Nathan Ball’s ethereal and hauntingly beautiful folk songs are the perfect soundtrack for a foggy forest walk in autumn, or, as the British singer-songwriter would probably say himself, for a stormy day at the beach.
After two brilliant self-released EPs, earning him slots at prestigious festivals such as Isle of Wight and Glastonbury, Ball is bound to take over the world with his next single, scheduled for November.
Here our newcomer of the month lets loose on his love for nature, his problem with happy music and his passion for snowboarding.
THE RED BULLETIN: Most of your songs are sparse, introverted and melancholic. What intrigues you about the darker side of music?
NATHAN BALL: I love feeling insignificant around nature. The stormy sea and huge mountains, that’s what sparks that darker side. Also, I tend to just pick up a guitar when I’m feeling angry, whereas if I’m happy, I can’t write. That’s why all my songs are intense.
Isn’t that exhausting? Why do you think that is?
I guess it comes from continuously writing that kind of style. I never explored the happier side. I’ve always just associated picking up the guitar with letting bad emotions out. When I’m happy, I want to go surfing with my mates. I’ve written a couple of songs when I was happy and it came out really cheesy.
Do you listen to happy music?
Not really, a lot of happy stuff is based on a quite easy formula. It’s too happy-clappy for me. Do you know The War On Drugs? I love their last album Lost In The Dream. They sound a bit like a modern day Bob Dylan. In a world where auto-tune and nasty electronic instruments have taken over, they’ve screwed that and stuck to the guitars.
I read you are a sucker for good house music though.
I do love house music and techno, that’s true. Producers like George Fitzgerald, Dixon and Âme – they’re masters of blending great harmonies with deep electronic beats. George Fitzgerald has got this song called “Call It Love” which is out of control. It’s so good!
Have you ever tried to write a house track yourself?
My band and I tried remixing one of our songs once. We brought it up to 120 BPM and added a bass drum. It didn’t sound great (laughs). But maybe we should give it another shot and do an EP with house edits of our own songs. That would be fun.
What is the perfect environment for you to write songs?
I would actually love to set up the perfect space one day. It would be a hut, lit only by candles, with a massive window looking out to a stormy sea. That would be the dream.
Where do you currently work?
My girlfriend lives in Cornwall, so I spend a lot of time down there. But the set up there is way too nice. I need something a bit more rustic and horrible in order to get angry (laughs). But I’ve got a little camper van that I take around. You just open the back doors, you sit on the back and just look out to sea. That really sparks me off. I guess when you’re staring at the sea you’re not too focussed on writing the song, there’s other stuff going as well, so it comes more naturally.
Do you have any passions besides music?
Snowboarding. My parents own a place in France. We used to spend every holiday from school there. When I was ten, I picked up a snowboard because I thought it was cooler than skiing at the time. And I’ve just been hooked ever since.
What’s the musical equivalent of an amazing jump?
I think it’s when people are singing along at gigs. My band and I, we’ve only released two EPs, we haven’t got a label yet. We just enjoy releasing stuff, because it doesn’t tie you down to anything. On our last EP Howling we put out a song with a minute and half guitar solo, because we don’t have a label telling us we can’t do that. It’s such a good feeling. We don’t have the marketing budget where people are ramming our songs down people’s throats. So when people sing along that means that they’ve worked to get that song. They’ve either seen us at a festival or found us online and dig the song. When they sing the songs I always think, this is nuts!
Check out his next live gig at The Lexington in London on December 1st here