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Interview: Nathaniel Rateliff (+ Quickfire Questions #10)

By on Tuesday, 24th May 2011 at 5:00 pm

American folk singer/songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff will be releasing a new single, ‘You Should’ve Seen the Other Guy’, on 30 May. He also happens to be in London this week – playing Jools Holland tonight (Tuesday 24 May) and the Borderline on Thursday (26 May). So it was just as good of a time as any to ask him some questions on how it came to be that Communion Records is releasing his new EP, his upbringing in a teeny tiny town in Missouri…and of course our Quickfire Questions. Read on…

Tell us about your musical upbringing. What were your favourite artists in your childhood? Do you think that affects the way you sound / write songs now?
My parents played music, so most of what I loved and heard came from them. I listened to a lot of different stuff and loved it for a while and then hated some of it later. I’m sure it shaped me, but I love playing what I love. But sometimes I write songs I hate and everyone else loves. Then you find yourself stuck.

How did growing up in such a tiny town like Bay, Missouri, shape your opinions on music and yourself as an artist?
Well, small towns aren’t much for support, and I am still trying to like myself. The best thing for me was working and playing and struggling.

You are releasing an EP on Communion Records, the label set up by Ben Lovett of Mumford and Sons, and former Cherbourg bassist Kevin Jones, and acclaimed producer Ian Grimble. How did you get signed / how did they discover / approach you? London is quite far away from Bay, Missouri!
I have been signed to Rounder Records for 2 years now. The Communion fellas just happen to be friends and we wanted to do something with them and our friends from Daytrotter.

I would really like to have your opinion on Communion, as a smaller indie folk label. It seems like it would be a small yet very warm family to be a part of. What do you see are the plusses? Minuses (if there are any)?
I can only say that they are all great folks and since I have not done that much business with them as yet I’m not sure what to say other than that. They’re a great bunch of people trying to push the music they like.

This week finds you in London, playing a headlining show at the Borderline. Is it nerve-wracking playing a show so far away from home? Or do you feel London is now more your home, with your label “family” being on this side of the pond?
I’m here so much, I should move here or closer. But it rains here too much for me and I love the snow.

And on to the TGTF Quickfire Questions…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
‘Chug-a-Lug’ – Roger Miller.

What was your favourite song as a child?
‘Imagine’ – John Lennon was one of my early favorites. I had never heard anything like it when I was a kid.

What song makes you laugh?
Off the top of my head I can’t think of any song I like that makes me laugh. Unless it is something (comedian) Patton Oswald is singing.

What song makes you cry?
Most songs make me cry. It is why I started playing music.

What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
I have heard lots of love songs and love has come and gone in my life. But now I’m with a woman that I plan to stay with and the first song I made her dance with me to was ‘96 Tears’ (? and the Mysterians).

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
Most shit pop on American radio makes me really angry.

Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
‘Take This Longing’ – Leonard Cohen.

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Jean Paul Sartre.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why?
‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’


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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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