NATHAN BALL – Track by Track

Foto-© Theo Cottle

Schon seit einigen Jahren sorgt jeder neue Song des britischen Songwriters Nathan Ball für ein fröhliches Kribbeln bei uns – umso mehr derzeit, da mit Under The Mackerel Sky nun heute auch endlich sein Debütalbum erschienen ist! Dieses ist geprägt von seinem Umzug von London an die Küste Cornwalls zu Beginn des Lockdowns und erzählt Geschichten vom Wandel, dem damit verbundenen Chaos (und auch der Ruhe darin), aber auch über länger zurückliegende Coming-of-Age-Einsichten. Und trotz der Elektronik ist es ein Album, das überraschend stark vom Folk inspiriert ist und das in jeder Lage, aus jedem Blickwinkel bewegt und berührt. Für uns hat der Brite ein Track by Track zum Debüt geschrieben!

1. Whispers

As soon as I wrote this track I knew it had to be the opener to an album. It sets the scene for the whole record and features a sample of the shipping forecast. My Grandad was in the navy and I often used to listen to the shipping forecast as a kind of meditative sound to get me to sleep at night. I liked to imagine what he might have been up to out there at sea, so it felt great to be able to put this into a song for him.

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2. Blindside

Max and I wrote this track in an old converted chapel in the West Country of the UK. It’s a song about losing sight of each other in a relationship and the sound was the epitome of the sound I was trying to create with this record. It was the middle of winter and the rain was hammering on the windows of the chapel and we wanted to reflect that in the production of the song. It became this kind of epic soundscape with a synth inspired by the film Drive that really took it in a different direction.

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3. Cold Rushes

I remember writing this in my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house when I went home to visit them once. I didn’t really know anything about recording at the time so the demo is this really raw sound with just a kick drum, guitar and synth pad, but it captured the vibe of what I wanted it to be. Max and I then took the track down to a recording session in Cornwall and he added that amazingly dark and epic guitar riff with that really punchy percussion and arpeggiator that took the track exactly where it needed to go. It kind of feels like a Jon Hopkins inspired track for me, and it was the first of the tracks that had hit that kind of middle ground between electronic music and singer songwriter which I had been searching for for a while.

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4. Drifting

I remember reading Patti Smith’s just kids and her mother said whatever you do on New Year’s Day is what you’ll be doing for the rest of the year. I wrote this track at 10am on New Year’s Day and thought it was a pretty epic way to start the year! The song just poured out of me and seems to have been the track that has made the biggest connection with my fans and opened up a whole new world to a load more. We made an album version of the track where we added a few more synths and made the percussion hit a little harder but kept it true to it’s original form.

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5. Can’t Work You Out

I wrote CWYO with 2 friends of mine, Seton and Ash and they were playing about with some instrument sounds and sending over some ideas. They knew I was a huge War on Drugs fan and sent over this constantly building instrumental with this huge guitar solo in it. The very first time I listened to it I began singing along and that’s the exact vocal melody that stayed in the final version! I wrote the lyrics and wanted them to reflect this mad world we seemed to be living in where everything is spiralling out of control and eventually erupts into this mad release of energy. It’s a kind of anti-song of sorts, there’s no chorus to it, just this constant build and I wanted this lack of structure in the song to reflect the lack of structure we’ve been witnessing in the world these last couple of years.

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6. Friend/Lover

Max and I were down in Cornwall having set up a studio at a friends house. We’d been working on Cold Rushes and Call it Love at the time and decided to go to the pub to celebrate our hard work! After about 10 beers, we returned home at about 2am and decided to get back in the studio. There was suddenly this beautiful energy in the room where we were just in this kind of meditative state and we wrote and recorded the song there and then. We went to bed thinking it was the greatest song of all time, then woke up the next day feeling slightly dusty and suddenly remembered we’d written this song. To be honest it’s still one of my favourite songs ever, partly because it transports me back to that time, but also because of the atmosphere it creates with the synths and kick pattern and the story it tells.

