In Session: Nathaniel Villarreal

Nathaniel in his solo session at The Living Room Inc. recording studio

How long have you been writing music?

“I started writing music when I was around 7 or 8 [years old]. Started fiddling with the guitar around 6. I went to my grandma’s house and my uncle, Art, lent me one of his acoustics and I knew 3 or 4 chords, and I just wrote some tune: D, A, E major, G, C, and he said ‘Hey you should record this.’ I said ‘I don’t know how to do any of that stuff.’ He’s like ‘Yeah, you’re ready for it.’ So I went to his home studio and laid down 2 tracks and he added his stuff over it, then he gave me a cassette of me playing. And it sounded pretty cool. I was in lessons, but this was more folk-driven. I enjoyed working on something that was my own, as opposed to interpreting something that someone has already done. I enjoyed taking the simplistic aspect of being able to play for enjoyment. I don’t like being confined to one ideology of classical notation. I found it more fun to play folk rhythm and put cool leads behind it.”

So, are you a metal musician?

“I’m a musician. I wouldn’t say I’m a metal musician or classical or folk I’m a musician. I think putting labels on music is what a lot of kids coming out of college do. Classifying your music or your style, limits you as an artist. Do I pull inspiration from metal music? Absolutely. I pull from multiple genres of music; I play funk, jazz, rock-n-roll, bluegrass, one of my guilty pleasures. I can shred on a banjo! Not too many people know that because it’s not dominant in my music, but I pull from multiple genres to create a sound. I think that’s what’s missing today in contemporary music and a lot of music in general.”

Nathaniel in his solo session at The Living Room Inc. recording studio

You recently produced 2 singles: Chasing the Sun and Arise, can you tell us the inspiration behind those?

“Well, Chasing the Sun is an instrumental, I was just [playing] around on a chord and I thought it sounded really cool. I got this 4-track recorder, that I haven’t had since I was a teenager in high school, and that’s how I used to do all my demos; you didn’t have the accessibility to the technology like you do now. I got the 4-track for my birthday – listened to old tapes, reflect[ed] on what it felt like to get something like that; what it was like to have [a] memory, reminded me of how good of a day it was; seeing the sun set, [it] kinda made me a little sad because I did not want that [particular] day to end because it felt so good. [I was] grabbing onto that feeling and running with it. And it all came together! I brought a violinist in here, Fred, and he played in F sharp. I recorded a solo over it. Went to the studio, laid it down in The Living Room [recording studio]. The engineer was great, submitted it to [the] label and they loved it. They picked it up and released it.

Arise – was something more intimate. The older you get, the more responsibilities you have, the more fun you have, the more challenges you face. The single is not out YET: we have 2 versions of it – one for the kids [Artist Series Program], and one that will be released later in the month. The first line is ‘7 o clock top of the day, gotta get up, got bills to play’ – [this] melody is different. The song Arise is a compliment to Chasing the Sun: Face whatever you have to face, to find that feeling, growing through it. [Confronting] something that’s stopping you from getting where you want to go, or feeling how you want to feel in that day, and having that fortitude to handle it. [This is] one of my favorite tunes I’ve ever written. It’s more traditional.”

Going to the recording studio is nothing new for you. Is there any particular ritual you have before you go or something you do for good luck?

“The fact in just going into the studio – reflecting on knowing musicians, owning a music school, opening Anthem Shred Academy, doing something big with MI [Musicians Institute]..just knowing that I’m doing something with my talent, I’m taking my idea, a thought, gathering the best musicians I can find and including them in the process and knowing I have the ability to do this and be sincere with it, be legitimate about it. I’ve always had the appreciation when coming into the [recording studio], I’m learning something I don’t know [everything] about. That I don’t know as much as I thought.

I want to take my art to the next level. I don’t want it to be confined to just a classroom or just be a lecturer or instructor. All those things go through my head before a take. I’m giving thanks, I was taught to go for it. If you have the ability, then don’t look back. [I’m] grateful I have the opportunity. One of the greatest engineers, Michael Esparza – He’s doing the engineering for Arise. He’s has won a Grammy [for his work]. We want to submit the song to the Academy and see if we can win with it! It’s that good. So, the ritual is just giving thanks, getting it down as few mistakes as possible, and saying thanks to everyone that’s involved.”

Nathaniel going over the sound with Michael Esparza, Head Recording Engineer, at The Living Room Inc. recording studio

Can you tell us what’s next in pursuing your art?

“There’s a lot involved. I’ve been invited to play Coachella [music festival]. I’ve been invited with my extreme band, Repenasence, to go jam with Metallica. I don’t talk about all the opportunities I get because I have other obligations. I’m very involved with my son’s Little League – I’m a die-hard baseball guy. I’m a hands-on owner, with Anthem School of Music, Anthem Shred Academy. There are opportunities out there for me as a musician, to go off and go experience that lifestyle. I did that many yeas ago. Right now, I want to focus on signing up as much talent as I possibly can. Kaitlin Solis is one of the first finds we have singing the tunes for. A few other hard hitters we’ll be bringing to the studio for. We’ve got country labels, Nashville, Los Angeles/Hollywood – I wish I could tell you what we have working on in those places, but I promised I would not.

We’re going to change the game when it comes to the standard of music education. I’ll keep writing music; I’m [also] recording an LP for Repenasence. You can find it on Spotify [along with Chasing the Sun]. We’re going to do 3 more songs for producers out in LA. People are excited about what we’re doing. [In the music industry] it’s about who you know. As long as [I] still have an opportunity and keep relationships open with Michael, producers, Academy, artist industry, recording studio – Richard who is the owner at the Living Room [recording studio], sat me down a couple months ago and said ‘Man you need to be creating, you’re an artist.’ [So] as long as we keep that relationship going, I’m going to continue write music, have a good time doing it, and try to learn as much as I can.”

Nathaniel in his solo session at The Living Room Inc. recording studio

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