GoldFlakePaint meets… | Nathaniel Rateliff
Interview by Aled Schell
“We wanted to go away and not just make a record, but create a memory.“
– Nathaniel Rateliff
On the run up to Nathaniel Rateliff’s London show at The Islington, GoldFlakePaint met the Denver native to talk to him about his upcoming album – ‘Falling Faster Than You Can Run’ – his biggest London show to date (a full band show on January 28th at Dingwalls) and the troubadour’s segue into soul music. Check out the full interview below…
So, the new album is out this month – how are you feeling about it?
NR: Yeah, good. I worked on it for a really long time, so I’m happy to have it done with. I finished last March, so we’re coming up on me being done with it being recorded for almost a year.
I’m excited for it to come out and see what kind of response it gets. Either way, it’s nice to finish it.
Did it come easily in comparison to ‘In Memory of Loss’?
I mean, as far as the recording process, it was really comfortable.
You recorded it out in the mountains somewhere?
Yeah, we rented a place called Hideaway Studios; I’d wanted to make a record there for a while. I’d even talked about making it with Brian Deck who made the last record, but he was busy. I also just wanted to do what I wanted to do.
Was part of the reason for wanting to record there to get away from it all? Avoid the distractions of recording in a big city like London or New York.
Well yeah, for a while me and the band had wanted to go away and not just make a record, but create a memory for all of us. It was a lot of work as a lot of people had to keep going off to go work.
So it’s not like you had their undivided attention?
Yeah, not like “Oh we’re here; for three months”. We were there for ten days. We did a lot of cramming, but had a lot of great meals together and late nights which were a blast. But yeah, I wanted to create a moment together, or even just for myself.
Do you feel like you’ve done that?
Yes. I mean, I’d like to do it all again. I thought about going to LA, but I just don’t want to spend my time there. I don’t want to leave a studio and be in this industrial wasteland. I’m still kinda a country boy. I like being out in the sticks.
I hear you grew up in a village with a population of 60?
We lived outside of a town that was that big, then the big town I spent a lot of time in was 2,500. Then we moved to a bigger town of about 10,000.
Thematically, do you feel like ‘Falling Faster Then You Can Run’ varies quite a lot from what you’ve done before?
I don’t know if it was too different, I mean, it’s still me. I wrote a lot of it while I was touring ‘In Memory of Loss’. Sometimes it would just be a few lines or a melody, or a progression and I’d make these onto recordings. Sometimes I could sit down and a whole song would come in one sitting. These were just things I worked on over time. It took a lot longer than some of the stuff I wrote on the last record. A lot of that was just instant song. But yeah, it was a record that came out of touring, being alone, and feeling really lonely, even when I was surrounded by people.
You also have this soul/R’N’B thing going in another band called The Night Sweats; is that something you’ve wanted to do for a long time?
I figured out my voice by singing to a lot of soul songs, and so it’s something I’ve wanted to do forever, but I always felt that writing it was cheesy or silly,
It has that kinda Sam Cook vibe to it.
Yeah, I wanted it to have that Sam Cook sound, but more modern lyrics. Some of them are like that, and some are very throw-back to Sam and Dave, and Otis Redding. It’s a blast to do too. It’s not so much putting your heart on the line. I can dance, and do rockin’ solos. I go out there and get the crowd going. With the solo stuff you don’t really get the crowd going. If people start clapping I’m like ‘here we go, this is going to be a struggle for them to clap on beat’.
Do you worry about putting yourself out there? Even more so as you don’t have a moniker to hide behind (he used to go under the name The Wheel).
I used to have a moniker and the label made me get rid of it so…that was my little shield.
So when people read your lyrics and they make it personal, does it get to you?
It can do. I mean, you can’t win everyone over, and when people say that they like or they hate, it’s my name. They’re like ‘we hate Nathaniel Rateliff’. I mean you never know what the reactions are going to be, you’ve just got to hope, and hope that you’re in a good enough mental state to be able to deal with it; because sometimes you’re not.
