As one half of Brooklyn indie duo The Bergamot, Nathaniel Paul should have been spending his 2020 touring the US. Like most of us, however, his plans were abruptly turned on their head, and instead he’s been using the time to branch out into a solo career he thought was, at best, many years away.
Fired up by both personal circumstances and the American political scene, Nathaniel Paul first had to find somewhere to live in the middle of a pandemic, and then set about ‘punching up’ at a culture he feels has, politically speaking, departed the rails.
“We were supposed to be on the road as The Bergamot through 2019-2020 promoting our album ‘Mayflies’,” he says, “so we gave up our place in NYC to go on tour. When quarantine hit, we were officially homeless. Friends in Sedona, Arizona offered us a place to live out in the middle of the desert.”
“The desert is an amazing, quiet place, perfect for reflection and writing. I found myself writing a lot about past experiences. Memories would just bubble up in the silence and I did my best to put them to paper. It became a daily routine in isolation.”
“Being in a relatively small studio and living in more or less complete isolation during quarantine, writing has been my escape. I will always bring my personal baggage with me, good or bad, but when I’m writing I immerse myself in the moment at hand. Whether that be a debate about guns or relaxing on the beach, I’m going all in.”
Those moments have indeed been both deeply personal, and staunchly political. On one track, Paul pays tribute to his grandmother, and in another, hits out at the Trump administration.
“I aspire to be more like her with every passing day,” Paul says of ‘Virtues’ and the way it links back to his grandmother. “People are both fascinating and frustrating. The way we interact with one other and the world around us is a fervent stream of inspiration for me.”
Looking back at recent politics and its divising impact on new single ‘It’s All The Rage’, Paul says “Our culture has failed us. Celebrities to politicians. We desperately need change. So I am very comfortable [hitting out at that].”
“It’s vital for artists to speak up, and not just the top 0.1%, either. Artists’ voices have been overshadowed by the 24/7 politics of the last twelve years. This hyper-partisan obsession with politics is unhealthy and unstable. Art transcends reason. It’s our highest calling to use as a platform for constructive means. I hope I can do that.”
“I am spending all my waking hours in the studio right now, so the solo material just happened naturally. I’ve written 40 songs over the past few months. Usually they just sit in some folder, but this time I thought why not put some out there and see what happens? At this point, I’m just trying to explore all creative outlets.”
“My financials are wrecked and completely upside down – I’ve all but given up on that front”, he finishes. “Touring was my life. In addition to that, I miss the rapport you share with an audience as a musician every night. I miss it dearly.”