Nathaniel Street West biography
Artists:Nathaniel Street West
Despite his youth, Nathaniel Street-West has traveled a long way. Born in a cabin in the Sierra Nevada foothills on the day after Christmas — raised in places as contradictory as Nevada City, San Francisco and Trancas (Malibu), Calfornia; Austin, Texas; Aspen, Colorado; and Fort Lauderdale, Florida — Street-West learned early on to appreciate the diversity of the American landscape and learned to love the long cross country drives with his family as he read authors like Jack Kerouac and Edward Abbey to help stoke the fires of his imagination . He became comfortable in his role as new kid in town, learned to live with a painful & debilitating chronic illness, and mastered the guitar so quickly that he was admitted at age fifteen to the college degree program at Musicians' Institute in Hollywood - the youngest student ever accepted by that competitive academy to the college level course. He recorded his first homebrew album at fourteen, released a few more over the next several years, played for tourists along the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, played for 500+ at the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard, and in general did the best he could to hone his craft as a songwriter, guitarist, vocalist, and performer.
Street-West has a five and a half octave voice which has been developing since he began singing with the help of professional training at about age 15. Early on, as a teenager, he simply copied other rock and bues singers he admired and repeatedly strained his voice to the breaking point, all but ignoring the real potential of his own natural set of pipes. His is an unusually rich tenor of rare dynamic range and he has only recently began experimenting with it as a serious instrument.
During the recording of his most recent release, "Witness", produced by Mark Howard, (Howard's credits include Daniel Lanois, Bob Dylan, U2, R.E.M., Deadman, & Lucinda Williams) Street-West put himself entirely in the experienced hands of the capable producer and allowed himself to go along for the ride as Mark brought in some of the top session players, from up-and-coming stars like Alanis Morissette’s keyboardist Zack Ray, and guitar effects wonderkind Michael Chaves — to legends on the level of Jim Keltner, Tony Mangurian, Daryl Johnson, and Doug Pettibone.
What Street-West had envisioned was that, like the recording of landmark albums of years past, "Witness" would become a live document, recorded by Howard as a group of great musicians gathered into one room, feeding from each other’s energy and from a foundation of great songs. Whether Howard achieved that lofty goal or not remains to be judged by those who listen to it.
Like the best of today’s releases, "Witness" is tuned to a modern sensibility, alive with images that tumble through surreal streams of consciousness or pare down to the essence of anger and fear and wounded love.
There are epic songs on Witness, like "Debra," a story of shattered beauty that bewilders as it enlightens, like a beacon in a house of mirrors. And there are moments of abbreviated eloquence, like “Road of Life,” which is here and suddenly gone, like the song’s picture of a jet plane that’s borne love away.
There’s plenty of space in this music – space for Street-West’s guitar to drip, rich and honeyed, through the dreamy shades in "Flowers of Summer," or for his voice to quake and break with anguish in "Coldness Follows." A song that Jim Keltner said, "really got to me. I immediately connected to a person in my life who is meaningful to me. When art touches you where you feel that strongly, it doesn’t get any better. It’s what it is all about"
There are some who feel that "Witness" has met some of it's lofty goals and some have gone so far as to call it a classic, however considering the time it takes for an album to rise through the flood tide of new releases out there these days far more time will pass before there are any firm conclusions. "Witness" is Street-West's third release with Puffin Records, Inc. It was proceeded by "Light Out For the Territory" (2003), a 17 song, 2 CD release produced by Duane Baron, and "American Way" (2004), a 10 song release produced by Street-West out of his own garage.
To give an idea of the kind of warp speed with which Nathaniel's career is careening forward at this point — at the time of the recording of Witness (November, 2005) — Street-West had not yet even seriously began to experiment with his voice as a serious instrument. His recent insights into the powerful potential of his own voice began to open up in the late summer of 2006. In addition, he is an extremely accomplished guitarist and yet none of the three official releases do much to showcase the fireworks that can rain down from this kid's guitar when he puts his mind to it.
So we have a young artist with three releases and a handful of much earlier EP's under his belt, with nothing much recorded as yet to truly demonstrate anything close to this artist's true potential. It is in his live shows that he is now beginning to truly shine and as he uncovers more and more of his own potential onstage, particularly as he embarks on professionally run tours later this year, we will begin to see the real Nathaniel Street-West step forward.
It's likely, judging from what we’ve heard from Nathaniel Street-West, that by the time "Witness" is being seriously judged by the critics, he will have taken us to some other place, vivid and mysterious. "He’s a very old soul," says Keltner. "His journey is just beginning."
NOTE: Nathaniel Street West is the same artist as Nathaniel Street-West. Some glitch on last.fm created two artists out of him and left his ghost (the one with the incorrect spelling) without a hyphen between "Street" and "West". How can we correct this artist's twin presence and restore his correctly spelled name to all of his pages here?