Everything about Singer- songwriter Nathan Ball feels unforced. A natural, easy, calming presence, his music flows through you in much the same manner.
It took an extended spell in the mountains to unlock this path. Until then, music had been a solitary, uncertain pursuit – a passion, for sure, but one that had yet to find it’s legs. “I think I needed to get away,” he recalls, “somewhere where there was just no pressure. I had left university and didn’t really know what I wanted to do. All my friends were committing to careers but I needed space to understand what this creative force inside me was.”
Returning to the UK, demos in hand, Nathan threw himself into crafting his sound. Writing and recording, he gathered a band around him and began playing show after show. “It was a weird one because we were just moving along doing our own thing yet every show we ever played was packed out. Eventually Industry people started coming along and saying: ‘how the hell are you doing this?’ We just kept making music and playing and somehow it connected. I’ve always liked the idea of people getting on board because they want to, rather than it being shoved in their faces.”
Nathan’s work fuses two chief loves – one for the classic songwriting of Paul Simon or Van Morrison and the other an eagerness to experiment and push boundaries sonically. Perhaps unexpectedly he finds inspiration in left-field house music. “That’s where I get the emotions I like to bring into my own writing he explains “I love the way it makes you feel – it’s euphoric, but sad, introvert but expressive. I can’t quite pin down what it is… I love that darker side of the genre, I guess.”
Nathan’s approach to writing goes against the grain. “I don’t go for an obvious story or make my songs directly about my experiences” he says. “I like to nod to the things I’ve been through but leave space for people to adapt each narrative to their own lives and experiences.”
Break out single ‘Right Place’ is a case in point – warm and moving, it’s born from a deeply private place but without revealing so much that it becomes introvert. “When you’re writing on your own, because no one’s listening to it you can write about seriously personal stuff. I’ve never been one to talk about that stuff publicly, so I guess it’s my outlet of sorts. I mean, I’m a very happy person, always smiling so maybe it’s therapeutic.”
Losing himself in the outdoors, much of Nathan’s material is connected to his surroundings. “It’s where I write best; by the sea, in the mountains, in the woods. I love being totally immersed in nature so naturally those themes find their way into the music. I love being in the sea – even if I’m not surfing, just being in it, and feeling totally insignificant. It’s a reminder of the order of things.”
Now based in London, he finds the perpetually evolving panorama of the city both chaotic and enchanting. Continually working on fresh material, he’ll then listen to it as he journeys around the metropolis, adjusting it as he goes. “When I write a song I’ll email it to myself and then listen to it in a bunch of different environments the tube or in the car” he says. “I guess I’m imagining playing it in front of a crowd on the road and asking if it’s provocative and has heart.”