This week we feature New York’s Nat Osborn. Having a Father who played the drums and a Mother who played the piano, it wasn’t a big surprise that Nat would shelf out some of his own musical talent as well. Nat Osborn and his band have been hitting the live circuit for quite a while now, filling venues with their soulful, yet jazzy unified sound. On top of that, he’s worked incredibly hard on his new record The King & The Clown, which is patiently waiting its release for everyone out there to hear. We spoke to Nat about The King & The Clown, his background, and his experiences in DC. Get to know Nat Osborn.
You can catch the Nat Osborn Band bringing their soulful jazz this Saturday, June 16th at Bayou! Don’t miss it!
Nat, tell us a little about your background. I know that your parents were both musicians – your father being a drummer and your mother being a pianist – how have those factors influenced you in becoming the musician you are today?
I’d say I come from a musical family but not a family of musicians. My parents record collection kicked ass and it was a family tragedy when it was destroyed in a flood about a decade ago. I’m definitely a product of their taste and hunger for good music. I grew up dancing to Michael Jackson in the living room, singing to Sam Cooke and Paul Simon in the car, and listening to Debussy in the kitchen on Sundays while my mother made her killer french toast.
Having a piano in the living room was a blessing though. My mother played well and used to stand me on the piano bench when I was quite young. I had an active imagination as a kid, like most kids, and I loved pressing different combinations of keys and started making up tunes at a very young age. My father’s previously ignored drum set in the basement quickly became really cool to me around 12 years old and in my first couple bands I was actually the drummer. Neither of my folks ever considered music as a profession but my mother has a serious ear but not rhythm and my father is tone deaf but can keep a beat. I think I got the right mix of the two of them.
New York City can be deemed a difficult city to become an established musician, especially with the amount of talent that seems to bloom from there. How do you continue to push yourself to become more and to get your name out there amongst the greats that your city has to offer?
That’s a really good question and something everyone struggles with. New York kicks your ass. It kicks everyone’s ass. It can be tough to see so many people who are so good everywhere, most of them not even making it. I see bands in the corner of restaurants playing for tips that would be selling out larger venues in other cities around the world. Chances are the guy handing you your latte in the morning is a better songwriter than half the bands you’ve heard in the past week, he’s just trying to hustle like the rest of us. It’s a toss up, you could have an easier time starting a career somewhere else, but you stay here because there are always folks around to push you to work harder. The best way to go about it is to know what you’re good at, work really hard at that and then work even harder at what you’re not, while somehow trying enjoying the process. I think there’s a reason people in New York wear dark colors, it’s like they’re mourning their lost time! No time not to hustle.
Your record “The King & the Crown” has yet to make its debut release but you’ve pre-‐released some tracks from it recently. How has the fan-‐reception been so far to the tracks?
I’ve been pretty possessive about this record. There’s a tendency these days to throw stuff out there and hope that it sticks but that never felt right for this project. I put a LOT into this record and don’t forsee “the put it online and have people pay what you will” model working for me. We did however, fairly casually, just put up three songs on YouTube so people could start passing the tunes around and getting a sense of what this record will be like. We’re shopping the record around now to labels and if we don’t get the offer we want we’ll look to release it independently in the early fall. I’m antsy for people to hear it.
What can you tell us about the song-‐writing aspect of your record? When did you start writing songs for The King & the Crown?
Some of these songs are five years old if you can believe it. Some are less than half a year old… it’s a mix. This record was like a demon eating my insides, it feels so good to be out, I feel like myself again frankly. The album is very eclectic, largely because it covers such a large swath of my life, I’ve gone through so many periods and changes already as an artist in that period. There are songs that come from my feeling of being politically frustrated about the state of affairs in our country, songs that are deeply personal, and songs that are more whimsical in nature. They’re all me though, I certainly connect with each one and feel that each song is an aspect of who I am.
How about the recording process? You worked with longtime friend and producer Alex Bilowitz on the album. How did the rapport help any challenges – if there were any – faced along the way?
The recording process was phenomenal. I’ve self produced everything I’ve done in the past, in fact, I attempted to make this record three years ago and scrapped it when I decided it wasn’t good enough. Working with Alex was the best decision I’ve made in my career. Doing everything yourself is not only tough on time and energy but it can be like over-marinating in your own juices. It’s too much one voice. Alex and I formed a really powerful partnership, if I felt really strongly about something he’d go with it and vice-versa. We never really butt heads too much because we shared the vision for what this record was to be and now is. The record sounds amazing and that’s because Alex brought in the right players, booked the right studios, and engineered it perfectly. It didn’t hurt to have it mixed by Scott Jacoby (John Legend) and mastered at the Lodge (The Shins, Foo Fighters). Making this album was a joy and an amazing experience, the hard part starts now: getting out to people who would want to buy it!
What’s the status on the album release? Can Nat Osborn fans expect it anytime soon?
We’re looking at an early fall independent release if we choose to go that route. Ideally the right label will offer the right deal but these days they’re so tight with anything that’s not a sure bet that we’ll get that. Most likely we’ll go the independent route all the way.
I saw you out at Bayou back in February, opening for Turkuaz at Bayou. As a fan of horns, it was incredibly impressive how well the band came together with such a powerfully jazzy, yet soulful vibe. For anyone who has yet to see you live, how would you describe your live shows?
Glad you enjoyed the show! We’re just getting started… the band is still fairly new and is getting tighter and tighter the more we play. The tour we went on in May had us playing two hour sets and more for the first time so we really got to open up tunes, play with them on stage as well as putting some new originals and covers together. We’re still trying to figure out how to describe the show because it’s so eclectic. Our hope is that we make you dance, laugh, cry and walk away feeling a little more connected to where you are after the show is over.
Speaking of live shows, you’ve been playing in the DC area for quite a while now – whether opening for Turkuaz or headlining at Bayou – how has your experiences been with the DC crowd from the times you’ve played here?
DC has been great to us… the Bayou has been great to us! It’s really tough to break into a new city, a new market and a new scene but the welcome that DC has given us has been really appreciated. You never know what to expect when you fight traffic and high gas prices to show up in some town where you know a few people and hope that others stumble in. It’s been awesome to have a home away from home in DC.
Thanks so much for your time, Nat. One last question for you – with all the writing, performing, traveling – do you ever find the time to sleep?
You know, everyone asks me that. I’m actually blessed with the ability to sleep really well, which means when I’m up I have TONS of energy. I need to it write songs, lead two bands, organize tours, do those tours, and still try to find energy to bring to the stage. Plus, I can sleep when