It's been quite a year for Nathaniel Rateliff. The 36-year-old Missouri-born singer took off last August with the release of his self-titled LP with his band the Night Sweats, turning heads with "S.O.B.," an unexpectedly catchy gospel-rock tune about alcoholism, and touring with the likes of Dr. Dog and the Lumineers. Citing influences from Sam and Dave and Otis Redding to Van Morrison, Rateliff finely balances tales of sinning and sadness with hope and triumph, crafting big, soulful stompers full of horn sections and handclaps.
Here are five other important things to know about Rateliff before he hits the Waterfront.
1. He hasn't always played with the Night Sweats.
Well, sort of. After almost 20 years performing in and around Denver, both as a solo artist and in other, smaller ensembles, Rateliff teamed up in 2013 with the R&B outfit that currently serves as his backing band—a group of seven musicians covering horns, keyboards, guitar, bass and drums. He played off and on with them for a few years before the outfit released its self-titled debut in 2015.
2. He didn't always have his R&B-soul revival sound.
Both of Rateliff's solo releases—2010's In Memory of Loss and 2013's Falling Faster Than You Can Run—are full of sparse, occasionally heart-wrenching folk songs built on crying slide guitar and rasped vocals. By the time he teamed up with the Night Sweats, he had started exploring taking his music in a different direction. "I began to visualize a band, a horn section," Rateliff told The Guardian last October when asked why he started to shift his musical style.
3. He was briefly a missionary.
Growing up in a devoutly religious household, and playing in church bands with his family throughout his early and teenage years, Rateliff joined a missionary organization, Youth With a Mission, when he was 18, which brought him to Denver. His stint with the evangelical group didn't last long, but he ended up putting down roots in Denver and launching his career from there.
4. His big hit started out as a joke.
Originally, the Night Sweats would play their debut single, "S.O.B.," only at the end of shows, just for fun and because of the reaction it got from live crowds. In an interview with the BBC last October, Rateliff said, "We had no intention of it being a radio song at all," noting that there were "smarter" songs that he had written.
5. He's worked a lot of jobs.
When he was a teenager, Rateliff worked in a plastics factory before moving to Denver to become a missionary. He's also worked as a carpenter, at a trucking depot and as a gardener before hitting it big as a musician.
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats play Saturday at 5:55 pm.
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