Artist Spotlight: Nate Maingard - A Modern Day Troubadour and Award Winning Singer Songwriter
“I started calling myself a troubadour several years ago now”, says Nate, “As I am nomadic and I also play music from the heart for people who care about it. I descend from a long lineage of travelling musicians, so it seemed quite natural to work as a troubadour myself. Originally, troubadours were minstrels who roamed around France during the 12th and 13th centuries playing songs in the courts about the people and courtly love. I actually found out quite recently that one of my ancestors called Aimeric Du Peguilhan was one of the last great troubadours of that time in France, so I can say it’s literally in my blood.
I am a spiritual person which is evidential within my music, but I don’t separate spirituality from physicality, to me, living a good life is also living a spiritual life, I’m not like a monk in a monastery, I’m in the real world every day.
I celebrate this physical experience, but I do also acknowledge that we live in an infinite universe and we are on this wonderful planet having this encounter, which is also miraculous that it’s even happening and to me, that feels spiritual.
I grew up in South Africa where my dad was part of the music scene as a lifelong musician and a guitar maker. A lot of popular singer songwriters would regularly stay at our house, so I grew up in a musical environment which just felt natural to me. My dad would listen to all styles of music from the likes of Leonard Cohen to Cat Stevens to Neil Young, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and rockier bands like Led Zeppelin. I Ioved the lyrics, and wanted to know more about the stories they told, so it became natural for me to become a lyricist. I also have to thank my dad not only for the inspirations and the influences within the music he introduced me to, but for this acoustic guitar here, which has literally travelled the world with me, it’s a Maingard Acoustic...what else?
I built it in his guitar workshop using South American cocobolo hardwood for the body, Englemann spruce for the soundboard and Brazilian rosewood for the headstock face plate, and it’s been my first choice guitar in the studio and for gigs.
I am biased, but ‘Melody’ as she is called is an exceptionally good instrument, a great friend and has been on all of my albums including the new ‘In The Shadows’ EP.
I did not start playing until I was fourteen so I didn’t really grab it at a young age, but I watched with enthusiasm as my dad built these fine acoustic guitars and found playing guitar and singing at High school was great fun, and it was a fantastic outlet for my own song writing.”
So what inspired you to pursue a career with an acoustic instrument?
“Several things, although I can certainly say my hormones also played a major role. I was trying hard to chat up a pretty girl next to a trampoline one evening on holiday when I was just 15 years old, when a guy with a guitar arrived and starting playing, she was in his lap within 5 minutes. After that I went home and started some serious practising. Then the whole concept became its own motivator, although I do find practicing a bit of a chore.
I’ve been playing shows since I was 16, when I opened for my dad and attended open mic evenings, I really didn’t believe I could do this full time, but I love it now. I spent some time before working in a health food company who were doing some great things in the world. I was inspired by them, but I suddenly had this moment of insight when I realised I could spend my whole life living other people’s dreams, and if I don’t live mine, I’m going to be asking the question what if I hadn’t tried. It will reach a time when it’ll be too late one day. So I thought let’s do it and see what happens.”
Nate has certainly earned recognition within the singer songwriter’s world for outstanding lyrical content and acoustic arrangements.
“I was given a Stan Novak award (not sure if this name is correct) at the National Arts Festival in South Africa in 2012.
This is a huge fringe festival that hosts hundreds of shows. Each year they hand out just a few awards to who they believe are the most innovative and inspiring artists at this huge event. So I was honoured to receive this award as this show has been a huge part of my life since I was very young. It was in fact, the first place that I ever got on a stage. I was just four years old, and my father was promoting his guitar making business.”
When you compose a new song, what comes first the guitar’s chord structure or the lyrics?
“It varies, it can be a chord structure on the guitar, or maybe I’ll have a lyrical idea percolating in my head about a recent experience which will filter through to my reality and a musical arrangement on the guitar.”
