Getting To Know Nathaniel Rateliff; The Bearded, Dancing Musician Behind ‘S.O.B.’

I think the first album I ever got was Thriller.

By Rami Abou-Sabe

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats have quickly become one of the most sought after acts on the festival circuit. Following a 2015 performance on The Tonight Show, the seven-piece has been on a steady climb, charting a number of singles and filling larger and larger venues across the country.

Rateliff’s powerful voice, infectious dance moves, and mature songwriting make the Night Sweats one of the most fascinating bands in the industry today.

Back in May, Rateliff and his group made a midday appearance at Boston Calling, highlighted by a muddy dance party as the Saturday crowd trudged into the rain-soaked Harvard Athletic Complex, feet shuffling uncontrollably to the soulful roots rock coming from the stage.

The Denver folk heroes returned to the area last month for an opening slot on Kings of Leon‘s Walls tour, and Mix 104.1 caught up with Nathaniel backstage.

Read on for highlights from our conversation. This interview has been edited for clarity.

I hear that the first instrument you learned to play was the drums, is that right?

Yup! I started at 7.

And how was the transition from drums to a melodic instrument like guitar?

I always thought of the drums as a melodic instrument. Some of my favorite drummers… Even Ringo [Starr] – everyone knows what a Ringo fill is like because you sing it during the song. So I always thought of drums that way.

But the transition was that my mom always played guitar, and then at some point, I wanted to just learn how to play. My mom taught me a couple chords, and my buddy taught me a couple more, and I just started goofing off and writing songs. Then I drifted away from writing songs and wanted to be rock guitar player.

And you can hear a little bit of that rock ‘n roll come out in your music now, but you certainly don’t fit into any one genre. There’s a lot of country influence, bluegrass, folk, some Americana stuff in there… And then on top of that, there’s that classic rock edge.

Yeah, I’ve always been a big fan of The Band, and early R&B and soul.

Speaking of melodic drummers, The Band’s Levon Helm is probably my favorite drummer of all time.

Love that guy. I kind of originally wanted to make music that sounds like The Band and Sam & Dave had joined up. Both of those bands had that Stax [Records], Muscle Shoals mixture of country music and soul music. And The Band always did a good interpretation of that…

What’s the first album you ever bought?

I think the first album I ever got was Thriller.

Michael Jackson’s Thriller?

Mmm-hmm. I was 7 or 8.

That’s awesome, it’s a hell of an album. A lot different than the music you’re making now.

Yeah, but maybe on the next record we’ll sound like Off The Wall.

That would be pretty cool!

I wish… It’s not gonna happen though [laughs].

So if it’s not a Michael Jackson-esque record, what is next for the Night Sweats?

We’ve been working on a new record. It’s almost done but probably won’t come out until next year sometime. Just doing that, and keeping busy this fall. Doing some tours. Trying to work with some other friends of ours while we have time. And actually just trying to take some time off because we haven’t really had any.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats continue touring through the end of October, with the follow-up to 2016’s full-length studio effort slated for release next year.

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