Years In The Making | An Interview With Nathaniel Reed of Nanl

For the past three years, Bloomington, Indiana-based singer-songwriter Nathaniel Reed has focused on creating a collection of emotionally dense and sonically vulnerable songs. Going by the moniker of Nanl, the idea of creating such work is to connect with listeners in search of catharsis in the same ways that other artists have for him. The result features music driven by guitars and reflective lyrical content.  

Nanl’s debut Autumn Dyes showcases Reed’s vision to fruition. The four tracks have been described as incorporating indie-folk, emo, slowcore, and math rock. Loud yet direct, soft, and driven, Autumn Days maintains a consistent theme of trying to understand one’s own mental state and place in the world. Accompanying Reed in the recording of Autumn Days were dear friends/musicians Isaiah Smith on guitar, Alex Kessler on bass, and Alex Schumacher on drums.

What was the primary source for your appreciation of music growing up?

I grew up in a household with a diverse blend of music played by my parents. My dad was a guitarist and that eventually really inspired me to get deeper into music. We also inherited a terabyte hard drive worth of music from a family friend, and I was able to explore so many artists and albums. I think I had an iPod with around 22,000 songs on it at some point, so I was constantly exploring different music.

Bloomington is primarily viewed as a college city and nothing else. In terms of the music scene, how would you describe its current status?

Oddly enough, I have spent years here but have very little exposure to its music scene. The only live music I have encountered have been a variety of talented jam bands, and I got to fill in with one of them for a house show.

When you are writing, how much do you take out of your personal story?

The majority of my music is autobiographical. I tend to write lyrics as both a letter to others and a sort of journal entry for myself. It’s all a reflection of my feelings, experiences, and views on the world. I also try to recount it all in a way that’s still accessible and relatable to others.

Piecing together the EP, what was essential for you to accomplish?

I wanted all of the songs for the EP to sound diverse and unique. I tried to take a different approach to the tone and style of each song. At the end of the day, I just wanted a project that was reflective of my abilities as a songwriter. I was also just really excited to finally have a project of my own after dreaming about it for years.

It took some time for the EP to be released. Did you found yourself going back and forth on how you wanted to go about it?

After the recording, I was a bit lost on what to do next in terms of releasing it. I also hadn’t heard recordings of myself before, so there were times of self-consciousness in which I was a bit nervous about releasing it at all. I eventually linked up with Lonely Ghost Records and they were incredibly instrumental in helping me release the project.

You had some fantastic musicians help work on the songs. What did the group do that surprised you during the recording?

The musicians who helped me are dear friends who never cease to amaze me with their talents and creativity. They all managed to write their parts fairly quickly and often separately, yet they all complement the songs very well. I think they all really elevated the songs and helped turn them into pieces that were far more beautiful than I imagined they could be.

What’s the meaning behind the EP title?

Autumn Dyes was what I had originally considered as a moniker for releasing music. However, I eventually chose the name Nanl because that is what my loved ones call me, so I settled on it as the title for the EP. It originated from the idea of autumn and the feelings it gives me. I think it’s a really beautiful, joyous time of year, but it’s accompanied by a sort of somber feeling that I love. It also feels symbolic of a lot of the emotions that I experience. For those reasons, I liked the idea of the feelings of autumn coloring my life like a dye.

What should we be expecting soon?

The other guitarist on the EP, Isaiah, and I are in a duo called Rose Tint, and we are planning on recording and releasing a project sometime this year. We have songs from years of playing together, and we agree that it is finally time to release something. For my solo project, I have written a handful of new songs that I’m planning to record sometime in the near future, too! I’m hoping to take a different approach with a new sound for the next Nanl project.