Newcomer Noah Hicks fills his song lyrics with the kind of small-town signifiers — dirt roads, Mapcos, wrap-around porches, church pews and Silverados — that make his music instantly relatable to a large swath of country music fans.
In conversation, he’s equally energetic, down-to-earth and open—par for the course for a guy whose family works in real estate and owns chicken farms.
“I just got done smackin’ a chicken biscuit. The Lord’s food,” Hicks says with a laugh, before opening up about how his Georgia upbringing has impacted his work ethic as a rising singer-songwriter.
“I also grew up on a big chicken farm. I was a farm boy, so we always had to work,” he recalls. “When I got [to] a certain age, papaw paid us. Growing up the way I did, I just remember all the stuff my dad drilled into me, the five “Ps”: “Proper preparation prevents poor performance.” So even now in my career, I’m always like, “Ok, what do I need to prepare for to be better tomorrow?”
That daily commitment has taken him from opening shows for Muscadine Bloodline and Riley Green around Georgia to now releasing his debut EP, I Can Tell You’re Small Town, out Friday (April 15) via RED Creative Group.
Hicks, 23, moved to Nashville in January 2020 and quickly signed a deal with Jeremy Stover’s RED Creative Group that same year. Since then, he’s inked a deal with WME for booking, and has been out on the road opening shows for Jon Langston. He plans to release a followup EP later this year.
Over the past few months, he’s steadily released a stream of songs from I Can Tell You’re Small Town, in a sequence he calls “shot and chaser”: a duet followed by a solo track. He’s released collaborations with Rhett Akins, Langston and Travis Denning. Earlier this month, he released his latest solo track, “Dirt on It,” which he co-wrote with Michael Tyler and Paul DiGiovanni.
Below, Hicks tells Billboard about the lessons he’s learned about songwriting, the collaborations on his new EP, and the friendships he made during his journey from Georgia to Nashville.
Now that you have been co-writing in Nashville for a few years, what have you learned about songwriting?
Everyone’s approach is different. I haven’t written with Ashley Gorley, but I’ve heard he looks at it like a math problem. Cole Taylor’s a fast writer, he’s a spitballer. I’m a spitball writer, too. I’ll just lock eyes with someone and start spitting out lines. When I write with Chris DuBois and Lynn Hutton, it’s like a guitar on loop and a quiet room. For me, I think one of my strengths is innately coming up with melodies.
What is your favorite thing about writing songs?
The road is where my heart is, but songwriting has become the funnest thing for me. I feel like sometimes it’s like church. You talk about people’s problems and you learn from their mistakes. I hear stories about what others have gone through, either personally or in the industry, that help me stay positive.
You just released “Dirt on It,” which you wrote with Michael Tyler and Paul DiGiovanni. What do you recall about writing that song?
It was my first time writing with Michael. He had the chorus and we fleshed it out. Two hours later, I’m singing the demo vocal, which we ended up keeping. I love Michael’s style of writing. If you take the beat out of that song, and play it acoustic, I feel like [Jason] Aldean could sing it. Michael’s a peermusic writer, so he’s got a lot of Aldean cuts. [peermusic’s Nashville operation is led by Jason Aldean’s longtime producer Michael Knox.]
How did you team up with RED Creative?
I joined through [RED Creative Group’s vp, publishing] Taylor Lamb. His wife liked my song “Drinking Alone” that I had put on Instagram and showed it to Taylor. He reached out, and my roommate Dylan Marlowe encouraged me to take the meeting and talk with Taylor and Jeremy. I walked in the door, and just listening to Jeremy talk about music and songwriting, and knowing he worked with [RED Creative Group writer] Travis Denning, it just felt like home there.
On your upcoming EP, Ashley Cooke is featured on “Love You Too.” How did that collaboration come about?
We originally had it planned for last year, but Ashley had a bunch of good things come up. When you got bigger things, you gotta take it. So we ended up pushing it and releasing it with just me and having her do a feature on the EP. Her publisher has a room in the RED Creative building, so it was an easy pick when they brought up who I would want on the feature.
The EP’s opener, “Drinkin’ in a College Town,” features Travis Denning and Jon Langston. You have a pretty close relationship with Jon and are on tour with him.
He’s been a part of my life and career for years. His guitar player was my producer for the first three songs. I’ve been watching him from the start. His live show is impeccable. He just brings the kind of energy I want to bring. His whole crew has been so great to us. When we didn’t have a merch guy come out on the road, his guy did all of their merch and ours. His tour manager has been a runner for me on tour sometimes and his bass player sang harmonies on my first single. Jon’s a friend, but he’s also someone I’ve always looked up to, even when I was 16 years old, singing [Langston’s songs] “Cigarettes and Me” and “Hammer Down.”
What would you have done if you were not doing music?
I would probably tint windows. I did that in high school and you can make a lot of money doing that, especially commercial window tint. I hope that I would make enough money doing that that I could buy a farm.
Collaborations are all over the country radio charts these days. Who would you most want to do a collaboration with?
It would have to be based on the song. Obviously Morgan Wallen. I have one of the first Morgan Wallen shirts I know of, because it was one of his very first tours in 2016 or 2017. I would want to have a song like the one he did with Chris Stapleton [“Only Thing That’s Gone”], a really cool songwriting song.
What was your first concert you’ve ever been to?
I didn’t go to many concerts until I was like 16 or 17, because I really liked money as a kid. I liked working hard, saving money and my parents didn’t want me running around doing a bunch of crazy stuff. I do remember watching Riley Green early on. I remember seeing a show of his and noticed there were a lot of record label-type people there. The goal is to not go to the record label, but make the record labels come to you, and that’s what he did.
What was one of the best concerts you have seen?
I saw Guns N’ Roses. At the time, I was really into playing electric guitar, so seeing Slash was cool.