Nathan K to showcase ‘anti-freak folk’ at Ottawa TavernWritten by Matt Liasse | | email@example.com
Nathan K remembers playing Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” on his Walkman.
“It only got one radio station, and it was the oldies station, so I would stay up all night waiting for that song to come on,” said the singer, whose real name is Nathan Klages.
Later, when he was in college, the Ann Arbor native discovered Seger was from the same hometown.
“It’s so funny because when I was a kid, in Ann Arbor, listening to those songs … all these songs are about places in Ann Arbor that at the time I was listening to … in those places,” Klages said.
Since then, he played a show with someone who used to work with Seger at a record store and was told he waited at the same bus stop Seger had.
“[Those songs] were a lot more meaningful after that,” Klages said. “Somebody just walked the same streets as me, [and] ultimately had the same dream.”
Klages wrote about that connection in his song “Bob Seger,” off his album “Dishes.” The nine-track album was released last summer and is now available at bandcamp.com. The release is a solo project he’s promoting during time off from playing guitar in the band Stepdad.
Klages recorded “Dishes” while visiting his dying grandfather in the hospital. Klages would play music for him in the daytime and record when he couldn’t sleep at night. He didn’t intend for it to be released.
“It’s very personal for me,” Klages said.
There is a song on the record called “Hospital Walls,” which mentions his grandfather. Lyrics include “I was working on a great, big painting / to give to my grandpa as a gift / but he died one cold, dark evening and / so I threw it in the ditch / and who paints the walls in these hospital rooms / ‘cause they only make me feel sick.”
“It much more the mood and the vibe and thoughts that I was thinking at the time,” Klages said. “I use song writing as a way to kind of figure out how I feel about the world. When I sit down, a lot of times I don’t know how I feel about something until I sit down and try and write about it. … It’s a really good outlet personally even if I wasn’t ever going to perform them.”
Klages categorizes his music as “anti-freak folk,” which was coined by fellow folk act Small Houses.
“I think the term ‘anti-folk’ was coined to disregard the pretension around old paradigms of the folk revivalists. … ‘Freak folk,’ in a way, is the extension of that idea but with less regard to traditional use of instrumentation and singing style,” said Jeremy Quentin of Small Houses in an email. “Nathan K is ‘anti-freak,’ the most honest, uninhibited writer I know, yet, still eerily accessible, with an emphasis on the eerie.”
Klages said he doesn’t particularly identify with the current folk musicians with mainstream success, like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers, but is excited that the genre is being accepted.
“My music is a lot different than that, and a lot of times I think it comes from a different place,” Klages said. “I think it’s really great that they’ve been able to find success. Five years ago, if you had a banjo in your music, instantly people hated it without hearing the song.”
Klages said he tries to not appear as stereotypically folk.
“I’m not trying to be a guy playing a guitar in the woods, which is every folk video,” Klages said. “It’s really weird; a lot of people who like my music really hate folk music.”
While Klages is promoting “Dishes,” Stepdad is currently writing music for a potential album. Klages also has another solo album, which still needs to be mixed. He said he doesn’t have a timeline, but knows what it sounds like.
“I wanted the record to sound like ‘Eleanor Rigby;’ a lot of lush instrumentation,” Klages said. “But obviously I’m not The Beatles.”
Klages will play at the Ottawa Tavern on June 28. He will share the stage with Jeremy Porter & the Tucos and People Being Human.