David Berkeley: Do you remember the first time you encountered Elton John’s music?
Nathan Angelo: Yes. I remember loving his music at an early age. My mother was a big Elton John fan. I remember being a child and watching my mom respond to one of Elton’s songs as it played over the radio or in a movie. She knew all of the words and would get that feeling that only a true fan gets from a hearing a song, voice and style that has become so familiar that it is almost like an extended family member.
DB: Any thoughts on Elton’s influence on you and your musical development?
NA: Elton John was the first artist to convince me that a singer-songwriter could carve his own way from the piano and not necessarily the guitar. My uncle was also a piano player, and he would play most of Elton’s songs.
DB: Can you try to express what makes his sound distinct or why it hits you?
NA: Well for starters, Elton’s songs always have that distinct piano flare to them. His voice is pointed in an unassuming kind of way, coming off as both natural and unpretentious. For me, the paramount crux of Elton’s music has always been his soaring melodies. It doesn’t matter if he’s singing about a tiny dancer, rocket man, a well-known gun or the circle of life, he always finds a way to hook the listener with his dynamic melodies. The other element that always made sense to me in Elton’s music was the gospel influence, particularly in his chord changes and piano playing. I grew up in the church, so gospel music was a big influence on my music. I’ve always wondered whom the key influences were that Elton was drawing from, particularly since he was from England around the time of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. His music is very different from theirs.
DB: Ever cover any of his tunes?
NA: I’ve covered Rocket Man, Saturday Night’s Alright, and Your Song. I’ve always loved Rocket Man and Your Song. A few tours back I wanted to add an upbeat piano song into my set. I couldn’t think of a better tune than Saturday Night’s Alright. It’s a rocker!
DB: Have you ever dressed like Elton in your concerts?
NA: No! Although, I have been known to add a little bit of flair every now and again (eg. snake skin shoes, grey leather suit jacket). I’m sure Elton would snicker at me even considering those things “flair”.
DB: As to tumbleweed…tell me what moves you about this record?
NA: I heard Tumbleweed Connection a few years back and the album resonated with me immediately. I loved the Western and Southern imagery, but I also loved the musicianship on this record. It just sounds like a group of 5 or 6 talented musicians sitting in a room playing their asses off. I love the bass work and the acoustic guitar work as well. Not to mention the incredible piano playing skills.
DB: Any thoughts on why he went for the sound he did? Or what drew him to the western theme?
NA: I’m not sure why he went for it. I know that he was a fan of Leon Russell and the American troubadour, but I’m not quite sure what inspired him and Taupin to take the lyrical direction. Nevertheless, it’s a fun journey. It truly is a complete album and thought.
DB: Is this your first time curating a Collective show?
NA: Yes. I’ve been a part of a few other Collective shows: Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey, The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper and Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. But I’ve never curated a show for the Collective.
DB: Tell me a bit about your approach? What preparation and work have youhad to do to get ready?
NA: Well for starters, I’ve spent a number of hours living with the record. I’ve also spent time wood-shedding on the record. I’ve got to be totally honest, covering Elton John can at times be a tall order. He is quite the piano player. I will give it my best effort, knowing that his ability as a piano player is good bit beyond mine. I’ve read a few reviews of the record, none of which really satisfied me (including a semi-favorable Rolling Stone review from the early 70’s).
DB: What other musicians have you called on and why them?
NA: I’ve called upon Tim Brantley for his roots approach to piano rock. I thought he would have a nice spin on a few of the tunes. Also the Shadowboxers. Matt carries the weight on the piano, and the rest of the band will give a nice touch with their approach with harmony. My drummer Paul Barrie will be there. He is a seasoned player and an avid Elton John fan and finds a home in the roots and Brit-rock traditions (eg Ringo, Nigel). He will add a great rhythmic color to the album. Robbie is a seasoned Collective veteran who will hold down the bass. I called upon roots guitarist, Bret Hartley, whose natural approach is similar to the guitar playing on Tumbleweed. It’s gonna be a great band.
DB: I remember often being surprised by what my favorite moments of
Collective shows ended up being. A sleeper song often ended up being my favorite. If you had to pick which song the audience was going tocome away digging the most, which would it be?
NA: It’s tough to say. Since I haven’t heard the renditions, I can’t say which song will find the “magical” performance. “Burn Down the Mission” is a gonna be a fun one with it’s change in time signature and Beatle-esque chord changes. I’ve always personally resonated with “My Father’s Gun”. I’m looking forward to hearing the rendition of “Where to Now St. Peter.” It’s a funky song while also maintaining the soaring, dark Brit-rock melodies.
DB: And finally, what’s next after this for Nathan Angelo?
NA: Well, I just wrapped up 20+ shows in support of the new record, so I’m coming down from the craziness for the holidays. I plan to do some more touring in the spring, balancing between supporting a few more established acts and headlining regional shows. I’m very proud of my latest effort. The challenge is often getting the music heard, particularly in our over-saturated industry. I hope to find new avenues in which new music listeners (particularly, new to my music) can wrap their ears around the record.