INTERVIEW: Nathan Lee "Bar Room Hymns"

December 13, 2010  •  Leave a Comment
NATHAN LEE - THE SHORT VERSION:
He writes songs about desperation for those in despair, who no longer wish to be desperate.
He sings songs about brokenness for the brokenhearted, who no longer wish to be broken.
NATHAN LEE - THE LONG VERSION:
Darkness. Spotlight. Piano.
His journey, through minefields and madness of the music industry, has taken him to the edge of the abyss. He’s danced along its edge and flirted with the shadows. In fact he’s wallowed in the bleak and black desperation of uncertainty – professionally, personally, spiritually. And though he may still occasionally walk the tightrope over that abyss, he’s found his way out of the darkness. It was music that led him back into the light. Just like it always has.
Lee resides in the in-between – of chaos and order, sin and salvation, joy and pain. There’s a bracing honesty in his refusal to provide easy answers for the complex characters and narratives he creates. You can hear it in the songs of his projects "Risk Everything" & "Bar Room Hymns". They are unflinching in their honesty, uncompromising in their artistry. He possesses the hallmark of all great artists – an ability to find and communicate honest experience no matter how painful or euphoric.
Born into music, his father ran a recording studio in Pennsylvania, just outside New York City, Lee caught the performance bug at an early age. After honing his skills in the Northeast bar and club scene, he moved to Nashville when he was 19. Once there, he began writing with a friend who had a record deal. That led to a publishing deal for Lee with EMI. He learned to treat songwriting as a craft, but writing for other artists left him in search of his own distinct voice as a performer.
2010 brought the unknown and the uncertain. Nathan focused more of his 2010 performance schedule on cause related shows in U.S. Prisons & Military bases overseas. He finished writing "Bar Room Hymns" and took the songs to 22 year old producer, Zach Hall. (Released in November 2010) The sound of this project is unlike anything Lee has recorded thus far, Yet, staying true to his artistry.
As for 2011….God only knows…..  Nathan is once again committed to a residency at 12th & Porter in Nashville called “GIVE A DAMN SUNDAY", a series he will do for the month of February with proceeds will go to local charities each week.

Nathan is one of the best people I know, he speaks from his heart and sings from his soul and his journey has touched many people along the way. Always facing challenges he states that “Staying creative while not burning out & keeping my heart gentle” is one of his biggest hurdles.


As many musicians and artists will share with you, the misconception of what we think we want and what reality has in store is sometimes difficult to swallow; he honestly answered “Well….My dream was bullshit. My heart is music. My passion is people. I moved to Nashville 16 years ago…..and it has taken me almost 16 years to learn that your dreams and your heart might not be fond of each other.  Dealing with that reality is what makes you a man…for better or worse.”

Couples think long and hard about naming their children, people put thought and meaning into naming a pet, and artist put a lot of effort into the title of their CD and album projects. “Bar Room Hymns” is who I am and what I do. I’m a Bar singer…and I sing songs to give people hope…..in Bar Rooms.” Explains Lee “I think it came to me when I was trying to explain to my accountant what it is that I do for a living.”


Every person relates to music personally and every individual has their own relationship with a song. When I asked Nathan about his he confided with “It’s my time alone….Capturing emotions and words and melodies. Once a song is finished, everything changes….and it becomes commerce. That’s not a bad thing…..but the intimacy of chasing down a song is the best day I could ask for.”

In times of economic strain and change, many have secretly wished to win the lottery, to have just one wish to do whatever they wanted with, I asked Nathan if he could achieve anything musically, what did he hope for. “I would build a tour model without losing my butt, and have the financial outcome help others in need. This world doesn’t need more rock stars …. but they sure as hell need more hope. I’m slowly working towards this model. It’s gonna’ take a few more bucks, and possibly a few more mistakes … and I’m praying that I can retain the strength to see it through. I’d like to be part of something that involves real music, and helping people get ahead in their not-so-perfect emotional situations, without losing money. I hate the word “could” …. so I’m working towards figuring it out. In the process of learning how to do this, I’ve also had to do some unlearning as well. It’s going to take a team. This kind of heartbeat requires some serious clarity and a specific vision/direction. One day at a time … one breath at a time.”


With every “new baby” comes new obstacle and choices, Nathan and I spoke about “Bar Room Hymns” and what he struggled with during the creation of this project. “Honestly…this one wasn’t difficult. When I handed the songs over to Zach Hall, I completely let go. The tricky part was figuring out which songs to record. We had a lot of songs. As far as creative direction….I trusted him; and I’m glad I did. Zach Hall might be the best kept secret in Nashville. He rolls out of bed every morning with a fire under his belt, and the ability to keep a gentle heart. Hanging in the studio with him is about as good as it gets. He’s far more interested in creativity and what feels good, than he is impressing. We’ve written together over the years….and every time I left his studio with a demo, I’d be driving away thinking “Damn…that kid is good; he knows how to find a heartbeat”. He also knows how to work fast, which allowed ideas to be captured quickly. I couldn’t think of anyone better to take these new songs to. He aced it. We released it without mixing or mastering. I’m damn proud of It!”

