Long Lake singer-songwriter Steve Noonan’s lyrics travel the spectrum of love, loss and life. But during one recent concert, he took the stage to give back: to inspire and educate concertgoers about bone marrow donation.
The New Jersey native has an acute ear for storytelling since he’d been writing music and lyrics even before he studied songwriting at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, and later worked in recording/engineering with other musicians, including Prince at Paisley Park.
While Noonan is currently a sales representative by day, the “medium rock” artist finds full-time inspiration in his lyric and music writing, though he doesn’t favor one over the other. “They are two different animals,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to live without one or the other.” A song isn’t complete even after his pen lifts from the page or his playing hands grow still. “It’s not done until I’m happy with it,” he says. “I don’t like to settle.” And he shouldn’t settle. With a resonant baritone voice, Noonan creates a musical synergy that can play inspiring or calming, depending on the story he’s telling.
Recording in Minneapolis and Nashville, Noonan has released three albums: Steve Noonan (2009), A Mile Long (2012) and I Could Be Anywhere (2015). The most recent two included collaborations with Nashville-based producer Dustin Burnett. With the support of a rhythm section, Steve’s 12-string guitar and voice work in concert. Outside the recording studio, Noonan savors the opportunity to perform before live audiences. “That’s the great thing about performing—hearing the audience’s reaction,” he says. “It’s just a thrill.”
Recently, that thrill extended to more than just the music, as Noonan shared his skills with nonprofit Sharing America’s Marrow (SAM). One of SAM’s leaders is Sam Kimura, 22, who was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia at age 17. While she manages her condition with medication, her only option for a cure is a bone marrow transplant. To raise awareness of the issue, Sam, along with her sister Alex Kimura and Taylor Shorten, started SAM in January, and have since been organizing Donor Jams, a series of touring events that pair music with education to shed light on the need and process for bone marrow donors.
Steve’s wife, Anne, learned about SAM when she heard Alex on the radio. “I immediately knew this was a special group and a really meaningful way to reach people across America,” Anne says.
Steve Noonan was on board right away. “It’s hard not to get involved when you hear their story,” he says. “It sounded like something we’d like to be associated with.”
Noonan also mentioned that the process to get checked to be a bone marrow donor is easier than many believe. “It’s just a little swab to the inside of your cheek.” The swabs are sent to a national database, which has discovered 90 matches since SAM’s inception in January 2015.
The program, which launched in Louisville, Kentucky, had several July stops in Minnesota, including the Steve Noonan Band show at Insight Brewing, where Noonan says the event drew a large crowd.
“People don’t know that they could potentially save a life by being a bone marrow donor, or they think that giving marrow is incredibly painful (it’s not),” the SAM website notes. “We want to change these [perceptions] by taking the information to the people, wherever they may be.”
Check out photos from Steve Noonan's Donor Jam Concert here.