We caught up with musician Nathaniel Paul following the stunning release of ‘Songbird’. We are so excited to see his debut album is due for release by the end of the year too! Read the full interview now!
Hi Nathaniel, what is the first song that captured your attention as a youngster?
There were quite a few – all for different reasons. But maybe ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ by Bob Dylan. For some reason, those lyrics just haunted me as a child. Not in a bad way, just a very visual and imaginative way. It began my awe of music I think – this ability to transport and transcend people. Then I got really into The Grateful Dead.
Who influenced your latest release ‘Songbird’?
A real mixture of music. The song began as a folk song. Dylan’s ‘Witmark Demos’-style. But during the production it was a bit of the Red House Painters, 12 RODS, Mac DeMarco, Dave Matthews Band, Zero 7, Wilco, and Radiohead – at some point, I was probably listening to one of those each day of recording.
We see your debut full-length solo album is scheduled for summer 2021 – can you tell us any more about the release?
It is just a compilation from all this work during the forced hiatus from touring that quarantine created. It’s part social commentary – but also turning a lot of knobs and trying to create unique sounding recordings. I only have two mics and one combo. So I am just literally experimenting with everything. I am having a lot of fun making the record too. It’s been full-on at times – and sometimes just 20 minutes here and there. It really feels that way when you listen to it – it has a nice flow of tension and release. Can’t wait to get it out.
You are one-half of Brooklyn, NY based duo The Bergamot – what sparked a solo release?
An excessive amount of music written during the hiatus. I’ve been producing music since I was 13. Most of it sits on hard drives and backups. At some point, I just realized that this material becomes stagnant without releasing it. I mean you can make some incredible sounding stuff on your laptop nowadays. Even on your phone. I always have had fun making music – now I am just having fun releasing the tracks.
It’s been a whirlwind for me to see how well it has been received. That was the unexpected element. I have had to work through some mental blocks to get to the point where I was comfortable with putting music out in the world. I mean there are chords, melodies, and stuff that all sounds the same. And then there is the work that defines you – I have always wanted to make that work and only release it when it is at the level I can fully believe it. It’s taken a while.
What’s the music scene like in Brooklyn?
That’s a great (and complicated) question.
When we were in NYC, it was amazing. We were playing shows every weekend – at The Brooklyn Bazaar to Rockwood Music Hall. Every night was an opportunity to grow and expand. We would just pick up shows all the time. But things had become kinda dicey in the last five years in Brooklyn. The Bazaar closed (or relocated?), but it ended it’s really cool run on Norman Ave. Then venues started to close as well. Rents were skyrocketing. So we had to make a plan.
So when we left for London in the spring of 2018, we let go of our lease in NYC. We thought, ultimately we would go back. But, since the release of our most recent album “Mayflies” and the build to that point, we were basically living out of our van. We were playing 200+ shows and had just been asked to open for OneRepublic in the spring of 2020.
When that went up in smoke (due to the pandemic), we were facing immediate homelessness, and all our live shows were gone. We had nowhere to go in the city and our friends back east told us how terrible it was. Some patrons contacted us and asked if we needed respite as the quarantine looked quite daunting and strung out. So we packed up our stuff – we were in Austin, TX, for SXSW at the time and went into the desert. It was about as isolated as you can imagine. That’s when the writing began.
What motivates you to make music?
Many things. I love words. I love the way things sound from a tech perspective. I love storytelling, and I enjoy sharing work with people and debating it.
What’s your favourite venue to play?
My favourite venue that I have ever played – there is a tie really: the Debartolo Performing Arts Center at The University of Notre Dame and The Morris Performing Arts Center. I like sweaty clubs and dingy basements – I have played more than my fair share. But those two venues are legendary acoustic spaces. Being that I really love the technical side of music – those were really cool spaces to perform in. Life-changing really.
What are your other passions aside from music?
Golf, fitness, and coffee.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
I wish it was more about the music and less about the other stuff. With all the new avenues for getting music out and heard this past ten years, it does look to be heading in the way of being more about the music again – for that; I am very thankful (and lucky). Great songs come from all walks of life, religions, ethnicities, ages, identities – so we have to stay open-minded.
What new music are you listening to at the moment?
I’m listening to some music from Glass Animals, Babe Rainbow, and my friends The Accidentals, Francis Luke Accord and The Oshima Brothers. Great music coming out from those groups.
What musical plans do you have for the next two years?
Ah, kick back and have a beer. Haha.
Actually, so much going on my head spins…
At least one full album for Nathaniel Paul – more if quarantine extends indefinitely. Multiple music videos.
The Bergamot will release at least one studio album and probably also a mixtape this year, plus a live record via Spotify in Nov/Dec 2021 as well. Videos too. We are also just putting the finishing touches to our documentary movie, “State Of The Unity,” so I am working on the score for that as well.
Jillian is hoping to work on some solo work as well, so I will be involved in that too.
Maybe some collaborations too – we just released a new dance remix by producer JStrain this past week of our Bergamot single “PDR”. Definitely check that out on The Bergamot Spotify.
And then just random stuff – maybe release some of my really old recordings and classical studies I never released. Just having fun.
FVMusicBlog January 2021
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