I’ve been hearing the name Nat Osborn for a little while now. A good friend of mine is the newest member of his band, and another friend of mine had been playing with Nat for years. And like every other musician on the “scene” in NYC, it was only a matter of time before we crossed paths.
Between leading a few bands, running from writing session to writing session with other artists, promoting his new album, and finding time to travel the world, I’m pretty much convinced that Nat doesn’t sleep. Ever.
Originally from a small town in southern Westchester just outside of the city, Nat grew up in a household where both mom and dad had some musical talent. So it wasn’t very long before Nat was taking to it as well. “My father plays the drums, so I started playing the drums around sixth grade,” he recalls, “and my mother is a vey naturally talented pianist. But it’s funny, he’s tone deaf and she has no rhythm. So I’d like to think that I got my rhythm from him and my melodic sensibility from her.”
Nat started off with classical lessons, but early on began developing that itch to create his own music. “When I was about 8, I started classical lessons, but I didn’t take to classical. I was always writing my own stuff, and my mother would constantly ask me, ‘Why aren’t you practicing?’ So when I was about 12, I told her I wanted to quit piano, and she realized maybe she should take a different approach. That’s when I started studying composition and jazz.”
While attending Skidmore College, Nat majored in history and music. “I decided I was interested in too many things just to focus on music. I looked at music as less of a craft than I probably should have when it came to technique. I kind of looked at it as the deepest way of connecting to the human soul. And history was a huge part of that as well. Like figuring out what the story of humanity was. I wanted to study poetry, history, humanities and everything to feed the driving force that made me play music in the first place. Skidmore was a great place to do that.”
But that choice was no “backup plan.” Becoming a professional musician was something that Nat just kind of always knew he was going to do. “I’ve never been a really good planner. So, when I graduated it was just like, ‘Well, it’s time to go for this.’ That’s it.”
That being said, it’s easy for someone to have that mentality when they’ve also been playing in bands since they were 13. And growing up just outside one of the toughest and most competitive cities to be a musician in, Nat had the best of both worlds. “Friday night, I’d be drinking on a golf course with some friends, and Saturday night I’d be in the city.” It was that lifestyle that gave Nat a bit of a head start in being a bandleader. He was able to learn what most people learn in their mid to late 20s before finishing high school. “My band in high school was playing half of the clubs in New York. So I was able to make a lot of my mistakes while still in my late teens.”
Now, with a completed album, a band that’s getting tighter and tighter, and a bit of buzz generating, Nat is at the point of trying to sell the project to a label. “I don’t have the power, the money, the connections, or the means to do this completely independently. I’ll do it if I have to, but we’re trying to put kits together and get people to put money behind us. It’s all very exciting but also terrifying.”
This album has been a long labor of love for Nat. Having taken the first crack at recording his debut album a few years ago, he decided the end product wasn’t good enough, and shelved it. “I spent the next few years just working to become a better musician. It was almost like the material I wrote was better than I was. So I needed to work up to that. Then, when my producer got involved, that was huge. It brought a fresh prospective. Sometimes it’s great to have someone new come along and say, ‘Well what about this?’ and you’re like, ‘Ahhhh. That’s been there the whole time??’”
Working with his longtime friend Alex Bilowitz as a producer, turned out to be a great decision. Although working so closely with friends on such a delicate project can end up with all parties involved no longer speaking to one another, the professional relationship Alex and Nat formed ended up being just as balanced and cohesive as their friendship.
“We just decided we were going to commit the next 9 months of our lives to this project. And we were both so dedicated because this was going to be my calling card as an artist and his as a producer.”
Looking back on the last few years, Nat has no regrets, but may have done things slightly different. “I’ve always enjoyed playing with bigger bands, but looking back, maybe I should have started with a solo record, then ridden on the back of that, and continue to build from there. Taking everything step by step.” And when I ask him for some words of wisdom for those “fresh out of college” artists trying to get their project off the ground, he simply says, “It’s a good idea to set realistic goals and pursue them ruthlessly,” he pauses for a moment and laughs to himself, “I’ve probably set unrealistic goals and pursue them ruthlessly. But it seems to be working out.”
Although the official release date for Nat’s album, The King And The Clown is still TBA, it’s possible the band may release a few tracks some time soon. For more information, check out the site here: www.natosborn.com