The soul folk singer talks to Rachel Brodsky about getting healthy and during the pandemic, his solo work, writing a new Night Sweats album in collaboration with Justin Timberlake and why it’s a big deal to make it to Saturday Night Live

When he was 14, Nathaniel Rateliff left school and got a job.A few years later, he and best friend and musical collaborator Joseph Pope III left their homes in rural Missouri to join the Denver Youth Group to join a mission, an evangelical contact group, however, it wasn’t long before the couple began to seriously question their faith and say goodbye Rateliff shuttled between Hermann, Missouri and Denver, finding work wherever he could: in a plastic factory, then in a truck depot and finally as a gardener The whole time, even when Pope was fighting cancer in his early twenties, he and Rateliff played music together

Rateliff’s later successes (sharing bills with Bon Iver, Michael Kiwanuka, Mumford & Sons and Rosanne Cash as well as gold and platinum record status, late night spots on Later … with Jools Holland and The Tonight Show) are barely any Contemporary American Success Story There was no music theory class or business relationship to drive it forward; Rateliff’s journey is more like a bygone era of Dustbowl-set outlaw land where anyone who wanted to make it as a musician had to throw themselves into the local bars after punching at work

With his serious tenor, his traveling troubadour personality and his magnetic ability to transform personal stories of suffering into contemporary roots ballads reminiscent of the Great American Songbook, Rateliff – with Pope and the accompanying band The Night Sweats at his side – A loyal, grassroots follow in Denver, but in 2015 the gospel-inspired viral smash “SOB”, which currently has more than 115 million streams on Spotify, really got going now, six years after the outbreak and more than two decades behind Leaving Missouri, Rateliff is preparing for one of the most significant victories of his career: a musical guest appearance on Saturday Night Live, the televised comedy institution that has aired on NBC for nearly half a century

Although the title track of his 2020 solo album grossed over 15 million Spotify songs and a New York Times seal of approval as a “folk-pop hero,” this is not something he would have ever expected. While part of the reason Which we will get into later, has to do with his band’s staggering ability to find their way around the street through partying, drinking, and general debauchery, Rateliff shares a lighter memory from a few years ago in 2018, when the soul folk As a performer and recorded The Night Sweats’ television debut on The Tonight Show, he went to Studio 8H, which is filming in the same building, and met none other than SNL creator and producer Lorne Michaels

“I remember Joseph joking with Lorne Michaels when we met him,” recalls Rateliff, calling from his home in Denver, Colorado. “Joseph said something like,” Uh, when will do you have us on the show? “And I said,” He’s never gonna have us on the show now! “

Rateliff admits, of course, that the notoriously intimidating TV manager probably doesn’t remember such a hasty exchange, and it’s definitely something Rateliff and Pope can joke about right now, but Rateliff seems relieved, “That’s a very big one Thing for us, “he says,” SNL has something very special, not just for other artists who have been there, but I feel like the cast has been a part of my life since I was born “

He’s not hyperbolic: Combined with a high-profile song placement recently featured in Apple TV movie Palmer starring Justin Timberlake, Rateliff’s SNL booking means a level of mainstream recognition that has been slowly but steadily gaining ground for two decades Think about it: how many artists are making their SNL debut in their early forties? (Maybe Willie Nelson, who showed up at age 44 in 1977, but it’s still rare) And between a backcountry upbringing, a history of substance abuse, and depression, Rateliff has plenty of reasons to believe that moment would never happen

As the news of The Night Sweats’ wild, party-heavy live shows spread, the band began booking TV appearances (leading to his aforementioned encounter with Lorne Michaels) While on the surface everything looked like Rateliff, the singer’s private life fell apart. After a period of separation, Rateliff and his wife filed for divorce; his good friend and producer Richard Swift had died after a lengthy battle with alcohol addiction; and Rateliff’s problems with alcohol came to a head. It didn’t help that the entire band tended to encourage one another to drink while touring. “I’ve definitely had a few years it has been Jack Daniels since I woke up like all day, “said Rateliff Esquire in March 2020

Rateliff’s response was to take a hiatus on The Night Sweats (although he is still working with some members to support his solo material) and make another standalone album, 2020’s mellow And It’s Still Alright – a singer-songwriter- Company written to process feelings of deep loss and moving forward. As a songwriter, Rateliff cites country folk icon John Prine as the main inspiration for his ability to compose songs that both tell a story and touch something personal. “I love a good story It wasn’t like [Prine] created a character to make up those stories, ”says Rateliff.“ He’s the character ”

