“In some ways this is like another debut...” hmv.com talks to Nathaniel Rateliff
Denver-based singer-songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff had been a well-known and much loved fixture on the area's local music scene for more than a decade with his band Born in the Flood before embarking on a new solo venture that saw him pursing a more upbeat, soul-influenced sound and inking a record deal with legendary Memphis-based soul label Stax.
His eponymous first album released under the name Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats arrived in 2015 and earned him praise from critics and audiences alike, blending all manner of Americana including blues, folk, country and soul to create a record with a timeless quality and producing a standout hit with the rousing lament on the hard-drinking lifestyle, 'S.O.B.'
Since then, Nathaniel and his band have been touring relentlessly, but somewhere in the midst of the band's exhaustive roadshow they've found time to record a follow-up and this week their new record Tearing at the Seams finally arrives in store.
With the new album hitting the shelves today, we caught up with Nathaniel to talk about why the new record feels like a another debut album, being label mates with the likes of Otis Redding and working with former Shins member Richard Swift again as producer...
So this is your second studio album with The Night Sweats – you'd started out as a solo artist, do you feel like this is the way forward now, as part of a band?
“Technically the first record with The Night Sweats was just me writing in my attic, and then I took all of those songs to Richard Swift, and (drummer) Patrick Meese and I kind of figured it out with him, so in some ways this is like another debut, where there's a full band of us in the studio.”
Was it a conscious decision or did it just happen that way organically?
“Well, after being on the road for almost three years straight now we had really become a band, we play together and we trust each other, and I really wanted to make a record that everybody in the band felt a part of.”
You've released a live album and an EP since the last record, when did you actually start working on this one?
“We started working on it in March when we went to New Mexico, we took the band down there and at the time we didn't really have a full horn section, we just had (saxophonist) Andy Wilde, so there was about six of us just hashing out ideas and I was trying to write the songs. We there for seven days and then from there, later on in the year, we went to Oregon and worked with Richard Swift again. Then eventually in October we went back again and recorded with Richard, and by then we'd kind of made a full record.”
Richard worked on your last album too, what is it that makes him a good fit for you as a producer?
“Well, we're really good friends, he's like my curly-haired twin.”
That usually helps...
“Yeah, so just having that connection and friendship makes it really easy to work together, and it creates a really good environment not just for myself but for the rest of the band. And then, y'know, you're not trying to deal with someone else's ego, everybody's there to try to serve the song and figure out what's best for the music.”
You've been touring a lot, do you write on the road? Or do you need to lock yourself away somewhere?
“I still like to try to shut myself away if I can, I mean even when we went to New Mexico it was just trying out a lot of ideas. I try to write on the road but I don't really have any personal time, much less time to write. When I have ideas I try to jot 'em down or record them in whatever way I can, be it a voice memo or tape cassette or whatever. So that's mainly how it works for me.”
The last album was kind of a breakthrough moment, how did you want the new record to build on what you did last time out?
“Well, I didn't know if it was gonna build. I mean, that the first record did well was a real surprise, so I felt a lot of pressure and responsibility to my bandmates and their families to try to come up with something that would continue to keep this working, but then also to the fans and the people who've been supporting us. I guess people now had an idea of what The Night Sweats were and I don't want to move too far away from that, but at the same time I need to do what I need to do creatively and challenge myself in my own way. So I really just tried to write songs that I care about and we tried make a record that we can be really proud of. And there's really no guarantee that people will like it.”
There's a kind of timeless quality to what you do, you've been compared to people like Sam Cooke, do you find comparisons like that helpful or not?
“I think it's very flattering for me, y'know, and just to be label mates with people like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave, of course those people are legends and to be compared to them is amazing, but I mean I certainly wouldn't put myself in the same boat as them, even though I share a label with them.”
Was there any particular track that set the tone for the rest of the album?
“There wasn't really, our whole intention with the band was to just go in and try to write as much as we could, and see what we thought worked the best.“
What kind of album is this lyrically?
“Well, I had a lot of personal stuff going on in my life and I was writing about that, but I wanted to change the narrative enough so that I felt like people would be able to connect with it.”
What are your touring plans for the album? Are you doing any dates in the UK?
“Yeah, I mean we're touring all over the place, so I'm pretty excited to get back to places we haven't been in a while and playing some new material. I left home of February 4th and we don't really stop until the end of August, then after that we're pretty much booked for the next year. We want to work as much as we can as long as people care about it.”
Anywhere you're really looking forward to?
“We might go to Japan at some point. I've never been, so that would be really rad.”
Tearing at the Seams is available in hmv stores now, you can also find it here in our online store