Stick Season(al Depression)

And more questions from the Night Water mailbag

Stick Season(al Depression)
Photo: Ronan Furuta

We all have questions. Questions like, “What is stick season?” and “stick season lyrics explained.”

Luckily, we here in the extended Night Water mailbag pantheon of experts are incredibly knowledgeable on everything relating to sticks, seasons, seasons of sticks, and stick seasons. So remember: when you have a question, ask the experts.

Why does everyone under a certain age like Noah Kahan?
- Dan

Folks, we officially have our first repeat mailbag customer here on Night Water. Welcome back, Dan—I hope your plants are thriving.

Like many listeners, I first heard Noah Kahan’s “Stick Season” on TikTok in the summer of 2022. It felt like extremely targeted content. The chorus begins with Kahan belting “And I love Vermont / But it’s the season of the sticks.” I was born in Vermont, I have many friends there, my parents still live there, and I regularly interact with social media posts from Bernie Sanders and Vermont Green FC. So it didn’t surprise me that the CCP algorithm had me clocked as a potential “Stick Season” enjoyer. Of course it was in my “For You” feed; it was certainly for me.

It didn't click for me just how big “Stick Season” and Kahan had become until I moved to the United Kingdom last fall. Right before I moved, Olivia Rodrigo covered “Stick Season” on BBC’s Live Lounge, and the song started charting. By the time I made it over (was there COVID on the plane?), “Stick Season” had cracked the top ten, and earlier this year it spent seven weeks at number one, just in time for Kahan to start his UK and European tour.

How did Noah Kahan go from viral TikTok to radio chart topper to successful international tours? For help getting to the bottom of Kahan’s popularity, I turned to Sam Tall, Senior Director at Studio71 and former music manager, who boiled it down into an incredibly straightforward answer: “Noah Kahan is the product of enormous luck and good timing.”

Despite being a major label artist for the better part of the last decade and working with top-tier collaborators on his previous two albums, it wasn’t until “Stick Season” went viral on TikTok that Kahan cracked any kind of commercial success.

Sam told me that “…record labels have placed their chips on signing TikTok artists the way they were clamoring over Spotify playlist darlings in 2014–2016,” and that, with “rare exception,” TikTok is the way musicians become famous in 2024.

“Before Spotify playlists it was the blog cum music magazine… Before blogs it was MySpace. Before MySpace it was chat rooms… and the tail end of record stores being the source of how labels found out what was happening in local markets.” There’s still a chance you could get discovered playing a show somewhere in New York or Los Angeles today, but those opportunities are few and far between.

But a viral song on TikTok does not guarantee you success. If Noah Kahan didn't already have his major label team behind him when “Stick Season” caught fire, it’s doubtful that he would’ve been able to capitalize on his virality. It's extremely difficult to “catch the lightning and actually use it as energy without a team effort.”

So, why does it seem like everyone under a certain age likes Noah Kahan? A lot of TikTok, a little bit of Olivia Rodrigo, an excellent team at Republic Records, and, of course, Kahan himself: “…luck and timing only helps if you’re really talented, too.”

Is there a piece of American media that you've found to be weirdly popular in the UK?
- Noah

Yes—“Stick Season” by Noah Kahan. I landed at Heathrow and he was everywhere. Tour ads in the Underground! Official merch on women in the pub! Music video on repeat at the barbershop!

Otherwise, I wouldn’t say there’s much that sticks out as being weirdly popular here—nothing that requires explanation, like Fiddler on the Roof being beloved in Japan, for instance. American media is generally pretty popular—as the largest film and television industry in the world, Hollywood productions dominate the global media market. When I visited Madrid last month, ads for Garfield: La película blanketed the city. It was so saturated with ads for Garfield that I thought that Spain must have a particular affinity for Garfield. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, though I did find this fun fake fact on Reddit:

Screenshot from Reddit. Title: "TIL that during the comic strip's global expansion in the 1980's, Garfield was so loved by Spanish audiences that his name was adapated to 'Gazpacho Monday', creating a tradition where shops offer weekly discounts on the national dish, despite the fact I made all of this up and have never been there." Image: Logo for Gazapcho Lunes, the head of a Garfield-esque cat rises out of a bowl of gazpacho.
How do you resist seasonal depression?
- Reno

We all know what happens when the season of the sticks rolls around: the days get shorter and colder, and most people have to work a little harder to keep their spirits up. Others may have a more serious case of Seasonal Affective Disorder—somewhat unseriously shortened to SAD. When it comes to treating any illness, physical or mental, it’s best to speak to a medical professional. Luckily for Night Water readers, I happen to know one very well: my dad, Dr. Marc Cecil, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist in the state of Vermont.

According to Dr. Cecil, a qualified mental health professional can “assess whether the depression is the SAD type, or something else,” and psychotherapy with or without psychotropic medication can be a helpful treatment. You should also speak to your primary care physician to see if any other medical conditions may be contributing to your emotional state.

SAD is particularly common in parts of the world with fewer hours of sunlight. If that’s a factor in your depression, “some people respond well to a light box with full spectrum lights” (a doctor can help identify which color of light would work best for you). Other interventions include exercise, a healthy diet, increased social interactions with family and friends, and making time for rest and relaxation.

“Since the reader is attracted to Night Water,” Dr. Cecil writes, “I would also highly recommend that they read your publication on a regular basis. I think that good writing, filled with sharp humor and wit, may help them feel better. That works for me, but I’m also your dad!”

Alright, you heard the man—read Night Water! Doctor’s orders!