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Jonson Kuhn | New SCENE
Nathaniel Riley’s “Another New Year” is another example of why he’s a cherished NOCO artist.
Fort Collins may be blessed with many treasured local musicians, and perhaps few of them make that statement ring with more truth than Nathaniel Riley. He looks like a cross between Tom Waits and a Civil War soldier, and he plays music as genuine and heartfelt as you might expect such an old soul to do.
Chances are you’ve seen him playing around town with other musicians or even the world-famous NOCO band Frail Talk, but just in case you haven’t heard Nathaniel for yourself just yet, you’ll get a chance to on Friday, April 7 when he releases his new single “Another New Year” on streaming services.
Described as being “Rich acoustic textures punctuated with banjo and fiddle runs,” define Nathaniel Riley’s debut single. Likened to contemporary folk artists like River Whyless, Father John Misty, and John Craigie, Nathaniel’s song serves the wanderlust folks who seek out coffeehouse specials and delicate unwinding roots tunes. Nathaniel has been cutting his teeth opening for touring Folk / Americana acts locally and now stepping into his own for the first time. This latest single is part of his even newer album, Bird Songs, which is set to release on July 14.
Nathaniel recently sat down with New Scene to talk about the process of writing the new single/album and his plans for the future. As he explained, the album had been shelved since the time he recorded it during the height of the pandemic. Nathaniel said he could remember recording “Another New Year” and immediately having the feeling that he had found his single.
“It was always sort of the cornerstone of the record for me like I think I always envisioned it as the single, and I kind of based a lot of the sound of the record off of how that song was developing,” Nathaniel said. “The song itself, it’s probably one of the more personal songs I have, especially in relation to the time when I wrote it. Because it was during the pandemic, I spent a lot of time up in Poudre Canyon, and that was really awesome just hanging out on the river. I have a little girl, and with her especially, it felt like time was flying by there are a couple of lines that reference the rocks that she would stack up there, and then we’d go back sometime later, and they’d still be stacked there, so for me, the song, in a nutshell, is basically just this whole perspective of time and how it passes and my relationship with that, which to be quite honest is quite poor. I’m always trying to hang onto the seasons or whatever it may be just a little bit longer.”
Nathaniel said the name for the album “Bird Songs” came from many different places, but primarily it came from his grandparents and their love of birds (and hatred for squirrels) that they would eventually pass on to him someday.
“I grew up on this farm, and my grandpa would always tell me to get rid of the squirrels, so I’d always hunt these squirrels, but he always made it a strong point to never shoot the birds, my grandmother was really fond of the birds,” Nathaniel said. “So from a young age, there was this sort of respect that I had for these animals and these beautiful birds especially. I became pretty fond of birds at a young age[..]More specifically, on the album, when it really became decided that this would be the title for the album, as I was writing, I would wake up in the morning, and I’d hear all of these birds outside of my window, there was this tree that would fill up with birds in the springtime, and they made nests everywhere, we actually got to see some of the eggs hatch. It was just really cool; I spent a lot of time over that spring/summer section of 2020 just paying close attention to all of these birds around my house. And then I wrote this song called Bird Songs, which then led to it being the title, and it inspired all of the album artwork.”
Riley said the artwork is meant to pay respect to his grandmother and her favorite bird, the cardinal, while also honoring his favorite — the blue jay. As for the single, while there won’t be a concert to celebrate the release, you can still catch Nathaniel live on April 19 with Willi Carlisle at The Coast in Fort Collins. Then just a couple weeks after that, he’ll perform at FOCO MX with his band at Equinox Brewing at 9:15 pm on April 29.
When asked why someone who might not be familiar with his music should give him a listen, he’s one of the nicest, most modest people you’re likely to meet. He actually struggles to answer the question, and before complimenting himself, he must assure that by saying something positive about himself isn’t to say other local musicians don’t also have the same positive qualities. One thing is for sure, Nathaniel speaks from the heart, in his music and in his everyday speech, and in my book, he’s always someone worth listening to.
“I really put a lot of feeling and emotions into these songs, they’re extremely personal to me. I mean what I saw in them and in that moment of presenting them, I think that it’s a balance of the performance, but also it’s a healing process for me personally,” Nathaniel said. “From the bottom of my heart, when I pick up the guitar and walk to the microphone, it’s sort of this whole reflection period for me. And it’s nice to be able to share the song because it almost releases me from where it came from for me, especially if it meant something to someone else; it’s like, ‘Oh, okay, this isn’t just about me anymore, this isn’t just about that problem. It’s not my story anymore, it can morph into this relationship with other people, too, and become a part of their story as well, and that’s always been crazy surreal honestly one of my main objectives is to just connect with people like that.”
Be sure to check out Nathaniel online at his Website, Spotify , Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube.