Nathaniel Rateliff tries to stay humble after recent success
Denver-based singer Nathaniel Rateliff released his first album with his band The Night Sweats last week. Known more for his contemplative folk songs, his new LP is a shout out to the soul records of the ‘60s and ‘70s. He will be playing at the Belly Up this weekend as a part of the Mountain Summit: Mountainfilm festival.
For a man known for his quiet, rootsy folk music, what people heard a few weeks ago on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon was something completely different.
But after more than two decades of making music in his home state of Missouri and his new home of Colorado, he is trying to stay humble after both critical and commercial success.
“I’ve been working at this for a long time," says Rateliff. "Every album there’d be new excitement that would generally be followed by disappointment and discouragement. I was still hesitant to get too excited about it.”
Critical praise has come from outlets like NPR and Paste Magazine, and even from across the pond.
This is Rateliff’s first release with The Night Sweats, and his first on Stax Records — the same label that introduced the world to Otis Redding.
The first song on the self-titled album called “I Need Never Get Old,” fits right into the Stax collection, full of tambourines and ecclesial howls and shouts.
“It’s amazing to be part of the label," says Rateliff. "I’m not Otis Redding. I’m not Isaac Hayes. Those guys who were out and changed music. We’re just trying to do the best we can do, and love each other and have a good time.”
Sometimes when artists come out with music that is a drastic departure from what fans are used to or if success is reached, they aren’t too pleased that their little secret has been shared with the world. Nathaniel says that is something that he worries about now that he has blown up over the past few weeks, because of his album and TV debut.
“I’ve worked a long time to try have people hear our music, so the more they can, the better. I think the only thing that worries me is backlash. It sucks to work for such a long time, that when you have your success people are like ‘well there’s that guy.’ Not everybody can love you.”
While trying to make ends meet as a musician, Rateliff worked at a trucking company, then as a gardener. All until he could make music full time. He says it adds to his nature as a person.
“I feel like as a person I try to be humble and approachable," says Rateliff. "I know there have been times in my life where my ego might have flared up. Luckily, I have really good friends that have called me out on that kind of stuff.”
Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats will be performing in Aspen on Saturday after a screening of the film “Austin to Boston.” The movie follows Nathaniel and a few other bands across the country as they make their way from - you guessed it - Austin to Boston on a concert tour.
Rateliff says the film was made during one of the darkest parts of his life, but he ended up getting a lot out of the tour and the movie experience.
“I got to make a bunch of new friends out of it," says Rateliff. "Those are people who we got to share an experience with that was pretty unique in a lot of ways. Those people will be — we’ll be friends for the rest of our lives.”
Friends like Ben Howard, The Staves and Bear’s Den — all big names in the music world.
But for the moment, Nathaniel is content with the wave he is riding right now.