- Tracy Heck
Nathan James gets heavy with 'Appetite'
Photographer rockstar, Nathan James, recently released a new single and video for the track, "Appetite."
The heavy hitting song was written with Nick Furlong (Avicii, All Time Low, Papa Roach.)
James had built a strong foundation as one of the most desired photographers behind some of the industry's most iconic shots from Lil Wayne and Post Malone to Justin Bieber and Avril Lavigne before deciding to add on a career as a musician to his busy schedule last year.
Rock Life recently got a chance to chat with James about how the whole process came about and how he plans to continue balancing both of his careers for as long as he possibly can.
Q:You have your new single out, "Appetite." How did that track come together and how did you end up working with Nick Furlong?
Nathan James: Nick and I connected through photography stuff. There's another artist/singer/songwriter/producer guy named Colin Brittain. Nick and Colin worked together on things and we ended up tapping into photography stuff together and then went on to create that single, "Appetite."
That kind of seems to be how a lot of my music career has happened: things came together because of my photography. The things that I busted my ass off for in photography have come full circle and then in return has helped me do something in music.
Q: I'm sure having that knowledge of the industry already has helped as well.
NJ: Yeah, because even though I wasn't making music until a year and six months ago, I was still doing everything else in the music industry except for the actual music part.
Q: Was creating music something you were always interested in?
NJ: Never! It's so crazy because now that I do it, I will never stop. I'm going to do this until I'm dead, you know when I'm ninety or however long I last.
At the end of 2019 in October, I did this fine art photography gallery and there were these six images that I shot of people and each one of them I named after a different insecurity or nightmare that I've gone through in my life.
That's why I called it the Gallery Nightmares or Nightmare Gallery and the different works were called "Do you give a f*ck?," "Is this how it ends?," "Am I good enough?," "Can you hear me?," "Am I alone?" and "Why can't I feel anything?" Those were the six.
When I was putting this together, I was like, man, what's something that would really make this more interesting and different than any photography guy has ever done? I thought, what if I made songs that go to each piece and represent what each piece means?
I made six songs and they were f*cking horrible, but from doing that, I realized, wow, I really enjoy the music making process! It was so much fun that I wanted to add this in to the other art medium of photography and combine the two and that's what kind of developed the whole photographer/rockstar branding and persona thing.
I'm such a people person and I love being around human energy. It's so awesome! People who know me know that I've really committed myself to the arts. I'll never get married and I'll never have any kids because my number one priority and focus is strictly about the art and helping change or guide or influence someone's life in a positive way to make a real difference.
Q: Have you been happy with the feedback you've gotten on the music and how people are connecting to it?
NJ: Yeah, there's a lot of people who hit me up or run into me in person and share a story of how my music has motivated or inspired their lives through either my photography or music or both. It's always nice to get that feedback from people. That really keeps me going because we can all be our toughest critic and sometimes we're way too harsh on ourselves. I'm guilty for being the worst at that sometimes.
Q: I think particularly over the last year with the pandemic that people have realized how important the arts are and how it really is something that can bring everyone together.
NJ: Yeah, and what's cool is that you can hear let's say "Appetite" and hear and think and feel one thing and someone else can hear and think it's completely different from what you heard.
Sometimes people just really hear the lyrics and sometimes it's the actual sound that makes them think of something or feel something. I mean, some of the saddest songs make me feel the happiest and some of the happiest songs make me feel the saddest.
It's just interesting how music can be interpreted one way for one person and be the total opposite for someone else. That's a beautiful thing and I think the world needs more art. I think people had lost sight of their creative side and hopefully now people are beginning to realize just how important it is. Art really does make the world go around.
Q: Going back to "Appetite," I love the video you put together for the track. Since you are already a very visual person, do you already have the videos in mind when you are working on the songs?
NJ: Yeah, I love that you asked that because any time I work with people, I'll be the first one in the room going, hey, imagine this! I'll say it needs to look like this so let's create the sound that goes with that. I'm always creating the visual and then saying let's make a sound that will fit that.
I definitely understand the visual aspects of things; that's my strongest point of view.
"Appetite" actually took me so much time because I was the one directing it and the one who was choosing the people in it and getting the lighting crew and the videographer and all the other people involved and getting the outfits for it and all those things.
It took a lot of time, but it was so rewarding because it came out exactly as I had envisioned it. It's my favorite song and video that I've put out so far.
Q: And what's next for the rest of the year?
NJ: I'm going to be releasing one more song on December 9th and it's called "Akasha" and it's also a very sexy, heavy song. There are a lot of similarities to "Appetite" for sure.
At the top of 2022, I want to hopefully get on a tour with a bigger artist as a opener and hopefully work on doing some features with some of these guys that I've always looked up to in the music space.
Q: And continue with the photography as well?
NJ: Yeah, I'll never stop! That's my money maker and that's what allows me to continue to do the music that I want to do and pay for things.
Q: You've been lucky enough to photograph so many amazing people, but has there been one shoot that has really stood out for you?
NJ: Yeah, photographing Lil Wayne was insane!
I'll tell you the craziest story that no one really knows: you know, I'm going to shoot Wayne and I get all set up and his manager is there, Mack. He's awesome; I love that guy! So Wayne shows up I think 3 or 4 hours late and he gets there and we talk a little bit and he sits down in the studio I have all set up and he's there for about 7 or 9 seconds and then he just goes, "Okay, we're good!"
I didn't even get to say anything and I was actually in the middle of testing light on him in those 7 seconds and I'd gotten like 9 photos off in that time and I was just like, oh sh*t, I don't know if we got it! He was just like, "Nah, we're good, you got it!" Then, when i was looking back at the shots, it was the very last photo that we took that ended up being the photo that was worth a sh*t to edit and looked the best. That was it!
Q: Now was your sound something that came natural? What did you listen to growing up?
NJ: Here's the thing: growing up, I've always listened to rock and hip hop. It was a very 50/50 combination. When I started making music, I didn't really care which type of music I made because I loved both, but I had to figure out what was best for me in both singing and creating it.
I slowly got more and more into doing harder rock. All the unreleased stuff I have now is pretty industrial nu metal or hard metal and just has that whole type of vibe and aesthetic. I really love it!
When I first started, the first couple of songs were very much on the emo rap side, which was like hip hop with elements of rock in it. It took a little time to figure out what was best for my process and what feels best. As a result, it is increasingly becoming harder and heavier.
The sound I strive for is something that's gotta sound sexy or sound like I'm going to punch you in the f*cking mouth. It's got to have at least one or both of those elements. It's got to sound sexy or it's got to sound like I'm going to punch your teeth out!