It’s evident that within the online videos of you playing live, interaction with the audience is a large and important part of your performance.
“A big part of what I’m doing is connection, there is no separation or walls between the audience and myself like a lot of performers have today. In a way, it feels like I am the audience and they are me. My songs are so much about open heartedness and connections that they naturally break down those walls.
I’ll do anything to support that break down, the realisation or the remembrance really, because we all know that we are all connected and in this boat together. It’s not like I’m some persona to be idolised, I’m just another human having an experience and we can all have that experience together in that moment. This has always inspired my live work, to invite people in as much as possible, so we can get real with one another.”
Whilst your new EP In the Shadows has an acoustic feel, there’s a lot more happening in the mix.
“I was honoured to have producer James Ribbons produce ‘In The Shadows’ in London. We talked for a while and I said I wanted a fuller sound, as up until then, I had only worked in a studio environment with my acoustic guitar. I visualised more players and instruments, but I really wanted it to still sound like me. I’m really pleased how it’s turned out, it still has a very percussive sound about it as well.”
Travelling so far and wide, do you have a country in your head where the shows are superior to others and you can’t wait to go back?
“I really couldn’t put one above the other, everyone is unique. Like I said, my music is about community, connection and being human. Everywhere I’ve had the opportunity to share that, in house concerts in people’s homes, to larger venues from California to Lithuania to Germany to South Africa, they have all been an amazing intimate shifting experience.”
So you truly find music a healer and a leader within spiritual communication.
“Oh sure, music is a healer, but it can also be a poison, I mean if I listen to what is called music on the radio these days and what the media is promoting, it’s harmful. There’s so much about hatred, co-dependency and the shallow and empty consumer life style. That’s only my opinion of course, but we also have this huge underground movement where artists are singing about real music about real human experiences and being supported by real communities which in a way, is its own revolution where we don’t need to wait for someone else to tell us what we can or cannot do. We are just sharing it and it being appreciated as values, this is positive, this is medicine music.
There is an ancient Shamanic healing practice where the head person in your tribe would treat you for sickness by first asking you four primary questions, when did you dance, sit in silence, when did you listen to the story tellers and when did you last sing? So if I can help people to do just a few of these at my shows, in those moments they remember that we are all connected, let’s celebrate all being human.
I’d like to mention The Lyrical Nomads I’m involved with, which is a collection of singer songwriters that are spreading our music with a similar theme of being human, being ourselves and speaking and living with truth and integrity. And Patreon a society created in San Francisco in 2013, where fans can support their favourite artist with a monthly donation and in exchange they get a deeper insight and updates within the artist’s world, things like latest announcements or downloads etc.
What they get primarily though is the knowledge that they are bringing more love into the world, which is really amazing. If we hear an artist’s song that moves us and has an impact on our emotional world, then that has brought value and helped us get through tough times. If you value that, you give a donation as small as a dollar if need be, with the message ‘please keep doing what you do.’”
As a nomad what is your favourite form of transport?
“Well, flying is useful of course, but I feel it’s just a convenience, you get there quicker, but you miss everything in between. I would rather travel on the earth or the sea. I’ve been researching that I can get a ride on cargo ships to various countries, South Africa for example which takes three weeks. The goal is important but the journey is to be celebrated and incredibly valuable to me.”
Do you find carrying so much luggage a burden over vast distances?
“No, I travel light. I ‘m lucky to have the backing of Fusion Gig Bags. I first saw Fusion gig bags a few years ago in London when I was being interviewed by a guy who had this amazing guitar bag. It had all the pockets, handles and back straps, and looked tough enough to handle how I travel with a gig bag. I looked on the Fusion web site and thought I really want to be involved with this company. I have the F1 model with the Fuse On Series of smaller separate accessory bags that can also adhere to the main bag. I’ve travelled extensively now with this system and I can get so much in the compartments, I can pack everything in to do a full acoustic tour, and to know Melody is safe inside is a real bonus.”