Tucked away amongst the secluded woodlands of Hertfordshire lies this summer’s best kept secret. Only a stone’s throw from London, Farr Festival is now in it’s third year and provided a refreshing respite from the hot, hustle and bustle of the capital. The line-up included sets from breakthrough house acts such as Ben Pearce, Andy Weatherall and Eats Everything, but the highlight was from a little-known singer-songwriter named Nathan Ball, who went against the musical grain to give the festival a folkish tint.
Hailing from Oxfordshire, Nathan spends most of his time tucked away amongst the crashing waves and beautiful scenery of his Cornish home, and this provides the backdrop to his wistful folk. This year at Farr however, he turned his back on the solitude of the coastline to open a set for boy-girl duo Chasing Grace. Perhaps feeling that this change of scene warranted a change of sound, he ditched the acoustic guitar and bedroom poetry in place of electric riffs and a hugely capable backing band, imploring sentimental vibes from a packed centre stage.
The set consisted of a number of recently penned tracks as well as some older songs. ‘Gunner’ excited cries from a hooked audience as tender lyrics swept through the packed tent. A track written out of gratitude to his parents for their support, the murky nostalgia of days gone by was shaped by finger plucked chords, and spliced with heart-pull lyrics. His ever-growing legion of admirers stood hanging onto every word.
For a man who’s career is still in its seedling days, every track seems to exude potential. Each song is tender yet spiked with darker intrigue turning his honey-pot of self-penned tracks into huge wafts of soundscape emotion. The set closed with ‘We Fell Down,’ a new track from his upcoming EP to be released in September. I caught up with him in his campervan to hear what’s new.
Hi Nathan, great set! So tell me a bit about yourself.
Thanks! Well, I’m a 23 year old singer/songwriter from Oxford. I’d say my music is stuck somewhere between acoustic and folk music with some heavier and darker elements mashed in.
What do you look to for inspiration?
My friends and family are a huge inspiration, but it’s mostly scenery that inspires me. I love staring at a moody, stormy sea and hearing the rain knocking on the roof. For some reason that seems to be the most inspiring time. When I’m tucked away on a stormy day, I start plucking at some dark chords, and usually a song comes out of it! They often end up as screwed up bits of paper in a drawer at home somewhere, but some of them make it into the live show!
You spend a lot of time on the Cornish coastline. Do you find this place particularly special?
I do massively. I love it down there. I spent a lot of time in Cornwall as a kid, and my girlfriend and some of my closest friends live there, so it’s a real treat to spend so much time amongst them. I have so many happy memories of the place and there’s actually an awesome music scene tucked away if you look hard enough…
You used to play solo, just you and your guitar, but you now have a backing band. How has this changed your sound and are they here to stay?
Yeah they’re here to stay for sure. They are all great friends of mine, and very talented musicians, so they’re an absolute dream to work with. To be honest it’s the sound I’ve been looking for for ages now. I’ve always written songs with other guitars and drums in mind, but I suppose it’s just been a matter of convenience that I’ve just played on my own, as it’s easier to just turn up to a gig with a guitar and fire out some acoustic tracks.
Tell me about your experience of Farr?
Farr was insane. It was definitely my favourite gig I’ve played! Oscar and the rest of the Farr crew have been so supportive, so I really wanted to smash this one! Our live sound has developed so much from when I’ve sat in my bedroom writing acoustic songs, and I’ve finally got to producing the live set I’ve been working towards, so we were so pumped with the performance and had an amazing crowd watching us – we’re buzzing from it!
You’ve just finished tour with surf brand Insight. Tell me about this.
Yeah, that was amazing. We went off for a tour down the west coast of Portugal. There were 4 of us on the tour: Oby the tour organiser, Chris from Zen Filmworks filming it all, and Joao Cruz doing all the street art, then I was playing the music. We drove down the west coast in this van, which had a couple of broken office desks in the back, which were wedged together with an old sponge mattress on top as a bed. There were two of us on it, then Chris was stuck underneath it! We drove down the coast playing gigs in all the Insight shops, while Joao created his masterpieces in the shop windows.
We’re pretty sure the van was cursed after a few speeding fines, some toll fines, getting stuck in some marsh land, getting dragged out by an angry farmer in a tractor and reversing the tow hitch into the radiator of a car behind us, dragging it a few metres without even realising! We came back from the tour with some amazing memories and friends. Oh and a tattoo on Oby’s back saying ‘Britney’s Back!’
What are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve been a big fan of Lucy Rose for a while now. She has the most stunning voice that really tugs on the heartstrings. I heard her song ‘Night Bus’ a while back and I still can’t get enough of it. It’s great to see she’s getting the recognition she deserves! A good friend of mine is the singer of a band called ‘New Carnival.’ I’m a sucker for a catchy chorus and those boys have got it down to a tee. They are all very talented musicians and amazing people, so I massively recommend going to see them too!
What are you plans for the future?
I just want to carry on with the music. I love playing gigs and I want to do a tour more than anything. The live set is getting better and better, it’s finally got to where I want it to be. We seem to be building a following of amazing people, so every gig this year has been an absolute dream to play! We’ve got some shows coming up in London towards the end of September, so I’m really looking forward to those too, and also doing some work with the surf crew at Finisterre down in Cornwall. They have been amazing and we’re currently working on a soundtrack for their upcoming trip to Norway at the moment, so the future is looking fun. I’m also currently working on a new EP, with plans to release an album next year.
Follow Nathan Ball via Twitter and Facebook for updates on what he’s up to in the coming months.
Words & Photography: Angus Griffin