Artist of the Week – New York City DIY Singer/Songwriter Nathan Xander
Xander’s latest self-titled release, his third album, dropped in January. But it’s not the album he originally recorded and was set to release. In the summer of 2011, he was working in a New York recording studio on the finishing touches of the tracks for his new album. Than lightning struck – literally. Xander received a devastating call from the studio’s engineer who told him that lightning had struck the studio during a storm and wiped out, in one zap, all of the recordings from the hard drives; months of hard work was obliterated in a flash. Completely gone. Xander, nor the studio, had created backups (which should be a lesson to any musician – constantly create other backups of your work on an external hard drive or upload to a secure site like Dropbox because months of work can be lost in a second).
“We had everything pretty well done and I was going to mix it and do some tweaks here before releasing it,” Xander told IRC. “Then, when it was ready, it was gone…it really made mad to lose everything and start over but I write so much that it’s not a big deal.” Other than “crappy demos,” Xander had no other copies of the songs backed up anywhere. So, instead of trying to start again from the demos, he decided to move on: “So, I went in and recorded a totally new record… [the] overdubs were done over the Internet [by] sending files back and forth to my guitar player in Chicago.” No matter how you look at it, that’s an amazing story of loss, disappointment, renewal and triumph, which is evident in the songs on his new release.
(In a strange coincidence, the original post that we published a couple of days ago profiling Xander disappeared from our site for a reason that we still do not understand, and which has never happened before. Xander, noting that, said: “Someone is out to get me.”)
Xander works deliberately on his music, honing his songwriting skills, folksy, acoustic sounds and affecting vocals. He explained to IRC his songwriting process: “I just play guitar a lot and work on things as they come… I sort of sit on a guitar part and wait. I’ll usually come up with a couple lines when I walk the dog or something and then go home and write; [I] jump on things as they come.” His part-time backup band includes Brian Morrissey – guitar and keys; Ryan Juravic on percussion; Keith Rowland on bass and Nick Broste on trombone.
Xander said that he has 10 additional songs partially track for a new album and about 20 others that he is also working on. All the evidence points to a prolific artist. His next scheduled performance will be on April 14th at the Cake Shop in Manhattan with the rising indie band Water Liars.
While he is DIY, Xander is not completely off the radar; in addition to sharing the stage with some well-known and popular artists, he’s also been featured in publications like The Chicago Tribune and was invited to do a session on Daytrotter last June.
Xander’s impressive finger-picking style, along with his touching lyrics, creates a sound that is truly unique, even though he clearly draws inspiration from many of his favorite artists, from Bob Dylan and Why? to Elton John and Neil Young. Xander creates just as much variety and depth with his guitar as he does with his lyrics, and his accompanying band adds the fullness and poignancy to his songs, which helps to distinguish him from the traditional Americana singer/songwriter mold.
The blog, Slowcoustic, wrote: “If you are looking for a candidate to join the forces of today’s Indie-Americana heroes, Nathan Xander should be on your radar, hell, he should be in your ears!” Blogger Reglar Wiglar wrote of Xander’s music: “It’s sad, haunting, beautiful, universal and lingers in your brain… Nathan Xander’s songs are simple but smart, sparse but with space and definitely get to the heart of matters of the heart.”
Xander’s musical influences include Kris Kristofferson, Paul Westerberg, Mose Allison, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle , Michael Hurley, Magnolia Electric Co., Elton John, Dylan, Neil, Randy Newman, Why?, Felice Brothers, and Waylon Jennings.
“Last Day Of The Month” – Nathan Xander from Nathan Xander
“OOO OOO OOO” – Nathan Xander from Nathan Xander