Late Morning Films
Some 18 years ago, local singer-guitarist Nathan Hedges signed to a small Virginia label and released a solo album. He’ll finally follow up that first solo album with another solo album that comes out this month and will play a release party on Saturday, June 24, at House of Blues Foundation Room
“[I worked with] Chris Keup, who did the pre-production and co-wrote many of songs for Jason Mraz’s album, Waiting For My Rocket To Come
says one afternoon over beers and shots at Stone Mad, the Ohio City bar and restaurant that’s near his home as he explains his second solo album’s circuitous route. “The backing band that played on my record had just played on his record. We were in the studio around the same time. I recorded it outside of Charlottesville. It was a cool experience. [Charlottesville-based] Dave Matthews was really big at the time. I was into Wilco and Ryan Adams and Drive-By Truckers and Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings and the Band and Bob Dylan. I twas such an amazing community of music there.”
Hedges made the connection to Keup and Co. after his old band, Hudson Chase, opened for the Virginia-based jam act Agents of Good Roots in Akron and established a friendship.
“They used to play with Dave Matthews Band and Soul Coughing,” Hedges says of Agents of Good Roots. “They were a jam band, but I thought they were better than Dave Matthews and Soul Coughing. They just didn’t get the longevity out of the career.”
After Hudson Chase disbanded, Hedges joined the regional rock act View from Everest. He formed the indie rock act Cities & Coasts in the wake of that band.
“We were busy but not doing what we wanted to be doing,” says Hedges of View From Everest. “That’s when I wrote the first Cities & Coasts album. It was so different from Nathan Hedges solo, and that’s why I gave it a name. It was like the Strokes-meets-the-Beach Boys.”
Hedges then moved to New York for a spell and reconnected with singer-songwriter Dan Miraldi, a former Clevelander, and the two started the New Preservation Society.
“It was another retro-sounding band similar to stripped down 1964 British Invasion,” he says of the New Preservation Society. “As two singer-songwriters, we loved that music so much and were inspired so much by it. Dan [Miraldi] and I engineered, produced and played all the instruments ourselves on all of those recordings.”
Both New Preservation Society and Cities & Coasts are still active bands, but Hedges is devoting his time to the solo material for the time being. He actually has saved hundreds of song ideas as voice memos to his iPhone.
During the height of the pandemic when his life came to a “screeching halt,” Hedges began working on the tunes for his new solo album, Whiskey & Firelight
, working out of his home studio he had built into his basement.
“It took me about 18 months to write and another 18 to finish the songs,” he says of the album. “I became a father, which has been an incredible experience, and that slowed down the time I could dedicate to this. It took almost three years from writing to conception.”
For recording the solo album, he enlisted the help of local drummer Holbrook Riles, who has played with locals such as Wesley Bright and Gretchen Pleuss, and also local bassist Matthew DeRubertis. "They’re the tightest rhythm section I’ve ever seen in my life," he says. "They’re masters at their craft. When I need to get it tight, I have them come in.”
Riles and DeRubertis played on five of the album’s seven tunes. Local pedal steel player Brian Poston also contributes. Highlights include “Games,” which features Tom Petty-like vocals and possesses a garage blues feel to it, and “I Ain’t Mad," a tune that commences with a hollow drumbeat that then gives way to echoing vocals. The anthemic album closer "Times Are Changing" benefits from steel pedal guitar and Van Morrison-like vocals.
“The album's dynamics are incredible,” says Hedges. “Sometimes, it starts big and then comes down. It’s like a rollercoaster of emotions. I’ve always been a big fan of singer-songwriters. When I was younger, I don’t know if I appreciated them as much as I should have. Lyrics have never mattered more to me. I want to pain this picture and give this vibe and feeling. If you listen closely to Cites & Coasts, sometimes the lyrics are pretty depressing, even though the music is uplifting. With this album, there is a feeling and vibe, and the music is paired perfectly."
Hedges says he tends to play live with only a pedal steel and keyboardist, but for the upcoming House of Blues Foundation Room show, he’ll play Whiskey & Firelight
in its entirety with many of the musicians who played on it.
“We’ll do a lot more of that in the future,” he says. “With Cities & Coasts, there is a lot of production. It would take me about ten musicians or backing tracks to replicate it. For my solo album, I wanted the songs to be just as good, but I think every sort of variation of performing them works. I can do it solo or as a trio or a full band. It creates a much more dynamic mood. To play some of those Cities & Coasts songs by myself would not work. With this, the rawness of the vocals and storytelling makes it work no matter what way I do it.”
Coming soon: Cleveland Scene Daily newsletter. We’ll send you a handful of interesting Cleveland stories every morning. Subscribe now to not miss a thing.
Follow us: Google News | NewsBreak | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter