Spotlight on: Nate Currin

In Undiscovered Music's Spotlight series, we pick upcoming acoustic musicians to feature. You'll learn their backstories, how they got started, what moves them forward, and you'll hear about some neat experiences they've had along the way.

This time, UMN's Stephen Dornfeld sits down with Nate Currin.

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A troubadour in every sense of the word, Nate Currin has been on the road for years, quite literally driving the miles and connecting with fans one song at a time in smaller venues and house concerts. His storytelling is memorably unique and he has some notable accolades.

UMN: Nate, thank you for sitting down with us briefly at Undiscovered Music. Could you give us a little background on your musical journey?

Nate Currin: Hi Stephen, I appreciate you having me. Sure. So, I grew up in a very religious home, and as one of four siblings, we were all required to play a musical instrument from a young age. So I began playing piano super young and then guitar in high school. I played in church some but really didn't begin writing until college. Honestly, if you had asked me even in college if I'd pursue a career in the music industry, I would have laughed at you. But after college, I began playing around Atlanta some, then the southeast, then West Coast and then slowly began touring the full country, which I've done for the last decade or so.

UMN: When did you start playing the guitar and singing?

Nate: Well, like I mentioned, I really didn't begin dabbling with the guitar until high school and then more so in college. My singing sort of came along with the writing, as I didn't even realize I had much of a singing voice at all until later in my college years.

UMN: What inspires you to write?

Nate: Wow, just about anything. But honestly, probably faith, doubt, and loss are the three things that inspire me to write more than any anything else. Having grown up the son of a preacher and spent lots of time in the church, I know much about both the theory and practice of faith - and with faith comes doubt. And I'd say my life has been marked consistently by both, hence many of my songs and albums.

Grief and loss are other elements that inspire me to actually sit down and write songs, whether that be losses to death, loss of love, relationships, or anything else. But I'm inspired by numerous other things as well... places I've been, family, literature, even my dog, Max. [Laughs]

UMN: Your Ramblin' Man tour kicks off August 16th, and you've got a great lineup of house concerts and listening rooms. What do you like best about performing in these intimate venues?

Nate: That's a good question. When I was first starting out, I would say that I played a majority of either coffee shops or clubs or bars. What those two things have in common is that people aren't necessarily there to listen. In coffee shops, they're there to study, read, drink coffee or talk to friends and in bars, they're there to drink and have a good time. So grinding it out for years in those types of environments - as background music almost at times - was tough. But what I did begin to explore was house concerts, listening rooms, and ticketed venues in places where my following began to grow - and I LOVED them! I found a "home" in intimate spaces where I could share my stories, connect with the audience, and pour out my heart between songs, and ultimately, through my songs.

So nowadays, I almost exclusively stick to house concerts, churches, listening rooms, theaters, concert halls, etc. and steer away from the coffee houses and dive bars, if I can - even though there are still some that I enjoy playing!

UMN: Eddie's Attic is the first stop on your tour. What's your favorite part about playing there?

Nate: Man, I just love Eddie's - they've been good to me over the years as I've played there quite a few times in the past. Atlanta is my home, or was originally, and I seem to always have such a supportive group come out to shows at Eddie's. And they listen - and of course, I love that. Super excited to play this time as I'm introducing several new songs.

UMN: Do you have a story or experience at one of your shows that you could share with us?

Nate: There are so many... it's tough to narrow it down to just one. But I always come back to something that happened on tour back about two years ago.

We were performing at a listening room in St Pete, Florida and I noticed throughout the show a couple sitting on the front row who were very engaged and very much all over each other. Afterward, they waited around until almost everyone else had left and then came over to talk with me. They explained to me that they had been huge fans of the new album since it came out (The Madman and the Poet), and that "Ship with no Sea" was "their" song. They explained that they came to the show as their one last big outing together to see me perform and to hear that song, which I did not play in the set that night. He had just found out a month or so previous that he had terminal cancer and only had a few months at most to live. They both cried as they shared this story with me... And then asked if there was any way possible that I could play that song for them as a "dying man's last request" since it wasn't played during the show.

Once I regained my composure, I went and grabbed my guitar from the stage and sat at a little table with them and performed "Ship with no Sea" for an audience of two. They cried and held each other as I played the song and it was all I could do to not lose it. They then thanked me over and over before they left... And after an amazing yet exhausting night, I was filled with this incredible sense of hope for having done something so small for someone that could very well have been the highlight of their lives and a memory that the woman will carry on after he goes. Always reminds me how short life is and to find ways to bring joy to other people's lives if you can.

UMN: Wow, what a night that must have been! I started tearing up just hearing you share that. We see your next recording, the fifth release in eight years, will be released soon. Can you share a couple of memorable moments in the making of your album?

Nate: This will be an interesting album - I'm calling it my "accidental" album. All of my previous albums have been collections of music or concept records. And what I mean is, for all of my previous full-lengths I've gone into the studio for a set period of time with the purpose of recording an album with all of the songs written and what not. But with this album, I originally was going to release a few singles and so I recorded those, and then I had another idea and went in the studio to record that and ended up doing three more songs. And then a few months later the EP turned into a full length when I wrote three or four more songs that I thought would "fit" - and so the album was born, more or less by accident. So, we'll see how it turns out! [Laughs]

But so far one of the coolest moments was me just sitting alone in the studio live room playing the piano... and one of the producers caught me playing around with a 90's alternative song - that I won't name yet - and he recorded a live version of me singing it and playing the piano. So, I think we're going to end up including that on the new record.

UMN: That's awesome, we look forward to the release. Nate, thanks again for sharing a little bit of your story. We'll see you on your tour!