angst and drama to the track. When Noah and Hozier's vocals combine for the last rendition of the hook and for the soaring, euphoric finale, before stripping it all back for the last few lines.

The Meaning:

“Breathing in, breathing out
How you been?
Settled down?”

We begin with the protagonist in the midst of a common technique for quietening anxiety through meditative breathing, which hints at the underlying worries and fears he's harbouring.

He then starts a conversation with someone, asking how they're doing and whether they've ‘settled down’. Although this refers to the idea of them having a wife and children, it also suggests the deeper question of whether they're feeling ‘settled’, at ease and at peace.

“Feeling right?
Feeling proud?
How’re your kids?
Where are they now?

You build a boat
You build a life
You lose your friends
You lose your wife

You settle in
To routine
Where are you?
What does it mean?”

Noah Kahan clearly warms to the idea of pursuing a long term relationship, before doubts and concerns about the possibility of losing it all due to his mistakes cloud his judgement.

Throughout ‘Nothern Attitude’, we get a duality between the stability of a family life and the impending dread of it all going wrong, which belies the insecurities of our protagonist.

“If I get too close
and I’m not how you hoped
Forgive my northern attitude
Oh, I was raised out in the cold

If the sun don't rise
‘till the summertime
Forgive my northern attitude
Oh, I was raised on little light”

Noah Kahan vulnerably lays his flaws out on the table to his prospective partner, as he uses the metaphor of the cold, hostile winters in his home-state of Vermont to convey his sense of isolation and occasionally bleak outlook on the future of the relationship.

He asks his lover to forgive him for any challenges his perspective might present, viscerally blaming his pessimism on the fact that he was “raised on little light”.

“Bought some shit
Search online
Getting lost
Getting high

All alone
Late in life
Scared to live
Scared to die”

Hozier's verses detail how the protagonist attempts to distract himself from his anxieties by purchasing random items online and turning to the temporary relief of drugs.

He gives the listener a snapshot of the life of loneliness he's hurtling toward as a result of his reluctance to let himself get swept up in the throes of a new - but scary - romance.

“Settle down
Feeling lost
Getting stoned
Then kicking rocks”

Here, we get a twist on the similar earlier verse, with Hozier highlighting his feeling of having lost his way through the clever play on words, as he describes “Getting stoned / Then kicking rocks”.

Despite ‘Northern Attitude’ being movingly coloured by the autumnal and wintery palette of isolation and anxiety that Noah Kahan so deftly draws on throughout Stick Season, the hook brings in a welcome sense of comforting forgiveness.

Although seemingly directed at his lover, the titular lyric, “Forgive my northern attitude”, could be seen as an internal plea, with Noah attempting to forgive himself for his perceived flaws.

What has Noah Kahan said about ‘Northern Attitude’?

Endearingly, Noah Kahan has repeatedly underlined how excited he is to have collaborated with one of his icons, with the ‘Stick Season’ hitmaker sharing on X (formerly Twitter), “Can you believe this lol it’s hozier on my song and I won’t ever be over it”.

He also took to TikTok to joke that fans were no longer allowed to listen to the solo version of ‘Northern Attitude’, “I'm broken up about, I'm heartbroken, as you can see, emotion is pouring out of me, I'm a mess. The reason is that you can now only listen to the version featuring Hozier...so if I catch you listening to the original ‘Northern Attitude’...”.

For the full lyrics to Noah Kahan and Hozier's ‘Northern Attitude’, see below:

“Breathing in, breathing out
How you been?
Settled down?

Feeling right?
Feeling proud?
How’re your kids?
Where are they now?

You build a boat
You build a life
You lose your friends
You lose your wife

You settle in
To routine
Where are you?
What does it mean?

If I get too close
and I’m not how you hoped
Forgive my northern attitude
Oh, I was raised out in the cold

If the sun don't rise
‘till the summertime
Forgive my northern attitude
Oh, I was raised on little light

Bought some shit
Search online
Getting lost
Getting high

All alone
Late in life
Scared to live
Scared to die

You build a boat
You build a life
You lose your kids
You lose your wife

Settle down
Feeling lost
Getting stoned
Then kicking rocks

If I get too close
and I’m not how you hoped
Forgive my northern attitude
Oh, I was raised out in the cold

If the sun don't rise
‘till the summertime
Forgive my northern attitude
Oh, I was raised on little light

If you get too close
and I’m not how you hoped
Forgive my northern attitude
Oh, I was raised out in the cold

If the sun don't shine
‘till the summertime
Forgive my northern attitude
Oh, I was raised on little light”

For more on Noah Kahan, see below:

Written by Maxim Mower
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