Nathan Ball: The British singer songwriter who redefines surf music

by Heidi
Nathan Ball -Singer Songwriter Music

Weißt du noch, wann dich ein Singer Songwriter das letzte Mal so richtig in den Bann gezogen hat? Bei mir war es ein Konzert von Nathan Ball! Seine Musik fühlt sich authentisch und doch beinahe unwirklich an: Eine brillante Stimme, die ganze Konzertsäle zum Innehalten bringt – untermalt von einer Mischung aus Indie, Folk und Electro. Mühelose Wechsel zwischen euphorischen Höhen und sehnsuchtsvollen Tiefen. Ein introvertierter Typ, der scheinbar subtil sein Innerstes nach außen kehrt. Hier berichte ich, wieso Nathans Musik mich schon beim ersten Hören gekriegt hat. Anschließend lernst du ihn im Interview über seine Musik, Reisen und Liebe zum Surfen genauer kennen.

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Nathan Ball: When music lures you in…

Live music is often very enjoyable, relaxing and makes you tap your feet. But then there are those very rare moments when something magical happens. When the tunes as well as the artist’s voice completely lure you in, make you forget about your surroundings, and beam you into that remote space, where only two things exist: That heavenly sound and you. That’s exactly what happened during my first encounter with Nathan Balls magnetic voice. Yes, I’m fangirling hard right now. Despite being married. But that’s ok. Music was my first love 😉

We had been at Wander Landes, a surf festival which took place in autumn 2017, organized by Seignosse’s homies Sunset Sons (great band, check them out). The musical lineup was exceptional, and even before the headliners’ gig we applauded ourselves for having made the long drive from Portugal to France. At some point, Nathan Ball hit the stage, a tall blond guy with his guitar, accompanied by two pals. He started to play, melodic, calm and yet somehow dark and melancholic, and his clear voice cut through the audience like a sharp knife. Whoa. I was hooked! Who was that guy?

Nathan Ball - WanderlandesHonestly, I’m a weird music nerd, existing mainly in the past with punkrock icons like The Clash, Joy Division, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Rancid and so on. But good acoustic music also gets me, as long as it’s not soppy. Maybe that’s why Nathan Ball became one of the most played artists in my singer songwriter playlist: Without stereotypical accords, overly bouncy rhythms and happy-go-lucky topics, his songs just work. His music is calm but powerful, sometimes euphoric and sometimes sad, and it has hidden depth – just listen. And if you wonder where that all is coming from: Read on!

Nathan Ball about his singer songwriter music 

Hi Nathan, great to have you! Please tell us a bit more about yourself.

Hey guys! I’m from a little place called Stoke Mandeville, about an hour outside of London. I’ve been living in London for the last few years but have just moved out to tour for a while. So I’m currently in Cornwall as we speak, having just played our first show of the tour last night in Falmouth. I love it down here, it’s my favourite place in the world!

Nathan Ball - CornwallSince when are you creating your own music and how did that come?

I started playing guitar and writing music around age 14, when my parents bought me a guitar. And as I taught it myself , I learnt in a pretty weird way. But singing was always my passion, so I started writing songs as soon as I picked up the guitar. At home I have a drawer filled with all my songs I’ve ever written, so I’m dreading the day someone finds those songs from when I was 14!

Do you have a typical setup or process when you work on new songs?

It’ll usually start with an idea or a lyric that I’ve sung into my phone when I’m walking around. Then I have a little writing room at home where I tend to do most of the writing. So I sit down there and flesh it out a bit and record a demo. Then I take it to Max, my guitarist, and we work on it together and he produces them. It’s a really great setup! I love working with him, he always gets captures the atmosphere perfectly in the recordings.

Nathan Ball Music - On the StageDid you ever consider founding or joining a band?

I used to play in a band when I was at school… Will who plays drums and bass in the band used to be in it too, so we’ve been playing music together since we were 14! I’d say I’m in a band now really, I work with Max and Will all the time, and it’s very much a band performance when we’re on stage.