When he talks about traditional folk songs, is he following the Sea Shanty TikTok trend? Not really, but “maybe I’ll miss it,” he laughs. “I’ve always loved American folk songs – like the folklore behind songs. Where did they come from? I think people who look back on American folk songs are a great way to tell our story and to understand ourselves ”

Ultimately, Rateliff wants the listener to feel like they are hearing their story in their songs. “I always wanted to write this way,” he says, “When you hear a song and say,” I can’t believe this person is this because it looks like they have some glimpse into my life. I always wanted my songs to feel this way to the listener. I want people to feel amazingly overwhelmed in a fantastic way. ”

An unexpected fan of his, Rateliff, was pleasantly surprised to learn was none other than Timberlake, who starred in Palmer Timberlake, and the film’s producers were dying to get Rateliff to write an original for the film, through an ex -Cheater (Timberlake) befriending a boy abandoned by his mother

“I had no idea I was even on the man’s radar,” laughs Rateliff. “He said,” Me and my wife love your things! “I said,” What? “

“I was surprised that [Timberlake] wanted to speak to me,” he continues. “Not because he’s a bad guy I guess I just don’t see myself, you know, I get a call from Justin Timberlake But if you are Having had the conversation with the person, just say, “Oh” We talked as if we’d always known each other””

The result is “Redemption”, a cinematic track that slowly builds up and crescendos with the deep request to “just set me free” The feeling echoes both Palmer’s narrative arc (an ex-con man who reintegrates into an implacable society) and Rateliff’s own ongoing struggle as he sings to “find peace” These days, despite the tour dates canceled by Covid and the never-ending lockdown, the singer has managed to stay busy: He swims laps, takes virtual piano lessons from Megafaun member Phil Cook and even writes new Night Sweats material in his home studio Fortunately Lives most of the band close by, so they all work in a “little capsule”

“I’ll know when it’s done when all the songs are there,” he says. “Right now it’s about 13 I kind of allow myself to write and finish and record what feels good right now, I just remember not how this record will really develop ”

It’s an odd time for Rateliff to return to The Night Sweats When he dropped out to do And It’s Still Alright, he and the band as a whole had to hit reset as they tended to activate each other’s hedonistic tendencies, so why was this a good time to do another Night Sweats album because the banned Covid lifestyle threatens the mental and physical health of everyone? “I think when it comes to The Night Sweats, I never question our relationship or friendship or even what we can do musically,” says Rateliff. “When I put out a solo record, pretty much everyone in the band was for that record for the 10 shows we did, except for the horns, on tour and I think we all saw this as an opportunity for us to grow musically and step out of what we did live

“We’re a band that sounds like we’ve played together for a long time. We played a lot of shows, and that’s how it comes together somehow “he adds, referring to the band’s reputation”I think we wanted to take the opportunity to learn how to be softer and listen to each other”

Despite the pandemic, Rateliff has considered his relationship with alcohol and described how his girlfriend “encouraged me in a positive way”

“I still want to be healthier than me,” he says, “I’ve just been out of swimming laps and whatever I’m trying to make this part of my routine”

That doesn’t mean he feels completely at peace as there’s no end in sight as to when live music can safely be resumed. And although Rateliff sounds relieved that a new government has been sworn into the US office , he’s cautiously optimistic, taking into account the divisions in the country – one whose rich musical heritage he regularly searches for inspiration. Finally, his family and the people he grew up with in Missouri are quite conservative. “There are many people who feel that have not to be heard How do we reach these people? “He wonders

Right now it’s one foot in front of the other and Rateliff, a natural live performer, is “nervous” about being out there again, starting with SNL – a milestone he reconfirms was unlikely even in retrospect for three years he never expected his Tonight Show to take place “I didn’t know I was going to have a career. I remember we started touring the UK and Europe and my manager called and told me that I’d be on Fallon We were excited But we said, “Is this band going to make it that long?”

“I think it’s always been a surprise and a blessing when we get the opportunity,” adds Rateliff. “We’re just trying to really put our hearts into it,”

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Nathaniel Rateliff

World News – USA – Nathaniel Rateliff: “I just didn’t see that I got a call from Justin Timberlake”