When Noah Gundersen writes a song about God, it's because the Centralia native has something to get off his chest. He's skeptical about Christianity, a


Interview: Noah Gundersen, playing tonight at the Comet

When Noah Gundersen writes a song about God, it's because the Centralia native has something to get off his chest. He's skeptical about Christianity, a religion he was raised in but no longer practices. On the song "Jesus, Jesus," Gundersen addresses the higher being directly, asking whether the world is going is end and why any benevolent God would let people suffer. "Could you tell me what the problem is with the world and all the people in it?" he sings. "There are those that say they love you, but they've treated me so goddamn mean."

They're heavy thoughts for a 20-year-old with dreadlocks, but Gundersen thinks he's not the only person with these kind of questions. "I've just gotten the feeling there's just a lot of people in that position," he said. "They want to believe in something, but it's hard." And he's not afraid to raise those questions, regardless of his audience. In April, he performed with David Bazan -- the Seattle singer-songwriter whose been lyrically questioning God for more than a decade -- at Seattle Pacific University, a Christian college. Earlier this month, he performed at the Q Cafe, an all ages venue that was started by Quest Church. His 17-year-old younger sister, Abby, is still a practicing Christian, and she plays violin in his band.

While pondering the big questions, Gundersen is currently touring and hoping to record his first full length album later this year. He performs tonight at 9 p.m. the Comet.

What's the first band you remember hearing that inspired you to play music?

I grew up in more of a religious home, so until I was 12, I couldn't listen to non-Christian music. There were a lot fights with my parents about that. We get along great now, they're really cool, but I was the first child, too, and kind of the guinea pig. But the first band I really got into was probably the Counting Crows. Damien Rice was another one, who I still like now.

Are you still a practicing Christian?

I wouldn't say I am. I don't really know what I am. After moving out [of my parents' house], I started to become really disillusioned with the church, and things that don't make sense, and just the hurt that had been caused by a lot of Christians and religious people. So, I kind of cut my ties to a lot of that and have been slowly reworking my own personal theology. I believe in a God, but I wouldn't say I have any personal relationship with a divine being, of any religion. But it's something I want to understand more.

How does that influence a song like, "Jesus, Jesus?"

Growing up in a Christian home, there's something that gets so deeply ingrained in you, I don't think you every really lose it. You don't have to have a relationship with someone to talk to them. It's more about just voicing my thoughts and issues with Christianity. And it seemed the best way to do that was to go directly to the source.

What was it like playing at Seattle Pacific University?

It was great. It was really fun, especially because we got to play with David (Bazan). I really enjoy playing for an audience that might not be familiar with my music. I like the challenge. It makes me up my game a little bit. But, do you mean the fact it's more of a religious campus?

That's what I'm wondering.

I think we might push a couple buttons, but that's not something we're trying to do. I don't want to go out and intentionally upset people or offend people. But I feel like I have come to a good balance of taking that into consideration: Knowing who I am and this is my music, but presenting it in a way that's vulnerable and honest and if people disagree with ti, that's great. But hopefully there will be people in those audiences who will really resonate with it, and it will touch them somewhere deep in their hearts.

What's it like playing with David Bazan, who is so openly critical of Christianity?

That show was so great. I hadn't heard any of his newest stuff [off the upcoming release Curse Your Branches] and I felt so moved by it. I hadn't felt that way from someone's lyrics in a long time... I think growing up in a religious scene, when you come out of it, you're kind of bitter and cynical, and it's easy just to kind of have generalizations like, 'I'm not a Christian, I don't believe in God,' but not really getting into it. Because it's kind of scary, to actually start to questions some things lik,e where do we go when we die? Is belief in a God logical? Is there a creator? And free willl? I think that's what impressed me most about David's set. It seems like he had spent a lot of time, just digging into those issues that are kind of scary.

He's not vague at all, about what he's saying. He's really direct in his criticism of God.

Which nobody does, and which is really inspiring for me. We had played our set, it was kind of this wild abandon. It was fun. But to watch David play... we was mature, he's been writing for at least 10 years. That's where I'd like to be someday -- maybe not exactly like that, but just being that well thought out. He's a really mature songwriter. And that was really inspirational.

Are you surprised when you meet other songwriters with a Christian background? Does it seem like there's a lot of them in Washington?

I guess I've never really thought about it. Because it's what I grew up with, and my background, it's never been something that is surprising to me.

Does that background fit into all your songwriting?

No, it's just one aspect of my life. I would sell myself short just to focus on that. Religious imagery does tend to come up frequently l in my songs, whether it's just in an artistic way, or whether it's genuinely questioning. I think a lot of that has to do with how I was raised, and that there's really beautiful religious imagery. I think it's really powerful in art and pretty widely recognized, so it resonates with a lot of people, even if they don't have a religious background. There are just really great stories in the Bible.

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