(2) Nathan Ball about creativity and inspiration

According to your bio, you love classic song writing as much as experimenting with pushing sonic boundaries. What or who is an inspiration for you?

Musically I listen to a lot of electronic music, I’m a huge fan of house music, especially the deep emotive kind, so that’s where I find most of my inspiration. I love the journey it takes you on, and the way it makes you feel and brings people together. Ry X [Ry Cumming from Australia] is someone I admire, who has managed to do the singer songwriter thing, but with a nod to the electronic side. He’s epic and I’m really looking forward to hearing his new album!

Nathan Ball Music - InspirationWhat kind of stories are you telling in your songs? Are they also about your home?

I tend to write a lot about people…. close friends, relationships, other people that pass by in the street. The music world is a very transient world and we’re on the move a lot. We meet a lot of people who always have a story to tell, so there’s a lot to write about. One of my songs, Right Place, is written about that idea of home being more of a feeling rather than a fixed location – that could be someone you’re with or a certain sound, or a place that gives you that feeling of home. I like to explore that idea a lot.

Also the outdoors is where I write best; by the sea, in the mountains, in the woods. I love being totally immersed in nature, so naturally those themes find their way into the music. I love being in the ocean – just being in it, and feeling totally insignificant. It’s a reminder of the order of things.

When you listen to music, what are your personal favourites? 

I’m totally obsessed with the War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, Ry X and mostly just listen to a lot of house music. The Innervisions crew from Berlin are at the forefront for me, Dixon, Âme and Henrik Schwartz are the kings in my eyes! [Nathan refers to the house label Innervision, with it's founders and most known artists.]

Of all your work, do you have a favourite song?

Drifting is always my favourite to play live. It’s a really personal song and to see people connect with it and singing along really means the world to me. I like how the vocals start really low and it’s as if I’m talking to myself, then the chorus opens up into a euphoric moment, that’s always really special for me.


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Nathan Ball about surfing, traveling and other passions

You also surf. What does the sport and being close to the ocean mean to you?

I spend a lot of time down by the sea which has a huge influence on my writing. I love feeling totally immersed in nature and feeling totally insignificant within the surroundings of the huge cliffs and the sea! This comes out a lot in my music – whether it’s through a lyric or a guitar riff. I’ve been surfing for a long time now and a lot of my friends come from surfing, so it has a real special place in my heart.

Do you think that surfing and music belong together somehow?

I’m not too sure really. It does draw comparisons to being on stage because it’s a solitary thing to do, as it’s just you and your mind, but you’re surrounded by people. We do a lot of music stuff with Finisterre though, who are a surf brand down in Cornwall, so we tie into the surf world quite a lot.

I wouldn’t say I make surf music at all, but a few of the crew seem to listen to it, so that’s always nice.

Being a singer songwriter, you are traveling a lot. How do you like that part of your life?

I love it! I count myself incredibly lucky that I get to travel the world, doing the thing I love most. It gets pretty exhausting after a while, but it’s a total dream. I’ve found little pockets of home around the world through my travels… Cornwall, Amsterdam, Biarritz, Sydney. It feels pretty epic to return to these places and catch up with the same faces! [The following photos show Nathan and singer songwriter buddy Ziggy Alberts in Australia, where they performed and surfed together.]

Nathan Ball and Ziggy AlbertBesides music, what are your other passions?

I surf and snowboard a lot. It’s a great escape from music for me and it’s great to clear the head. A lot of my mates are down by the sea or up in the mountains, so it’s a real treat to get out there and go and see them. And I’m a big sports fan, too! I love to watch sport and seem to have taken up sitting in the pub and drinking ales as a hobby at the moment, which is always a laugh!

Thanks so much for the interview, Nathan!

Wenn du mehr von Nathan Ball hören und sehen willst, dann schau wegen Tour News unbedingt auf seiner Website vorbei. In der Zwischenzeit kannst du unsere Lieblingssongs von ihm und weiteren Künstlern in unserer Surfing Singer Songwriter Playlist auf Spotify hören. Viel Spaß!

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