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Nathaniel Rateliff On Confidence, Education And Giving Back: "Music Provides An Opportunity For Young People To Put Energy Into Something Good"
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats perform in New Orleans, Louisiana.

PHOTO: Erika Goldring/Stringer

interview

Nathaniel Rateliff On Confidence, Education And Giving Back: "Music Provides An Opportunity For Young People To Put Energy Into Something Good"

Backed by his longtime band, the Night Sweats, Rateliff will headline A GRAMMY In The Schools Salute to Music Education on March 31

GRAMMYs/Mar 30, 2022 - 04:02 pm

Nathaniel Rateliff knows the power music can have in a young person’s life. After all, the leader of the soulful Denver-based octet Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats gained the confidence he now uses onstage from his middle school choir class.

"My teacher was super helpful and also saw [that] I wasn't very confident as a singer," the charismatic crooner recalls. "I was pretty shy."

Shy no longer, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats will headline A GRAMMY In The Schools Salute to Music Education on March 31 — part of the Recording Academy’s leadup to the 64th GRAMMY Awards on April 3. Presented by MGM Resorts International, the concert will feature an opening set from the GRAMMY In The Schools Alumni Band, made up of past GRAMMY Museum program participants who are now professional musicians.

Rateliff is generous in paying forward lessons like the ones he learned in choir class. In 2017, he founded the Marigold Project, an endowment to support community and nonprofit organizations focused on economic, racial and social justice issues (among its dozens of grantees is the Preservation Hall Foundation in New Orleans). In 2017 his band headlined the inaugural concert fundraiser for Take Note Colorado, a music education initiative, and raised more than half a million dollars to support music education in the state.

"It’s just nice to be able to give kids an opportunity," he told Denver CBS affiliate KCNC-TV. "Not everyone gets that."

Music education is tied to student success through a myriad of metrics, correlating with notably higher graduation rates and positive impact on students' reading comprehension and memory, among other areas. Data from the Save the Music Foundation shows that the approximately 7,000 schools without music programs are located mainly in school districts that serve Black, immigrant and low-income student populations.

We spoke with Rateliff to learn more about the importance of music education, and what’s next for him and his band. 

This interview has been edited for clarity.

What was your experience with music while you were in school? Did you take music theory classes, or were you in the school band?

I didn't have much of an education, actually, but I had a short time in middle school when I was in honor choir and I loved it. But then outside of that, we've done a lot of work to try to get instruments into the hands of the kids in schools. That's something that’s been defunded over the years, not just here in Colorado, but also in New Orleans. We helped out Preservation Hall Jazz Band with an organization they’re running down there.

Participating in choir can be a great way to gain a solid musical foundation while having fun. How did your experience in choir impact your understanding of music?

I played drums at the time and then soon after, guitar, but my parents sang. But yeah, singing in choir was different than having to sing in church, and it was my first experience of having my own voice.

Over the years, you have helped music programs for kids by providing instruments and other means of support. Why have you made that commitment?

Well, I think music provides an opportunity for young people to put a lot of that energy they have into something that's good. And it's something that lasts for a long time, as well. Aside from making music in front of people, playing on my own time is still one of my great loves, and to be able to have that for myself and know where I came from, without much opportunity, and I know there's a lot of kids in that position, as well. There's an escape from your world sometimes through music, and so it's nice to try to create that opportunity for other young people.

How else can an artist in your position make a difference in music education?

We have a foundation called the Marigold Project and we're an endowment, so we raise money to give out grants every year, and this was a similar situation. I believe it was still John Hickenlooper, who was governor of Colorado, and then my manager Chris Tetzeli, helped put through an initiative here in Colorado, and we were supporting them in that initiative, trying to get kids instruments in schools. It was mostly just donating our time and playing live. We try to get people to come in and donate money; that is what we do a lot of the time.

Being a guy who puts out music on Stax Records, soul and R&B are your native language, and those roots run from Memphis down to New Orleans. Is working with Preservation Hall a natural relationship for you?

Absolutely, and we still do work with them and love the work they're doing, even when they went to Cuba and were working with young people there. There's a lot of excitement for kids to get their hands on instruments.

You put out your latest album, The Future, with the Night Sweats in the middle of the pandemic. How did that period affect you, musically?

