As Colorado-born pop acts such as One Republic and the Lumineers have grabbed mercurial musical headlines in recent years, Nathaniel Rateliff has always been chugging along. Denver’s pre-eminent singer-songwriter has been a local fixture thanks to his uniquely personal blend of lyrical and musical talent and his unusually diverse skill set, one that most recently included a foray into rhythm and blues. Rateliff makes a cameo in our June issue (on newsstands and online on Friday), and what follows here is the expanded version of our interview with him earlier this spring.
5280: What have you been up to most recently?
I’m just back from Barcelona.
5280: Were you vacationing or touring?
I was touring; I’m almost never vacationing. I’ve flown over to Europe four times this year. It’s fun, but exhausting.
5280: This was for your latest album?
Yes. [Falling Faster Than You Can Run] had a limited release last September, but it just came out all over in April.
5280: Tell me about the Night Sweats project.
Some of what I’ll do is just me supporting friends who’ve supported me over the years. I’ve played with Miss America, Joseph Pope’s band, and Joe Sampson is a longtime friend. The Night Sweats came about when I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I wrote a couple R&B soul songs, booked a show, and just started going for it.
5280: Why R&B?
It was something I always wanted to do, but I was surprised I actually did it. I grew up listening to a lot of that stuff. I sang and loved to dance, and I finally found a way to actually write that type of song. I didn’t want them to be cheesy; the more of them I write, the more I struggle with that. Sometimes things can be fun; they don’t always have to be serious. I’m planning to record a full-length record of the material this summer and probably will put out a couple 45s.
5280: And you’re still also working in your established genre as well?
In the past few years I’ve been writing a lot, but sometimes when I’m on tour, I’ll get burned out and just watch TV. One of my favorite things to do is nothing.
5280: You seem to have a love/hate relationship with touring.
People kept putting me back on the road, and I wrote a lot of the songs [on the current record] in that headspace. A lot of the tours were me performing alone and I felt pretty distant from my friends and family. It created a lot of struggles in those relationships, so a number of the songs are about how even though you find yourself surrounded by people, you’re still feeling sort of isolated. I’d say the songs are desperate but hopeful, and the quality of the recording is minimal; I wanted it to sound like the recordings I’ve done at home.
5280: So what’s next?
I did a two-month tour this spring. I’ll hopefully be playing the Underground Music Showcase in July; it might be a secret show. And I’ll be opening for Rodrigo y Gabriela at Red Rocks in August. We’re going to do our jazzy set for that one, with Patrick Meese, Joseph Pope, and Mark Shusterman. Hopefully the horn players will play with us at that show. Also, the last time I was home, Patrick and I recorded an EP called Closer, which will hopefully be out in the summer.
5280: What’s your take on how the local music scene has evolved recently?
I’m kind of out of touch nowadays. The crowd I was in are now the old folks. I know there are great bands out there, but I spend a lot of time on the road, and if I am at the bar, it’s usually in the afternoon.
Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.
—Image courtesy of Brantley Gutierrez