Anyone who knows Nathan Lee knows he stands out on his own and as an individual. His style and his persona is not a copycat of anyone else. When asking him about how is “fans” were accepting and reacting to his latest CD, he responded with ”Let me start and finish by saying this. The word “fans” has never sat right with me. It’s very acceptable in country music and I believe it’s because country music listeners are far more sincere than other genres of music. That being said, I don’t want fans, I want intimacy! Do you realize how many years it has taken me to learn this? Of course I’d like to sell out Madison Square Garden, but not at the risk of being some Record Labels puppet, or selling my soul and time to a marketing/PR FIRM.  I’m an artist. I wake up every day and make art, and at night I share that art; In bars and clubs. If there comes a night when 300 listeners turns in to 3000 listeners. Fantastic! But a man can’t sing songs about Brokenness and Healing and act like a Rock star; that’s the simple truth! I prefer not to re-learn the lessons that taught me that simple truth, Otherwise I’d be a loudmouth poser and God knows we don’t need anymore of those.”

"I hope you hear my heart in this....I'm grateful to anyone who listens to the songs I write. Truly grateful. But I don't need my ego stroked to feel good about what I do. If that’s the path to musical success, I’d rather be a failure. The beauty in getting older is I want to make music for the people who want it; not the people who don't.

I'm pretty certain I wouldn't have said this ten years ago, and I'm curious as to what I'll think of these statements ten years from now.
The one thing I do know, there's more to learn. I’m certain of this.

For those of you who have shown me support; I am grateful for you. And if it's okay with you...I'd rather call you my friend, instead of my fan. Cool?"


BAR ROOM HYMNS TRACK LIST / DESCRIPTION IN NATHAN'S WORDS
1. INTERLUDE
The “Interlude” happened during the recording process. Near the end of recording the piano parts, Zach asked me to just sit down and play for a while. He recorded about an hour of  solo piano parts. I’ve always wanted to open and close a record with solo pieces….I’m glad we did it.
2. NEW YORK CITY
New York City” was actually written in NYC, over a period of 3 years. The lyrics are actually journal entries. Every time I was in NYC, I ended up thinking about back home, which is only an hour from the city. Earlier this year, I compiled all the entries, and turned them in to a lyric.
3. WHAT LOVE IS ALL ABOUT
“What Love Is All About” was written the day after I got home from the 40 Day Risk. I was exhausted. I was sitting in front of a bible and a big ass bottle of whiskey….and I was clueless on what was next. These words are the quiet whisper I heard after a lot of prayer.
4. SILENT CROSSES
I wrote this with my buddy Rique Patire. After a long conversation, one thing we realized was simply this…..we all have heartaches that we carry….the question is. “Will you carry, or will you be carried”
5. LITTLE BOY
There’s only one person I could of written this with…Tony Lucido. Tony is one of my few buds who is willing to break down the honest truth about moving forward as a man. It’s not comfortable subject matter….But it was important to us to take a look back, and look forward, at who we’ve been, and who we want to be.
6. WOULD YOU LOVE ME ANYWAY
I wrote this song 10 years ago with Marty Funderburk. I’ve had it sitting around ever since. When Zach went through my catalog, he instantly said that it needed to be on the record. This song isn’t easy for me to sing. It hurts. It’s honest. And I’m happy we finally released it.
7. DOWN.
“Down” was written in early 2010 in L.A. with Wyatt Earp. Wyatt is a true cowboy, and an amazing artist, writer, and actor. Zach took this song in a different direction from the way Wyatt and I originally wrote it. Originally, it was another minute and a half longer…..Zach made some serious changes. This one was tricky for me in the recording process. I’m guessing that I’ll take back to the original template for Live shows, but I’m really happy that we took some chances with this one in the studio.
8. GOTTA' KEEP MOVIN' ON
“Gotta Keep Movin’ On” was written a couple years ago with my buddy, Kyle Wyley. It was one of those rainy Mondays, when we couldn’t seem to find our next step. This song has been a bit of an anthem for me over the past year.
9. USE YOUR VOICE
“Use Your Voice” was written for a non-profit called World Vision. A buddy of mine, Jonny Morgan, was hired to shoot a video for them to help raise awareness, and help musicians get involved. In the process, they gave him 20 words to use as an outline for the storyboard. Jonny gave me those words, and I put em’ all in a song. For me, it was a fun and challenging writing process. When it was all said and done, we put the song on the new record as well. I’m proud of this song. I truly hope that More musicians use their abilities to help World Vision. It’s an amazing organization that truly gives hope and restores faith all over the world.
10. CARNIVAL LIGHTS
“Carnival Lights” is the one song on the album that makes me take a step back. The sound…the lyric….the mood….it feels like the old me and the new me all wrapped up. We used a vocoder on this track…..something I was making fun of only 2 years ago. I’ve become exhausted on survival in the music business. I’ve grown to realize that I’m not willing to do the things it takes to survive in the music business, simply because the value I have for people is starting to change. This was my gentle “F - You….It’s time to start being honest about what really matters”
11. POSTLUDE
The “Postlude” is what it is…..a gentle exit….without the words.

For more information and to order his AMAZING new CD visit his website  http://www.nathanleemusic.com/

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