Singer-songwriter Andrew Newman believes in music like others believe in religion. He speaks of its infinite power. He has faith in its mystical hand. He is a devoted celebrant.
The creative force behind Lo Noom, the moniker he uses for his music, Newman was hailed as a “teenage prodigy” by the Clarion Ledger in 2015. He dismissed the headline, saying it was “probably just an attention-getter.” His talent as a songwriter, musician and producer garners nearly 20,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, all before his final year as an integrated marketing communications major at the University of Mississippi.
But it hasn’t always been this way.
Newman, raised in Hattiesburg as the youngest of four children, started learning guitar in the third grade from an instructor. That was all he needed to start writing.
“I started writing songs pretty much as soon as I started playing guitar,” he said. “Then, I don’t know. It just kind of developed, and I’ve always kept doing it.”
In high school, he released two albums: “Groovy” and “Pretty Woman.” Since, he has released a few singles and a mixtape titled “Dorm Room Beats.” His music blends genres, using his own guitar and vocal parts with samples of other songs, like a Bob Dylan/Kanye mashup.
Though he has not been able to write or record much since the semester started, Newman said he was writing three or four songs a day in the summer. He said he doesn’t balance school with music easily and that, during the semester, he is “just trying to survive.”
Even so, he takes time to jam with friends in the house he shares with two others and is considering starting a band with them.
Just before the interview for this article, Newman was strumming with a friend, eyes lighting up behind clear-framed glasses and dirty blond hair shifting slightly with each strum. A deer head on the wall is the only audience, couches and a coffee table their stage.
Newman said he prefers this to his solo performances at Proud Larry’s. Being the center of attention makes him uncomfortable, and he frets about it the entire day of the performance. He prefers to do what feels comfortable and right, leaving the rest to fate.
“If it happens, that’s what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “Whatever happens in my life is like way out of my control. The reason I’m here isn’t stuff that I strategized or planned in advance. It just happened.”
Newman, while not planning his musical path, believes there’s more going on than just chance.
“I believe that there is a fate and a purpose for me, maybe one that I wouldn’t necessarily like right now if I saw what would happen to me,” he said.
Even so, he explained that, as a friend described to him, 90 percent of his life happens by chance, and the 10 percent that he tries to control works against his intentions.
Choosing to study IMC instead of music leaves less time for chasing an elusive career in music, but Newman resists a definite trajectory for the next few years of his life.
“I definitely think I’m good at (music), and I enjoy doing it, and I wonder why I’m good at it. It may not be what I do,” he explained while fidgeting with scissors on the couch, socked feet resting on the coffee table. “Maybe my only purpose in being able to play the guitar and being slightly successful with it is being able to inspire one other kid that decides to pick up the guitar because of it, and then he becomes huge. I don’t know.”
This is how Newman finds divinity in music. There is infinite connection and possibility, and at the same time all music already exists, simply being discovered, he said. The more he practices, the less fear he has and the more connection he feels with the source of it all.
“There is something infinite about it. I just like it. It’s just cool to make a painting or a reflection of yourself and put it out in the universe,” he said pensively. “Whether or not you’re directly saying what you’re feeling, it’s the fact that you can shoot something out into the universe and people can connect with it in different ways. They may not even be able to put their fingers on it, but there’s something about it. There’s something about it to me to.”
Newman admits that he doesn’t understand these sacred forces, especially in his own music. His most popular song, “Pretty Woman,” has been streamed over 300,000 times on Spotify. Newman says he doesn’t know why. He’s not sure what the songs mean to others or even what they mean to him.
“I don’t even fully know what I mean by infinite,” he said. “It’s like, there are these laws, like the law of gravity. But with music, it’s something you can’t even see. All these songs that haven’t even been written are already there.”
To explain this concept, Newman referenced the Beatles’ 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
“‘Sgt. Pepper’s the album was there, and all the Beatles had to do was grab it. They pulled it out of infinity,” Newman said. “It’s all the amazing, beautiful melodies, chord progressions, beats. I don’t even know what it is. I don’t even know if we’re experiencing music in a way that we will in the future. There may be something even bigger that you can pull out of the infinity.”
Isaac Jones, a junior psychology major and fellow musician, said Newman represents a new wave of musicians and creativity.
“There’s something to when you’ve written as much as he has and you produce your own stuff,” Jones said. “That’s such a new idea, the idea of producing in your room. It’s a new horizon that he’s tapped into. There’s no limit to that creativity.”
Newman’s focus on production over gear – he hardly knows how to restring a guitar – marks the shifting focus of some young musicians.
“The production is so much better than you would expect,” said Andrew Miramond, who was lauded by the others as a “student of the guitar.” “The first time I heard Andrew’s music on Spotify, I thought, ‘Oh my, that is way more in-depth, complex and well-written that I thought it would have been.’”
To Newman, it’s just about following the spirit of music wherever it leads him.
“It’s bigger than (following popular musicians or trends) to me,” he said. “I just think music is super cool, and songwriting is another thing that’s really cool. It’s the infinity of music.”