Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
It was just a few years ago that Nat Osborn was sitting in a bar in Ireland, slightly depressed. He had been deported from the UK due to not having a work permit when he tried to enter, and after that letdown he decided, instead, to look for, “This profound Irish-folk connection.”
A month had passed, and numerous visits to numerous pubs had come and gone. Osborn admits he had nearly given up. Then, when he least expected it, what he had been searching for presented itself. “I was sitting in the back of a pub on the West coast,” he remembers, “and this woman in probably her 60s started singing, and then this guy brought out a guitar, and it turned into this session. I sat there, awed, as this woman sang song after song after song, and I just realized I kind of stumbled upon it, and it was so natural. The whole place started buzzing.”
Osborn stayed for four hours, and he still, to this day, feels the impact of that night. “Those are the moments I try to take the most away from,” the New York City singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, explains. “I think the reason why I like those moments, and the reason why I like to travel so much, is I’m constantly searching for common threads. What makes us decidedly human instead of Irish, or American? I’m always amazed at how much we all have in common.”
While Osborn has been finding common threads in people, he’s also been finding common threads in music, as his group, The Nat Osborn Band, has created their own sound that combines elements of jazz, funk, soul, reggae, and pop.
For Osborn, he felt the need to create early in life. Although he notes that even from the age of two he would derive joy from being at the piano, he never liked traditional piano lessons. The lone exception to his dislike of playing the music of others was when he decided to learn to play the guitar. “I bought a guitar because I loved the Red Hot Chili Peppers and wanted to learn how to play Blood Sugar Sex Magik.”
When Osborn was arriving at adolescence his parents found him a Brazilian jazz teacher. “I just exploded with joy,” Osborn remembers, “I was like yes, this is it!” That summer he’d have another eye opening experience when he went to The Walden School, a five month program where kids studied and wrote music. “I think that’s really where I found my voice, and my kind of soul, and began to sing a little bit, because I had this nurturing community. I was surrounded by people who loved to do what I wanted to do, and I realized that this was a viable option.”
This made Osborn quite the unique teenager, as he notes, “I was composing classically, writing pop songs on the guitar, and learning jazz piano, as a 13 year old.”
All of those experiences, and all of that music, have come together, and matured, and the result is The Nat Osborn Band’s first album, The King & The Clown. The King & The Clown took literally years to complete, but Osborn explains “we weren’t delivering this to a label, and our only goal was to get it right, so I wasn’t overly concerned with time, I was overly concerned with getting it the way we wanted it to sound.”
Perfectionist tendencies, something Osborn admits to having, were one of the reasons for the delay, as he notes, “I had recorded some of these songs myself previously, and then shelved them. I’d decided they weren’t good enough. Two years later I jumped back into it with (producer) Alex (Bilo) and I’m just ecstatic that it is out there.”
At the album release show last month at La Poisson Rouge, in New York City, Osborn and crew kept a packed house moving, even when there wasn’t enough room on the stage for him and his band to move themselves. With eight people in the band, and numerous guests making appearances, it became quite the crowded house both off and on the stage.
Osborn is thrilled concert goers can finally to take that vibe from the dance floor to their own homes with The King & The Clown. “I’ve been leading this band, and we’ve been traveling around, playing a bunch, and all of that without an album out. Now we have something to stand by.”
Just because The King & The Clown is out, however, don’t think Osborn’s done with his traveling ways. “I feel more comfortable when I’m on the move,” he explains, “and I kind of prefer just having a suitcase and a guitar with me. There’s a comfort in knowing that I can hold all of my possessions that I need on my bodily person. I get really inspired by traveling. I think when you travel your eyes are more open, you’re noticing a lot more, time moves a little slower.”
Obviously, a return trip to Ireland is something of interest to Osborn, as is finally getting to see the UK, though he’s quick to say, “I certainly wouldn’t go without a real, triple signed, quadruple validated, work permit.”
A work permit, and a jazzy, funky, soulful album people can dance to, and is something other artists can discover while on their own quests to find common threads in both music, and people.
B-Listers are a select group of artists that were featured in my Artist Of The Week series that ran every Monday from April of '06 to April of '11. All of these artists have two things in common; extreme talent, and a flight path far too under the radar for my liking. They took on the title of B-Listers as they embraced being featured by me, Adam B. Check out the AOTW Archives for all the interviews.