Neil Nathan’s debut record, The Distance Calls, merges ’70s style jangle pop with modern singer-songwriter smarts. He is equal parts Cat Stevens and Matthew Sweet, and he recently took a few moments to entertain some of our questions…
Q: Neil – thank you very much for taking the time to chat. Let’s go back to the beginning; we’d like to hear about the time it first dawned on you that music was your calling…
A: I was five [years old] and one of my first 45’s was Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me.” That about sums up my mentality then and now.
Q: Your new record, The Distance Calls, is amazing – such a versatile blend of styles – what is the main thing you want listeners to take away from hearing it?
A: Thanks for the compliment, Bill! So glad you’re digging it. I’m hoping folks walk away feeling some of the emotions I felt when I wrote the songs. Sorrow, hope, anger, joy, love – all or any of the above would do.
Q: The record features a brilliant stripped down cover of the E.L.O. classic, “Do Ya” – Where did you get the bold inspiration to rework that song?
A: On my living room couch. It was completely spontaneous. I was just fingerpicking, watching the tube and then I realized I was playing the chorus chords. It’s such a well-written tune that it holds up nicely stripped down. Jeff Lynne had to approve its use on Californication and apparently loved the version. That was quite a treat.
Q: What was the first record you owned and how did it influence your sound today?
A: The aforementioned Cheap Trick, Neil Diamond’s Desiree and Glenn Campell’s Rhinestone Cowboy were the first 45’s I owned. And I still like pop hooks, bravado and a little bit of country in my tunes. It’s insanely hilarious to me that the stuff I was listening to when I was five is apparent on my record.
A: I’m into the listening experience of an entire album that twists and turns. I couldn’t be happier that producer Bobby Harlow and I pulled that off for my record. I wouldn’t say I’m a full-on vinyl collector in the obsessive sense of the term, but I have a healthy collection.
Digital music has brought us back around to the ‘60s. It’s all about singles again, but vinyl sales have been growing big time these past few years. In a perfect world, I think vinyl should be the format you listen to in your home. It just sounds better. And whether you’re holding the actual album cover or leafing through it on your iPad, you’re interacting with the art and getting the entire experience. Mp3s should be the format you’re listening to on the go. There’s no need for any other format besides those two.
Q: What would you say has been the biggest high and biggest low in your career so far?
A: Having one of my favorite singer-songwriters/rock musicians produce my record was easily the biggest high. As far as lows go, nothing that awful is coming to mind. I’m trying to stay positive these days!
Q: What can fans expect from you in the near and distant future?
A: I’m releasing an animated flying car video for my song “Highways” in the fall that I’m really proud of. Then there’s the gift that keeps on giving with my kooky “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” charity video. And in 2011, there are a few side recording projects that I’ll be releasing, as well as an Earth Day-themed A/B side. If all goes as planned, my sophomore LP will be out sometime in early 2012 before we all ascend to a higher plane of consciousness, or the world ends.
Q: Now, just for fun, let us know the first thought that comes to mind when you hear the following…
Cat Stevens: If only he were Bono, the War on Terror might be over.
BP: If their advertising were true, we’d be Beyond Petroleum, not swimming in it.
Tiger Woods: Sloppy.
President Obama: A for effort.
Stem cells: The Fountain of Youth.
The KFC “Double Down” sandwich: Nothing more satisfying than doubling down and getting blackjack.
For more on Neil Nathan, visit www.neilnathan.com