You done a few shows in the UK recently, with two in December in London, then a UK tour followed by another at Dingwalls at the end of Jan; do you feel like momentum’s starting to grow over here?
I hope so. It seems that way at the minute; it’s been a while since I’ve been back, so it’s nice to not feel forgotten.
Are there other cities which you didn’t manage to get to on this tour, but you want to play?
I’ve actually got to visit a lot of the UK, and Ireland too. I haven’t been to Eastern Europe at all which would be kinda interesting.
For the Dingwalls show, are you going to be able to get a full band together?
That’s what I’m trying to work out at the moment. Hopefully I can bring a band, but I plan to bring a band every time I come; it’s just a matter of ‘how much can I afford to lose?’ [laughs]
When you’re not doing the music side of things, I saw that even up until a few years ago you used to do casual work; laboring and gardening. Is that still something you do?
I did a little gardening this year between touring, and then I did a lot of nothing too. I did a couple of jobs where I did some electrical work for a friend… I don’t know how to do electrical work.
Well you’re still here, so you must be doing something right
Yeah, I was just helping him do what he needs to do. I also started re-finishing furniture with a friend. We were talking about starting a business where you find old furniture and re-finish it.
Is this something you do to clear your mind, or is it because money and music is pretty up and down?
Yeah, money and music can be pretty up and down. It’s been pretty good recently, I don’t really have any bills, my rent’s really cheap, and I don’t really owe anyone anything, no credit cards or anything; so I live pretty sparingly…. Or, I live pretty lavishly on a sparing amount of money…. But yeah, I enjoy working, and it helps me write. For some reason, it helps my mind if my body is doing things. My mind gets to reflect and drift; I get to work out whatever issues I have physically.
Did you grow up in a musical family? Was this something you always wanted to do?
My parents always played, and then when I started playing by the age of 12/13 I wanted to play music. So even if I was going to play drums, I wanted to do it; I just kept pursuing it.
We’re in such a digital age of online music and increased social interaction between fans and artists; do you find this helpful as a platform, or do you find it irritating that this is now part of a 21st Century musician’s job.
Well, I’m not very good at it… I’m just not. For whatever reason I’m just not very aware. I think it can be really beneficial for people who can make it work for them, and I’m sure it’s helped me in the past, but I’m just not very sharp at getting a bunch of cool images to post out. It’s kinda like the whole Spotify thing; I think it’s a funny, and beneficial, and possibly not, all at the same time.
I think people can still get by without it; I know there are some people, like Laura Marling, who don’t do their own Twitter, I meant there may be people who do it for her.
I have people who help me with mine, but, you may not like what they’re putting up, so I just sometimes end up deleting their hard work; I’ll be like ‘I wouldn’t say that’.
So you were touring earlier this year with fellow Denver natives The Lumineers, and Dr Dog. How was that?
It was a really great time. I think was about five and a half weeks, so it was kind of long. Then we weren’t home for very long, and then we did a Night Sweats tour too.
Is there any plans to bring the Night Sweats over here?
That’s the plan I’m working on. I only have it on 45 at the minute, aside from a free download on the website, but I’d like to get them into Rough Trade, or something like that. Hopefully we’ll make a full record in the Spring. I’ve been writing on it since March so I have over an album’s worth of material.
A lot of people who know you don’t know, you actually had a record before ‘In Memory of Loss’. It went kinda under the radar.
That is my favorite one.
Are there any plans to re-issue it?
I need to figure out a way to do that, I just need to get it out there. You can still order it from my website, but I’m running low. It’s one of those things where I need to get it on vinyl, it’s not even up on iTunes. It’s just be nice to be able to find it
Finally, are there any bands that you’re listening to which you’d recommend?
Well, I always recommend Pearly Gate Music, I think that was a great record which was out on Barsuk. That was a couple of years back, and it’s Father John Misty’s brother. The new Gregory Alan Isakov record is really good. I did some vocals on that. And then, my old buddy, Joe Samson.
Perfect. Thanks for taking the time to speak to us.
No worries. Thank you too.
‘Falling Faster Than You Can Run’ is out January 20th on Mod y Vi Records; you can stream it below;