Radio BurgerFuel

Interview: Nathan Grey

Posted by Lee Densem

An Intimate Loop

The debut release from Nathan Grey is primed and ready to go. As a young kid from the central North Island, it might not be what he thought he would do with his life. But, after a musical awakening, Nathan's R&B stylings see him come full circle.

I don’t know why I should be surprised as I reckon it applies to about 40% of NZ musicians, but as soon as Nathan mentioned, “Oh, I used to work at a BurgerFuel,” then everything just made a bit more sense. Kindred spirits and all that!

So the Nathan Grey story starts in Taupo. Not at BurgerFuel Taupo just yet (but for the record, a Bacon Backfire with added avo is his jam). But with him growing up with music all around. “In the car, singing with my parents. My grandparents singing anywhere they could, with little songbooks that they carry around,” he says.

“I literally cried watching it"

Some of it is typical, getting your first guitar lesson from Mum at nine years old (Nothing Else Matters by Metallica). Picking up a few instruments with parental encouragement, using YouTube as a teacher. But then came the video that would alter his life and set him on the current course. As Nathan tells it, “It’s a memory I hold quite close to myself.”

“I was watching a video by the artist FKJ and he does this live looping set on this salt lake and I was just like blown away. I literally cried watching it. And I was like, ‘damn’. If there's anything that I really want to do, it's that. So I just pictured in my head the process and the road for me to be able to do that.”

From that point I was like, OK, I need to go to school to actually study how to produce music because I didn't know the workings of how to make music on a computer. I knew how to play instruments and stuff, but I didn't know the technical stuff around it.

The following year, Nathan made it to MAINZ (the Music & Audio Institute of New Zealand) in Auckland”. He explains how this taught him how to fulfil his dream. “At the end of MAINZ we had to do an assessment. I had pictured myself from that video doing a loop set, and then at the end I was able to do this looping instruments and stuff. That was my goal and what I really wanted to do.

Since then, Nathan has busied himself producing more music. “I learned to just get better and express myself making beats and find what my genre looks like,” he says. “I obviously went through hurdles and made trash songs, but that's part of that journey.”

"having the ability to create something out of nothing"

Digging in a little to what attracted him to live looping, Nathan says, “I think just having the ability to create something out of nothing.” He also attributes it to not being involved in groups or bands, but still wanting to have that experience – just on his own.

The musical upbringing means he can translate what’s in his head to an instrument and has helped with his creative process. “Mum playing piano just gave me the ability to actually express those chords and feel those keys while playing. It means I can layer stuff and put it into the program so then I’m able to arrange it.”

“I wanted to tunnel into that and add my own spin”

Nathan recalls soulful R&B music like Boyz II Men or Eric Benet, as well as old standards like Ten Guitars, or from The Temptations or The Drifters.

It’s no real surprise then that he’s come back to this as he has found he place as a musician and is getting ready to release his debut single ‘Motion’. Despite going through a trap phase, and trying to make band music without a band, he found himself coming back to something that was always there – the guitar.

“Now every beat that I make revolves around the guitar, and just naturally found myself in this weird space of making hip hop with R&B and singing on top of those beats. I guess the people that influenced me also helped me with finding that genre. There's this one friend of mine named SrMpofu. I've always been so inspired by the way he makes music and his beats –very boom-bap oriented.”

“I was trying to make that kind of music, but I just couldn't hit the nail until one day I did. And I was like, ‘whoa’. And then I just focused on that, I just wanted to tunnel into that genre and make it and add my own sort of spin to that. I'm feeling content now and I'm happy with actually sharing my music. So yeah, it's been a good journey and good learning process.”

“It's very intimate and passionate"

Waiting for the release of ‘Motion’ on April 12, Nathan says he’s anticipating the drop. “I'm a little bit nervous, but at the same time just happy to be able to share the stuff that I've been working on, and I want to portray myself as real as I can because that's who I want to be and what I want people to see me as an artist and relate to. That's what I'm most nervous about.

That, and when he had to share his work with his family. “It's very intimate and passionate. Just using words to express the love that you might have with your significant other or yourself.”

He’s pulling a release party the week before where on top of playing Motion, he’s committed to a looping set with a friend. Nathan teases that an EP is on the way too, but for the mean time, it’s time to buckle in and get ready for Motion.

Nathan Grey’s debut single ‘Motion’ is due for release on April 12 on all good streaming platforms. You can also catch him doing his thing on the gram. If you're in Auckland, swing by his release party at DRMPRK on Sat 6 April.