Noah Kahan Reflects on New Fame in the Vermont Woods

Stuck at home in 2021, and unsure if he would perform again, he began to write in a more personal way about the place he was from. He turned Strafford into his version of Steinbeck’s Salinas Valley.

He name-checked Alger Brook Road, his childhood address, and sang, “I’m mean because I grew up in New England.” He wrote about the love and hate he had for small-town life: the appreciation of history and community, the frustration with the lack of opportunity, the feeling of being left behind when your friends leave.

Rebecca Jennings, a native Vermonter who is a senior correspondent for Vox, described in a recent essay the pull of Mr. Kahan’s music, especially for New Englanders whose region is typically nowheresville in terms of national pop culture.

“On a drive up to Vermont in early October,” she wrote, “at the peak of the red-gold foliage we’re famous for, Kahan’s biggest hit of the moment, ‘Dial Drunk,’ comes on and suddenly I’m crying, missing the home I had and the family who’ve since moved out.”

Mr. Kahan is now so beloved in Vermont, and New England generally, that people joke that he is bigger than Bernie Sanders. When visitors search their iPhones for local food options, they are served a list titled “Noah Kahan’s New England Spots.” Beneath a photo of Mr. Kahan superimposed over distant mountains, addresses appear for some of his favorite restaurants, bars, cafes and bakeries in New Hampshire and Vermont.

“I didn’t realize that was going to be on everyone’s app,” Mr. Kahan said. “Gusanoz is my favorite restaurant in the area. The guys there are, like, ‘Dude, we have people from Ohio coming up to eat here.’ I got all my spots on there.”