In conversation with Nathan Colberg
Graduating musical virtuoso shares roots, process, next steps
Months before the graduating students from the Class of 2017 receive their diplomas, many started preparing for the post-college world. This has come in the form of internships, proactively interviewing with businesses — or, in the case of Nathan Colberg — starting a thriving online music career.
Colberg, a Charlottesville native, is a fourth-year graduating from the Batten School, and music has been a huge part of his life at the University. This passion began with joining the Hullabahoos in his first year and has since escalated to solo projects, including a release of his own EP and becoming a Spotify-official artist. Most recently, he successfully funded a new album on Kickstarter, which he plans to release later this year. The Arts and Entertainment Section had a chance to sit down with Colberg to talk about his music, how it started and where it’s going.
Arts and Entertainment: Talk a little bit about making your first EP.
Nathan Colberg: It was really scrappy. I made it for my family … This past Christmas. It was all really new to me and songwriting was super new to me, and so it was kind of an intimidating process because I wasn’t sure how my music would be received by my family and also by people that would hear it afterwards. I would rewrite songs the morning before recording, which is terrible. All in all, it was very ‘shooting from the hip.’ I would go into the studio and have 45 minutes to get everything done for a song, and I would crank it out.
AE: How has the response and support been from your family and your friends and people at [the University] who have gotten a chance to hear it?
NC: Generally speaking, people are really nice about it — people are really quick to share about how they enjoy it. I’m there are people that don’t like it but they tend to stay quiet. It means a lot too because I wasn’t sure how the music would be received, so it’s fun when someone is like, ‘Oh, I listened to your song the other night with some friends.’ Unless people are lying to me, I think it’s been well-received.
AE: Where do you find most of the inspiration for your music and your lyrics?
NC: What’s funny about my music is that it’s very different than how I interact in person. A lot of times, it’s a dive into some of the more sensitive, personal, emotional and spiritual issues that I’m trying to wrestle with, and trying to make sense of that through music. Music is a great outlet for that. Also I find inspiration through other people that I’ve seen be vulnerable in the public eye. That’s really moving [because] it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s actually okay to put yourself out there.’
AE: Talk a little more about that vulnerability and how it has played a part in this process of sharing a new side of yourself.
NC: Yeah, it kind of sucks to be honest. It’s never fun, and I tell people that I’m really self-conscious about the music ‘cause a lot of times it seems like it’s unmatched to vulnerability and you’re putting yourself out there, and it feels like everyone has a leg up on you when they hear your music. So it’s really difficult, but what I remind myself is that people connect over that — over brokenness, as morbid as that sounds. Everyone has it, but people often times are just very hesitant to share it.
AE: What’s this recent experience been like of trying to crowdfund your next album?
NC: I hate it. I hate asking people for money. It’s a total loss of control ... I cannot do this without other people’s help. That’s one side of it. But the other side of it is that it’s been really moving as well, seeing people get behind it and seeing people support it that I didn’t think would support it. It also reminds me that my music is bigger than myself. It’s not an individual project — it’s a product of a lot of different people.
AE: So it sounds like making the music has been tough, the vulnerability has been tough and raising the money has been tough. So what’s really driving you through all of this?
NC: I think we’re made to create and that drive to create and share seems to never go away. I also think that I am reminded of the power of music through other people’s music and not necessarily my own, which is a really odd dynamic. But I trust that in the same way an artist’s music has impacted me, that’s how my music can be felt by someone else — that’s really moving. Music for me is something I have been gifted with and to not step into my gifts and share them is more of a tragedy than anything else.
AE: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
NC: Usually I just tell them to listen to it, and I know that’s a cop-out answer, but I’m kind of all over the show as a person and I think my music matches that. There will be some upbeat and light-hearted songs, but others might be a little morbid. So it’s tough to stamp a specific genre or artist comparison on it right now. But as my music grows, I expect there to be a more specific sound, a more specific tone that carries through.
AE: What are your future plans, and do you see music being central to those plans?
NC: I would like for music to always have a place, but I actually don’t want it to be the central component of my life. The moment it becomes central, it can lose its value as an outlet. I think it can ironically become less real the more central it gets. It’d be awesome if music could end up funding my life, but I am well aware that that might not happen. That’s tough to plan on. I’m fine with that, as long I’m still finding time to create and share.
Listen to Colberg’s EP “Barricade” below.