A top-shelf troubadour
Thanks to Mumford & Sons, folk rocker Nathaniel Rateliff has mastered the art of the slow yell lately, which he uses in front of large audiences. “It’s like ‘heeeellllllooooo,'” he said, demonstrating during a phone interview this week. “You just have to talk a lot slower, mainly.”Rateliff has opened for the British folk rockers a few times now, including a show at an arena in Toronto, where he performed in front of 16,000 people. Despite the large crowd, he wasn’t nervous, he said. “When the audiences are that big, anything over 1,500 people seems more like a mob than an audience,” said Rateliff, who lives in Denver. “It’s more about trying to figure out how to react and communicate with an audience that big.”Rateliff and his band, which goes by the moniker Fairchildren when performing without him, will take the stage at Agave in Avon tonight. Patrick Dethlefs will open, as well as the local female duo Boxcar Daisies. “This is one of those ‘you snooze, you lose’ shows that down the road, people will be kicking themselves for missing,” said Crawford Byers, the show’s promoter and owner of Rocky Mountain Entertainment. “Nathaniel is an amazing songwriter – laid back and soulful and armed with heartfelt, poignant lyrics.”He’s already a media darling and gets a lot of ink on a national level; we’ve just been waiting for the right time to bring him to the mountains. While we don’t book a lot of songwriters at the nightclub, his star is rising and it felt like the right time to bring him to the Vail Valley.”
So how did Rateliff’s opening gigs with the surprise, indie-turned-mainstream rockers Mumford & Sons come to be? Mutual friends, of course.”Eventually we got together, hung out a few times, and then it just came up that they were into my record and they asked me to open up for them on their European tour,” Rateliff said. “That helped me out quite a lot.”Though Rateliff is a Denver resident, he’s very much a part of the national and even international music scene, having spent three to four months performing overseas the past year in support of his record “In Memory of Loss.” But last weekend, Rateliff performed close to home. He played his sixth annual holiday revue at The Gothic Theatre in Denver. It’s become quite the Front Range tradition, but there was a new face in the crowd this time around: Gov. John Hickenlooper. “He was a super nice guy,” Rateliff said. “It was really nice to meet him.”So what did “The Hick,” as Rateliff called him, talk about?”He said, ‘I have to make sure you stay here. How can I help you out?'” Rateliff said.And that brings up a relevant question. Will Rateliff stick close to home, even as he begins to catch fire? The answer is yes, at least for the foreseeable future. “I’ve been in the same house, in the same neighborhood in Denver, for seven or eight years,” he said. “The rent is cheap, it’s convenient, and I don’t have that many expenses, which helps me travel more.”
Though local musician Elli Gauthier (she’s half of the opening duo Boxcar Daisies) has never seen Rateliff perform live, his album “In Memory of Loss” is one of her “all-time favorites,” she said. “I think one of my favorite things about his artistry is his striking use of negative space – it’s like there’s room inside the music,” she said. “A wall with a few thoughtfully hung paintings, rather than one crammed with every bauble that catches the eye. It’s haunting, somehow, and relevant.”Being a singer, I’m especially excited to see him with his band – their harmonies are interesting and intricate and totally beautiful to listen to.”And soon, Rateliff will have a new album for Gauthier to covet. Rateliff has about 19 new songs ready for a new album, he said. He’s demoed everything, and he’s hoping to get into the studio to record the album in January and release it in the spring, “at least that’s what the label (Rounder Records) is projecting,” he said. Much of that new material will likely be on full display tonight, Rateliff said, in a venue where he likely won’t have to use his slow yell. High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or email@example.com.