It's a rather trite comparison, but songwriting really is a craft.
Listening to Nathaniel Rateliff, the American artist brings to mind an elderly carpenter: someone who has devoted their life to a single occupation, honing and refining their approach as they go.
Cutting, carving, sanding, the results are intricate sublime - and also deeply idiosyncratic. Rateliff's new album 'Falling Faster Than You Can Run' has something of the craft in it.
Out on January 20th, each of the eleven tracks feel delicately poised, as if the slightest touch could send them scurrying into collapse.
Yet still they hold. Strong, steadfast songwriting which is unafraid to delve into matters of the personal, 'Falling Faster Than You Can Run' is a masterclass in Americana.
Entering Their Library, Nathaniel Rateliff discusses his literary influences and much more...
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What is your favourite book and why?
It's hard to pick a favorite book. I tend to enjoy what I'm reading, or what I most recently finished. Not too long ago I was passed a copy of 'Just Kids'. I never listened to much Patti Smith, but the way she describes a younger New York and all the artists struggling to survive and create made me feel like I was there with all of them.
What other authors do you like?
Howard Zinn, Patrick Rothfuss, Ursula Le Guin, Ken Kesey, Lee Sandlin and Tolkien to name a few.
What draws you to certain books?
I let the book take its time. I like to see the characters develop as I read. Even if I hate the characters, if they're good, I want to see what happens to them.
Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?
My Aunt gave me The EarthSea Trilogy when I was a teenager. I passed it on to several friends and all of us loved it. It's a great, fantastical tale.
Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
I'm sure they do, but I have yet to write a song about swordplay and magic.
What are you reading at the moment?
'The Blade Itself' by Joe Abercrombie and 'The Way of Kings' by Brandon Sanderson.
What is the first book you remember reading as a child?
'Where the Red Fern Grows'.
Did you make good use of your library card as a child / teenager?
I didn't read very much when I was younger due to not reading very well… I didn’t take advantage of the books that were around me. I did not really start reading until my twenties
Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn’t finish?
There are so many it's embarrassing - all of them classics. I decided to put them on my audio book list.
Do you read book reviews?
On occasion I will pick up the New York Times book review. I do enjoy listening to book reviews on National Public Radio (NPR) when it comes on in my van.
Would you ever re-read the same book?
As the years pass I want to reread the books I've enjoyed, because after a while they seem like strangers. It's fun to rediscover them and fall for the same things again...
Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?
I’ve always wanted to be the characters that I read about…
Do you read one book at a time or more than one?
Yes. I try my best to read more than one at a time. I've read so little of what is available on paper.
Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?
I would love to work with any wordsmith. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Leonard Cohen.
Words: Robin Murray
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Nathaniel Rateliff is set to release 'Falling Faster Than You Can Run' on January 20th. Catch Rateliff at the following UK shows:
20 Belfast McHughs Basement
21 Dublin Academy 2
23 Leeds Belgrave
24 Liverpool Leaf
25 Glasgow Broadcast
26 Manchester Soup Kitchen
28 London Dingwalls
29 Brighton Green Door Store
30 Cambridge Portland Arms
31 Nottingham Bodega
1 Bristol Louisiana
The new issue of Clash magazine is out right now. It's always on the money with breakthrough acts worth listening to. So, go and see.