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7. Tape Over It

This song is written about feeling lonely within a relationship and rather than talking about it, you find it easier to just mask the problems. It took us a while to record this one as it took on various different forms. We wanted to keep it raw as that was the message the song was trying to portray, but we also wanted that nod to electronic music with the percussion and synths. I wanted the kick to sound like it was coming through the bedroom wall, as if there was a party going on next door and you can hear people having a good time, but there’s that juxtaposition of you alone in this dark place the other side of the wall.

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8. Falling Short

I started writing this song almost as a sort of sea shanty. I love the emotive harmonies they create and wanted to bring that vibe to one of my songs. I just held an arpeggiated note on the piano and started singing. The final lyrics of the song were the very first words I sang and it kind of felt like I was writing a letter to my younger self. When I brought the track to the studio we were unsure of where to take it. Max and I both loved the track but we weren’t too sure how to finish it. It took on a couple of different forms, then Max unleashed this epic guitar solo drenched in reverb and distortion that just took the track to a whole new level.

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9. Luna

This song was written as a story for Luna, the personification of the goddess of the moon. I liked the idea that whatever was going on, despite all the madness in the world, there was always this goddess watching overhead every night in various different shapes. We added the end section as we were just jamming over it, then totally fell in love with it and kept it in. It felt like it could be a really special bit during a live show. There’s a kind of ethereal vocal going on which is my vocal from the chorus played in reverse with a load of reverb on it.

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10. Hotel Room

The lyrics to this song were written after a show in Copenhagen when I’d just got back to my hotel room after a show. It was about 2am and I had that strange feeling of loneliness, the kind you only really get when on long flights or in hotel rooms on your own. I could hear this couple arguing through the wall next door and I began writing about everything that surrounded me in that hotel room. I really wanted the track to tell the story of that evening and get across that feeling of loneliness. At the beginning of the song you can hear the muffled sound of a couple arguing through the walls.

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11. My Answer

This was written in the chapel along with Blindside and instantly became a favourite of mine. It’s written about feeling slightly lost in the world, but then meeting someone who gets you out of that hole, but you fear you might let them down. Despite this kind of sad connotation, it feels like an inherently euphoric and hopeful song. I always pictured it being played to this big festival field in the evening sun, and when we came to record it in the farmhouse in Cornwall, we were up in the attic and I had the windows wide open, singing it out to these open Cornish fields, picturing that very festival scene. It felt like a real special moment and this song always tugs on my heartstrings.

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12. Under the Mackerel Sky

Without being too dramatic, writing this song kind of changed my life. It was during lockdown during a time of great uncertainty and unknown. I’d just seen my diary go from 62 gigs to absolutely nothing which was a pretty mad thing to witness. Strangely it felt like it was exactly what I needed and I felt this huge creative spark light up where I just kept writing non stop for months on end. I wasn’t too sure what I was writing for but it felt great. I was reading a poem by the late great Sir John Betjeman who wrote a lot about his love for this area of Cornwall I live in and I saw a line where he described a mackerel sky. I’d forever seen these kind of patchworks across the sky down here but never really knew what they were. I read deeper into it and it turns out a mackerel sky to sea folk means a change is coming, usually in terms of the weather like a storm is on its’ way, but I liked the idea that a change was coming in the mad world we suddenly found ourselves in. I wrote the song immediately that day, and took it down to where John Betjeman’s is buried at the church down the road. I listened to the track about 20 times on repeat and it suddenly gave a context to all of these songs I had written. It felt like such a time and every time I see a mackerel sky overhead it makes me think of this amazing moment and the great times we had making this record.

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Nathan Ball Tour:
12.12. Artheater, Köln
13.12. Nochtspeicher, Hamburg
14.12. Privatclub, Berlin

Außerdem gibt es hier eine Mini Dokumentation zum Album zu sehen!

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Bedroomdisco-Gründer, Redaktions-Chef, Hans in allen Gassen, Golden Leaves Festival Booker, Sammler, Fanboy, Exil-Darmstädter Wahl-Hamburger & happy kid, stuck with the heart of a sad punk - spreading love for great music since '08!

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