We put out The Future in November of [2021], and we're actually just getting ready to start touring on that. But I put out a record called And It's Still All Right, Feb. 14 of 2020, and we got to play 10 shows.

That was a solo record, but I had most of the Night Sweats in the band — there were actually 10 of us on stage and a full crew — so it impacted all of us. We had a whole year planned of work, and yeah, we ended up not being able to do any of that. Aside from making the effort to make a solo record in the middle of a career I already had going, it seemed like a risky move. To kind of have it all swept under the rug was a little difficult, you know?

Did all of the writing and recording for The Future happen during the pandemic?

I started writing the record probably in June of 2020, and then we finished it in February of 2021. So yeah, all of the songs were written during that time, with the exception of "Survivor," which I had started quite a bit earlier and then it just kind of continued to transform and then eventually became the leading track on that record.

It was difficult to write during that time and not just focus on negative things, and you know, things still seem very unsure. So it's hard to keep trying to have a positive outlook on stuff.

About the making of The Future during the pandemic: You’ve talked about the back-and-forth battle you have between being positive and hopeful, and on the other hand, giving in to your more neurotic side. What side is winning in your songwriting these days?

I try to help the hopeful side win in the songwriting, but personally, I don't really know where I'm at right now [Laughs].

It still looks pretty bleak to me, but I'm trying to be positive and I think…everybody's had such a hard time. I think it's not really what people need to hear more about, how bleak it is; I think it’s pretty obvious.

Getting back out on the road and playing for your fans must be a welcome change. Do you feel like the right kinds of steps are being taken now to bring live music back for good?

Yeah. We were actually able to tour throughout the spring and summer last year — mostly the summer, I guess, into the fall in outdoor amphitheaters. So it'll be interesting to see what this year holds with everything still kind of locked down. Even the shows, with AEG and Live Nation [and] their requirement for vaccines or, you know, just mandated shows for health reasons. So, I'm interested to see what it's like now that it's opening up a little bit more.

What makes you hopeful about what lies ahead for the Night Sweats and music in general? What can music fans look forward to?

Well, for music in general, I think that people need music, and I think that was something we saw when we started playing shows again, just how people responded to live music. And so I'm very hopeful, you know, that will continue to grow because of the need that people have for it. And for the Night Sweats, it's just kind of a journey for us. We just keep trying to make music that we like and you know, keep trying to hear each other through all of that.

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Eddie Vedder's Curated Ohana Fest Announces Lineup With Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tash Sultana & More

Tash Sultana

Photo: FilmMagic/Getty Images

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Eddie Vedder's Curated Ohana Fest Announces Lineup With Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tash Sultana & More

Other headliners include Incubus, Jenny Lewis, LP, the Strokes, and more

GRAMMYs/Mar 5, 2019 - 03:55 am

The fourth annual Ohana Festival is set for Sept. 27–29 at Doheny State Beach at Calif.'s Dana Point. The ocean-side celebration is curated by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, who co-founded the fest and will be headlining. Additional headliners include Glen Hansard, Incubus, Jenny Lewis, LP, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Strokes, and Tash Sultana.

Former Pearl Jam drummer Jack Irons is also on the bill, along with Laura Jane Grace And The Devouring Mothers,  Lukas Nelson & The Promise Of The Real and White Reaper.  

"It's been a true honor," said Vedder last year, "to work with the community and organizers to create a stimulating vibe and uplifting atmosphere for the great crowds and incredible musicians who come out to play in the park."

Tickets go on sale on March 8 at the festival's website. A portion of Ohana Fest's proceeds will be donated to the Doheny State Beach Interpretive Association, the San Onofre Parks Foundation and other charities.

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Bob Dylan Cancels Summer 2020 Tour Due To COVID-19 Concerns

Bob Dylan

Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS/Getty Images

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Bob Dylan Cancels Summer 2020 Tour Due To COVID-19 Concerns

The GRAMMY-winning folk stalwart's first new album in eight years, 'Rough and Rowdy Ways,' is due out on June 19

GRAMMYs/May 13, 2020 - 11:33 pm

Today, May 13, 10-time GRAMMY-winner Bob Dylan announced his 2020 North American summer tour is canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 25-date North American leg of the folk legend's "Never Ending Tour" was originally set to kick off in Bend, Ore. on June 4 and wrap up in Bethel Woods, N.Y. on July 12. New dates will be announced at a later time when it is safe to do so, but for now, ticket purchasers will be given refunds.

