Back in August 1st I woke up like any other day. Had my morning ritual and after having breakfast I sat down to start working. A few minutes later I received an email from Noah’s dad, Marc Benardout, asking me to call him urgently and before I could I received a call from him. As soon as I heard his voice I knew something was wrong, then I heard him say that Noah was killed by a drunk driver. My first reaction was a desperate.. no, no, no… My heart broke in disbelief, outraged and just in shock.
It took a few days of processing and integrating this alternate reality I felt in. Also in respect for his family I didn’t feel like sharing anything in public yet.
What I want to share with you about Noah is not his death but the life I was fortunate to have with him. When he passed I wrote him the following letter. I want to share this with all of you so you get to learn about him and the importance and impact he had in my life.
Thanks to him I became the musician I am now. A 17 year old friendship that started when he was 7.
Thank you for reading.
I still very vividly recall the day we met. I was sitting at my computer playing a video game when the phone ringed. I think at the time I still had a phone line so I had to get up to the phone to answer. It was 2002 if I remember right. I got the phone and it was your dad, Marc, he was wondering if I was still coming to your house because we scheduled a guitar lesson, I completely forgot, Shit!!
I told Marc – I’ll be there soon!!
I drove to your home and your parents answered the door. I was so nervous and ashamed for forgetting about the lesson but Marc and Marie always have a smile on their face and immediately made me feel at peace and welcomed.
They led me to a room where you were sitting, a 7 year old kid with a guitar on the lap. I sat next to you, in front of the tv, and I noticed there was a playstation. I made some conversation about games, if I remember right we talked about FIFA, I used to love playing that game.
The next question was the moment where everything changed for me. The answer to that question launched us into a relationship of self discovery through music.
I asked you – So… why do you want learn guitar? To which you replied- because I want to write my own songs!!
I was thrilled with the challenge and the opportunity to teach like this. You were the first beginner student who answers that. Most of them are pushed by their parents to do it because they got a guitar for Christmas, or some want to learn their favorite songs, others because they played guitar hero and felt they could actually play the guitar, but it’s so rare that someone wants to learn to write songs at 7 years of age.
And so our journey began , we started with single string melodies and simple rhythms and all of the sudden you would just start writing lyrics to those “exercises”, clever phrases and structures, a story, like your already have lived tons of years of experiences, like you’ve already loved and had your heart broken a couple of times.
It was crazy. So I started to reflect myself in you. The simplicity and honesty of those songs showed me the way for me to do the same.
At this point of my life I had already spent 10 years playing the guitar. I spent those years perfecting my technique, learning songs and having a couple of bands.
When I started playing I was a mix of the other type of students. I had to do an activity outside of school and playing songs sounded fun. But I never wrote a song during those years. I felt I couldn’t, so a year before we met I was depressed, I felt lost, I had no idea what was next for me after finishing MI (Musicians Institute)… No songs, no band.
So I started teaching.
You learn so much when you teach. And what I learned with you transformed my life, gave me hope, made me dream again, I saw it all possible. From that moment on I felt our lives were in a parallel experience.
I helped you write your songs from day 1, showed you chords, rhythms, all the tools you need to use the guitar. I saw you cry of pain on your fingers and pushed you to keep going. Always so sensitive and unafraid of showing your feelings.
It was such a beautiful experience to write those songs. I wonder if you remember I gave you your first songbook/journal for your bday. You filled it up quick.
We would see each other once a week but at some point we were meeting twice a week. I remember that season of double meetings because I designated the money I was making from teaching you as my fund to go study in Spain. I started having an interest for flamenco music and it would be the first time I would pay for my own education.
I left 3 or 4 months and it was also a life changing experience. I came back from Spain with so much inspiration to make my first album. I invited you to play the release of the album as an opener. I think by then you were 10. Already comfortable on stage. Sharing your songs.
Since I was recording my own music I also showed you how to record your own songs, a bit of mixing and editing. And you kept growing, right in front of my eyes. Your voice changed, you got taller and taller, we would have arguments during your teens, it was like relationship between brothers.
And you kept writing songs, like your life depended on it. Endless amount of music always pouring out of you. To tell you the truth I was a bit jealous, it hasn’t been so easy for me. But then again I don’t write lyrics. (I do like writing words though).
I was part of the making your first album, we even had Kenny Arnoff playing drums with us!!!
It was such an honor to be with you as your music grew. Then in 2012 I left L.A. to continue my path in life and our lives went in different ways.
You always made sure to call me or txt on my bdays, Christmas, New Years. We would share new music via chat and catch up on what we were doing. I have always been so proud of your endeavors, persistence and constant evolution.
Last time I saw you was February of this year, I had a little trip to LA to take Olivia to Disneyland and I took a day to meet with you. I missed you so it was a must do. We talked about music, the industry, songs, women, the world, our families, our dreams. Now you were a man, a 23 year old man. I think even taller than me. I had a dream to have a collaboration in the near future. I have been so excited to share each others success. You were so excited about your new project, getting ready to launch your new chapter.
And 5 days ago all those hopes and dreams were taken away by a drunk driver. In a matter of seconds it was all taken away. I still can’t believe it, my heart broke and I feel like my world is not the same. I lost my little brother, mentor, friend.
I have been so out of it since I got the call from your Dad. My life feels different. And I keep remembering things that I haven’t thought about in some time. All that you gave me has resurfaced and it’s giving me the inspiration and fuel. I feel the duty to carry on what you and I started that day when we met. You will forever be a part of me and my music. I will honor our relationship and what it created until I join you.
I know you are great wherever you are now, I know you are happy. Yes it’s hard to understand why things like this happen. It hurts, it’s inevitable.
You leave a big mark on everyone of us who were lucky to cross your path. And I thank you for sharing those years with me.
Now go fly in that distant planet in the universe. Im sure your soul will keep singing and creating. Until we meet again.