With four singles, an appearance on American Idol, over 11,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, and shows on the West Coast as well as in Nashville, Tennessee, singer-songwriter and pianist Noel Tsoukalas is in his third year of commercial music with a minor in business. Is major. in Marketing at Point Loma Nazarene University and she’s making a name for herself.
Tsoukalas’ parents are unique and have played major roles in his life.
His father, Steve Tsoukalas, is the former lead singer of his rock ‘n’ roll band Tsouki and the Memories, where he toured Boston, Massachusetts for 20 years before going to school to become a world religions professor.
“I think that’s where I got it (singing) from,” Tsoukalas said.
Steve still presents the show today.
Sandy Richter, Tsoukalas’ mother, is a world-renowned Old Testament scholar, author, international speaker, and current professor at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, teaching Old Testament, Hebrew, and environmentalism.
With professors as parents, Tsoukalas never settled in one place growing up as his parents’ careers included frequent job changes at different universities.
Tsoukalas was born in Wilmore, Kentucky and lived there for six years, until she moved to Madison, Mississippi, where she lived for four years, then lived in Wheaton, Illinois for her middle school years, when Until she finally settled in Santa Barbara during her freshman year of high school. ,
Tsoukalas found that moving around was an important part of shaping who he is now.
“It was hard because we never stopped and I went to a lot of different schools, but I think it really taught me how to go into something that’s scary or unusual and how to have fun in it.” ,” Tsoukalas said. “It taught me how to make friends with anyone and how to maintain relationships with different people from everywhere.”
Tsoukalas said that living in Southern California launched his music career.
“I would not have been able to pursue a career in music anywhere else. This is a place to live,” Tsoukalas said. “I’m very grateful for that.”
Having a father with experience in the music industry and a passion for a career, Tsoukalas feels she was able to learn from him and grow personally as an artist.
“I got a gift from her and she is incredibly talented. Seeing him as a musician in my life had a huge impact on me, but I also discovered that this was my passion for myself,” Tsoukalas said.
Throughout high school, Tsoukalas was a member of the choir. However, where she loved singing was while playing the piano at home.
“My piano at home is my sacred space,” Tsoukalas said.
Deciding to study music in college, Tsoukalas went on to study at Berklee College of Music, or PLNU, in Boston.
“Berklee is an incredible opportunity but it’s constant music that can be really tiring and competitive,” Tsoukalas said. “Going to Point Loma (Nazarene University) was good because I found friends who aren’t musicians.”
Tsoukalas said the PLNU position was a better choice for him.
“Los Angeles is where everything is happening. It’s two hours away, so I can play shows on school nights; Whereas Boston is not really where the music is,” Tsoukalas said.
Upon arriving at PLNU, initially as a business and music double major, Tsoukalas was not yet confident in fully pursuing music as a career.
“I was really afraid to get into music in college because there wasn’t any set career path for it, but they (Tsoukalas’ parents) were both very supportive,” Tsoukalas said. “They were like ‘Now is the time for you to go all in. You’re young, and you love it; just do it.’ And that was a very memorable moment for me.
PLNU’s monthly program, Musofi, was Tsoukalas’ first show in front of a large audience as a first-year.
“After my first Musofi, I thought I want to do this forever, it’s so much fun,” Tsoukalas said.
Tsoukalas joined PLNU’s concert choir in her first year and is still a member. According to Tsoukalas, he has gained hands-on experience from opportunities such as traveling abroad to Europe and applying what he has learned to his career.
“I learned how to learn, observe, and mix music quickly,” Tsoukalas said.
Tsoukalas’ friend and fourth-year student in PLNU’s music department, Logan Manning, is one of the people who inspired him to take his music seriously.
According to Tsoukalas, he was in the music room one day and he encouraged her to play one of his original songs for him. He played “The Girl in Your Story”, a song he wrote in his junior year of high school.
“I wasn’t completely confident in my musical abilities. But my friend Logan Manning asked me to play it and said ‘We have to get this out.’ “I just believed in myself,” Tsoukalas said.
“The Girl in Your Story” is Tsoukalas’ debut single, produced in 2022 with the help of Manning.
According to Tsoukalas, since then, they have been performing shows and working together to produce their songs.
The summer after her first year of college, Tsoukalas began performing shows at the restaurant she worked at, Longboards, in Santa Barbara.
According to Tsoukalas, she suggested investing in live music for longboards because it was at the pier, and it became her weekly event where she would perform twice a week with a band.
To improve her voice outside of campus involvement, Tsoukalas began taking online singing lessons with her teacher Corinne Decker outside of high school, and continues to do so today.
It was Decker who offered Tsoukalas the opportunity to audition for the singing competition and television series, American Idol in the summer of 2022.
