Interview | FFS 5 with Magical Beasts’ Nathan Paulus

Chicago roots band Magical Beasts are at it again. The December release of their EP, Yes, My Love, I am Reaching, topped the 2010s off in style. Juxtaposed against previous releases from the indie outfit, the latest is notably subdued. This isn’t a knock against the band, though, whose best works have often come from their more contemplative affairs; plus, some of the most interesting songwriters of our time have found worth in the quiet spaces between big, bombastic movements. Magical Beasts have always walked off the beaten path, and Yes, My Love, I am Reaching is a gentle scorcher that feels like a grand culmination of their travels thus far.

In light of the recent release, Magical Beasts frontman Nathan Paulus answered the ‘FFS 5’ call, contributing his voice to the ongoing interview series.

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Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?

I am from a small town in Wisconsin. I have always played music and love creating songs and exploring songwriting. Presently, I reside in Chicago and moved here for the sole purpose of ‘being a musician.’ I moved after I finished my undergraduate degree, and when I look back at that person, they were quite naïve about the whole idea of what it would mean to have success in music. At that time in my young 20’s there was some underlying assumption that I would just ‘make it,’ without any real strategy or understanding of the larger music world and how it functions.

My failed projects and lack of external success are my defining moments. I continue to make and create music that I feel is good and worthy and interesting. That is my main goal, the externals are a bit separate.

As an artist, how do you define success?

Success is the ability to have a vision and make something that aligns as close as you possibly can to that vision. Hopefully, the product of the initial vision impacts some number of people, and hopefully the impact resonates more as the artist continues to make and create. That resonance is not guaranteed though, so the motive must be strong within yourself, and looking purely for external validation is more in the realm of commerce than art.

Success is to have some connections as well amongst other likeminded artists, people to collaborate with, be stimulated, challenged and inspired by. Thankfully, I am rich in that department, and Chicago is rich in that department.

What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?

I do not try to make my living from my music; however, I still want my music to be heard and have an impact. For me the struggle is how to engage with the part of music that is commerce in a way that is effective and allows me to still have a balanced life for my other goals and priorities.

What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist/band? What do you hope to achieve?

Make beautiful music.  Sometimes layered, sometimes complex, sometimes simple.

Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?

Outside of music, I am one of the owners of a cooperatively run Holistic Health clinic called ‘Five Point Holistic Health’ in Chicago. I give treatments and enjoy the day to day challenges of running an authentic business that benefits the community. Beyond that, I am interested in the esoteric world, I study and practice Taiji and meditation as means towards internal development, and I teach some classes to help share the knowledge I gain from my teachers. Creativity is the ability to be inspired, to move toward making something that expresses a vision or a feeling of some sort, each aspect of my outer life influences this. The clarity and self-understanding I gain from the internal practices contribute quite a bit.

Words by: Jonathan Frahm