We all have a musical journey. I love that people take the time to write a guest post about music in their life (if you want to write one – you should). It’s a great insight and a fun read. I can’t thank you enough. For writing one. For reading one. Thank you. Thank you music lover.
So this MLiM came about in a odd way. Well not that odd. Just more round about than normal. So I work for Lately, which is a brilliant social media marketing tool (ask me for a free demo). I was giving a demo to a music PR company. During the demo I on was on their page and he mentioned Nate Leslie. Now, I love new music. I love finding new music. So when someone says “I’ve listened to NEXT and I think you’ll like this”. I get excited. I said, “I shall listen.” Yes, I know it doesn’t take much to get me excited.
Thanks for the suggestion. I listened. I liked. I added two songs to the NEXT queue. Which is huge. I rarely double dip on an album. There’s too much I want to expose to my listeners. Then I played a song on NEXT.
Plus, it helps he is from Chicago. I love Chicago. I grew up there. All my family is there. And. And this is big. Nate’s music is great. So…how did we get here? I asked, “Hey would Nate want to write up a quick My Life in Music?”. He said yes. And here we are. Yay happy endings.
Thank you Nate. All the rest of this post is Nate. Enjoy.
My musical life, with Nate Leslie.
I can’t boil it all down to one moment or one song, but perhaps I can narrow it all down to a sound. There were so many sounds before and after this sound, and I’m sure there’ll be countless more to come. The early sounds included me as a small child, dancing to “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” or “Walking On The Moon” as my dad played The Police on our family cassette deck. Or when he played Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ In The Years” or Led Zeppelin I. Or listening to Breakfast With The Beatles in the car.
Those sounds were great, but they didn’t fully push the internal musical button for me. My early teens were influenced by my older brother and his circle of friends who ingrained a love of intense metal, industrial, and other heavy music into my brain. We went to the shows, suffered the mosh pit bruises, and came home smelling of a hundred other people’s sweat. These cathartic musical experiences were different than what I was learning through my eventual 8 years worth of classical piano lessons. This is what I was looking for as I taught myself to play guitar, jumping into my first terrible-sounding basement punk band, or enthusiastically joining the church youth group as an opportunity to play music.
High school: shortly after forming a band called Paradigm with my best friend and drummer Jack Essenburg, his older brother Dan turned us onto another world of sound. It was through Dan that I got my hands on Rotten Apples, the greatest hits CD by The Smashing Pumpkins. Dan also introduced us to Antenna by Cave In and The Rising Tide by Sunny Day Real Estate. This was it. This was the sound my soul had been searching for without knowing it. Then came Speakeasy by Stavesacre and Rock’N’Roll by Ryan Adams.
Despite having heard these mind-boggling musical creations, our band was nowhere close to capturing that sound or vibe. I look back now and realize that was ok. We had much to learn, a lot of it painfully and slowly. We learned how to “headline” shows that happened to be at midnight on a Wednesday…to a crowd that consisted of the bartender and our friend Mike. Countless shows like this. Week in and week out of practice, convincing ourselves that if we played better, faster, and louder than everyone we played with, it would make a difference. It usually didn’t.
That band formed some of my longest running friendships. Being Jack’s best man is a more important a memory for me than playing our biggest shows. And that’s ok. The 10-ish years we spent in a band together helped us grow up in some ways, and remain totally stunted in others. One thing I know for sure, is that the very last 6-song EP Paradigm put out was the closest thing to that sound that I had yet made.
When the band was over, I kept writing. There’s some overlap in the timeline, so don’t ask me for specifics. I played bass in another band with Jack called Black Canvas. We played some shows I’ll never forget, opening for bands like Lovedrug and The Appleseed Cast, who were HUGE heroes of ours.
I was learning how to record in a DAW. In the midst of getting married and having my first child, I was immersed in the writing and releasing of my first solo record. I realize now that my wife deserves much more credit for putting up with my brooding, depressed songwriter disposition as I deserve for making a record. “Who’s Fault The Grammar?” came out in 2009, and I still love it. I love it because it was me, only at that moment in time. Each subsequent record was me, at those moments. The sounds I was consuming throughout all my hours and years of working on songs did change a lot. Sigur Ros’ Takk album was monumental. So was hearing “All The Wine” by The National for the first time.
I still love brutal, abrasive music, maybe even more so now. My love affair with the band Converge is deep, but I’ll go straight from listening to Jane Doe to turning on Debussy. There’s no formula for what music a person likes. That’s probably the most important thing I’ve learned in my time in music: it’s ok for people to like what they like. But, it’s also ok to gently push people into musical places they may not be familiar with.
I keep writing because I’m still living. I keep releasing music for the same reason I keep breathing; it’s because I have to. As soon as I don’t have to anymore, I’ll stop. I’ll probably feel relieved whenever that happens, because being creative and demanding such things of yourself is exhausting and can very often feel like crushing disappointment. I’ve poured myself, no, dumped myself into the songs I’ve written, and then I keep putting them out there for the world to hear. I think that’s a little bit of where the title Years We Lost came from. I can’t account for so much of the time that I’ve spent creating. It’s like it went up in a flash of light, a puff of smoke, and the remaining ashes are the sounds. My sound. I just hope it’s the sound that someone else has been looking for too.