Decker had a friend, who was one of the casting producers for American Idol, give Tsoukalas a FOL (Front of the Line Pass) from Berklee College of Music, allowing him to audition for the first time outside the state of California. .
According to Tsoukalas, the auditions to compete on American Idol were held over Zoom, where she was in a breakout room with about 600 other people for five hours.
Tsoukalas remembers, eyes glued to the screen ready to audition at any moment, he received a notification that read, “The producer will take you to the breakout room in 20 seconds” where he sang his best song for 15 seconds and She was told that she was moving forward. On to the next round of that audition.
After three rounds she was ready for the day and got a call the next day where she needed to appear on another Zoom with the producer and perform “The Girl in Your Story”.
On the third day of auditions, casting producers told Tsoukalas that she would be flying to New Orleans, Louisiana in October to audition in front of Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie for season 21 of American Idol.
“They blew it off and said ‘We have some bad news, you’re going to have to miss some school to go out.’ It was absolutely crazy,” Tsoukalas said.
According to Touskalas, the day of his audition was very hectic.
“I was very nervous. I didn’t even know when I was leaving and a random producer pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re going to be leaving soon,'” Tsoukalas said.
She performed “The Girl in Your Story” on piano for the judges.
“It (‘The Girl in Your Story’) was very personal and it’s scary to show it to people. But I really wanted to be myself throughout this whole experience and what better way to do that than singing the first song I ever wrote,” Tsoukalas said.
According to Tsoukalas, after their performance, Katy Perry asked them to perform “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles. “Luckily I knew how to sing, but I had to pluck strings out of thin air and play and sing. I think it was adrenaline because I didn’t know how to play it,” Tsoukalas said.
According to Tsoukalas, after both performances, he received all three yeses and tickets to Hollywood for the second round of the competition.
An important aspect of that experience for Tsoukalas was that Lionel Richie encouraged him to write more songs.
Two months later in December, Tsoukalas headed to Hollywood where he worked with Bruno Mars’ pianist Freddie Brown for a performance of Demi Lovato’s “Anyone”.
According to Tsoukalas, she made it into the top 150 before being eliminated.
“Everyone there was so talented. Most of them were signed with record labels and one of them was a pop star in a foreign country,” Tsoukalas said.
Tsoukalas formed several relationships with other artists during his time there.
“Those connections stayed with me and it was the best thing I ever did,” Tsoukalas said.
One of those connections got them a show in Nashville, Tennessee.
Overall from the experience, Tsoukalas became a more evolved and humbled musician.
“I learned that you never know when your moment is going to happen and you just need to be ready for it,” Tsoukalas said. “You need to be kind, polite and supportive. “It taught me that there are a lot of talented musicians in the world, but what makes you different is whether you’re ready for that one little moment.”
According to Tsoukalas, to increase the chances of her audition being broadcast on national television, she needed a new single so that listeners and viewers could find her and hear the new music.
With the season set to air in February 2023, Tsoukalas received his second single “Middle of May”, produced in March.
Tsoukalas said, “It was kind of a rushed thing, but I love the song – it’s one of my favourites.”
In July 2023, “Hobby” was released with the help of Manning and received Tsoukalas’ highest traffic to date in his career with over 80,000 streams on Spotify.
Most recently in November, their song “Hobby” was released as an acoustic version.
According to Tsoukalas, the person he worked with on his original “Hobby” tracked down the acoustic guitar and he had that version, so he decided to release it.
“If this (“hobby”) is going well, I might as well finish it. And I love it,” Tsoukalas said.
For Tsoukalas, music is more than an art, it is connected to his mind and life.
“It’s my way of processing my emotions. I think it’s so cool that you can take something, like an experience you want to remember, and put it into a song; Something that people can connect with,” Tsoukalas said.
For Tsoukalas, writing songs is a different experience every time. According to him, “Hobby” was written in one day, but that is not always the case.
“I start with the piano. But sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and write a song or take voice memos in my car,” Tsokalas said. “But if I really need to get something out, I’ll go to my piano, close the door and experiment with different notes and start putting melodies into songs.”
At least once a week, Tsoukalas performs somewhere in San Diego, whether through Sofar Sounds or at the Winston Beach Club.
Looking to the future, Tsoukalas is currently working with Texas producers and songwriters, and obtaining material to potentially create an album.
“The goal is to bundle six good songs and start developing your sound,” Tsoukalas said.
For those who are hesitant to take the first step in pursuing music, Tsoukalas has one piece of advice to simply start somewhere.
“Get your stuff out, start writing, don’t be afraid it’s not good. Life is too short not to go after your dreams – cheesy, but true. We’re 20, 21 years old, some of us are 18, we’re very young. Show people your music,” Tsoukalas said.