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"To all our fans: In the interest of public health and safety and after many attempts to try and reschedule these shows for a workable timeframe this year, it is with deep regret that we announce the US Bob Dylan shows originally scheduled for June/July are cancelled," the announcement on Dylan's Twitter (shared above) reads.

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"We hope to be back out on the road at the earliest possible time once we are confident that it is safe for both fans and concert staff. Please contact your point of purchase for all information on refunds," a second tweet added.

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Folk act Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats was slated as the opener the jaunt, which was announced back in early March. The tour would've coincided with the release of Dylan's upcoming album, Rough And Rowdy Ways, which is due out on June 19. The project is his first LP of new music in eight years and has been preceded by three lead singles; "Murder Most Foul," "I Contain Multitudes" and, most recently, "False Prophet."

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GRAMMY Museum Announces New Dates And Location For 2022 Virtual GRAMMY In The Schools Fest & A GRAMMY In The Schools Salute To Music Education Benefit Concert
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Photo Courtesy of Artist

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GRAMMY Museum Announces New Dates And Location For 2022 Virtual GRAMMY In The Schools Fest & A GRAMMY In The Schools Salute To Music Education Benefit Concert

The 2022 GRAMMY In The Schools Fest will take place virtually March 28-30 and will culminate in A GRAMMY In The Schools Salute To Music Education, a benefit concert with Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, on March 31

GRAMMYs/Mar 3, 2022 - 03:13 pm

GRAMMY In The Schools Fest (GITS Fest), presented by MusicPower, will take place virtually, Mon - Wed, March 28 - 30, 2022, leading up to Music's Biggest Night — the rescheduled 2022 GRAMMYs show, officially known as the 64th GRAMMY Awards. The festival will culminate in A GRAMMY In The Schools Salute To Music Education, a benefit concert with Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, taking place on Thurs, March 31, 2022, at House of Blues Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay. All ticket sales proceeds will support the GRAMMY Museum's Education Programs. The GRAMMY In The Schools Alumni Band will open the show, which consists of past GRAMMY Museum program participants who are now professional musicians.

The three-day virtual GITS Fest celebrates music education and features performances by students and professionals along with engaging, educational panels by artists, educators and other music professionals. GITS Fest will truly localize the GRAMMY Week experience in cities and schools nationwide. Woven throughout the virtual festival will be lessons and other valuable information provided by top practitioners across the broad spectrum of music, music education and its connection to other school subject areas. Lesson plans and study guides will be made available free of charge to all teachers around the country who register their students to participate.

GITS Fest, presented by MusicPower, incorporates elements of various GRAMMY Museum Education Programs, including GRAMMY Camp, GRAMMY Career Day and the Music Educator Award™. These programs also receive support from Ford Motor Company Fund as part of Ford's commitment to music education.

GITS Fest special guests include MusicPower Foundation Founder Andy Nahas, Jeff Pilson from previous GRAMMY nominee Foreigner, New York-born indie trio Kid Sistr, previous GRAMMY winner and current GRAMMY nominee Manny Marroquin, indie pop band MUNA, previous GRAMMY winner SWITCHFOOT, nationally renowned brass quintet Gateways Brass Collective, award-winning jazz vocalist/bassist and GITS alum Katie Thiroux, previous Music Educator Award winner Jeffery Redding, award-winning music educator Charles "Chip" Staley, and GRAMMY Museum President Michael Sticka. 

A GRAMMY In The Schools Salute To Music Education Benefit Concert features Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, and Michael Sticka, President of the GRAMMY Museum. The recipient of the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum's 9th annual Music Educator Award will also be in attendance. The GITS Alumni Band opens the show. 

HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN GITS FEST:

Free to the public for those who register in advance. The official registration form will be live shortly, but if you are interested in being the first one to receive the schedule and signup information, please fill out the below form:

https://grammymuseum.formstack.com/forms/2022_gits_fest_registration_form

HOW TO PURCHASE TICKETS FOR A GRAMMY IN THE SCHOOLS SALUTE TO MUSIC EDUCATION, A BENEFIT CONCERT WITH NATHANIEL RATELIFF & THE NIGHT SWEATS:

General Admission tickets are available here.

Information on sponsorship and VIP tickets is available by emailing development@grammymuseum.org or calling 213-725-5717.

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