Boysetsfire Frontman Nathan Gray Announces New Solo Album, Premieres Heartfelt First Single
If Nathan Gray wanted to consider himself a complete work, he’d certainly has the pedigree to do so. As the frontman of Delaware hardcore act Boysetsfire, the singer and songwriter has set minds around the world ablaze with anthems of revolution and disillusionment, triumph and trauma. But for Nathan, being one side of a coin isn’t enough, and now as a solo artist, he’s revealing to fans a different or perhaps tangential aspect of his personality.
Today, Nathan announces the release of Working Title, his second full-length solo album, to be released this January from End Hits Records. Where the singer’s 2018 solo debut Feral Hymns was driven by a stunned sort of melancholy, Working Title has Falstaffian sense of introspection to it. It’s not that Nathan has given up on the less-than-cheerful aspects of life, only that he’s taking them in stride and resolving to move forward first and foremost.
We caught up with Nathan about his solo career and what it means to be a work in progress.
Is there something you feel you can do or express with your solo albums that you can’t or don’t want to with Boysetsfire?
I don’t think it’s so much an answer of things I can’t or don’t want to say in Boysetsfire, but my solo work allows me the space to express myself without having to put myself through the filter of other people’s ideals. I am able to freely express my most personal emotions — the triumphs, heartaches, struggles, fears, celebrations, loves and loses — without being concerned that my words may or may not speak for everyone involved. It also forces me to explore ideas I may not have otherwise, because the work of pulling out not only the lyrical content from my heart, but the hooks, melodies and every layer of the music itself. It’s up to me alone.
How has your solo work grown between this album and last year’s Feral Hymns? The general tone of the album seems more upbeat, if not positive, than that on the last record.
My solo work has changed immensely between albums, because I have changed immensely. I have worked incredibly hard in the last couple of years to drag myself out of places that were toxic to myself and those around me, and in doing so I have been able to find a sound that is my own. Once that fog lifted, I was able to find healing in many areas of my life, and that empowered me to take more risks and move more confidently. Even many of the songs I wrote for Working Title started out very morose, and ended up transforming with me into anthems of strength. For me, it’s been a beautiful journey that I am incredibly proud of.
The album avoids a lot of the typical frontman-goes-solo cliches by being very big, anthemic, involving — was that an intentional move on your part? Did you go into it with things you did and did not want to do in mind?
I think I just went into it knowing I wanted to be true to myself; no gimmicks or veils. I have always been drawn to the hook of things, and I love big sounds that pull at your soul. I knew I didn’t want to be just another guy who goes solo and grabs an acoustic guitar, but I also knew I had to start somewhere. For me, this whole journey has been taken in steps, and so I’ve been working to grow myself and this project a little more each time I toured or put out a collection of songs.
In the beginning, it was wildly uncomfortable for me to stand on a stage with a guitar in my hand, which told me it was an important part of the journey — to be vulnerable and stand inside that feeling. It’s helped break down a lot of self-raised barriers for me. As I’ve gotten more comfortable and proved to myself I could do things that sort of terrified me, I’ve expanded my sound and the live shows with a few musicians here and there to back me up, and now I am releasing an album with a full backing band, and touring with one as well. It’s really exciting and I love seeing it all come to fruition for me.
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The title suggests incomplete work — do you feel that you are still a work in progress as an artist? What changes in your work have amazed you the most?
Working Title was named as such because it is a perfect reflection of myself both personally and musically. It took me a long time to understand and accept that it is not only OK to be ever-evolving and often times cyclical in the emotional ups and downs of life, it is perfectly human. Healing is not about finding a destination in life…it’s not about getting rid of our pain, it’s about the journey of learning to co-exist with it. I am a constant work in progress, and honestly, I think that is something to be proud of. Things that don’t adapt and evolve do not thrive, and they certainly don’t lead fulfilled lives.
Tell me about your backing band — what do they bring to this album that you appreciate?
It’s been an incredible part of my journey to challenge myself to write all parts of my music. Being able to give life to the ideas in my head in full form, writing and recording each layer of sound myself as the album was created, has been the most rewarding part of this whole process for me. As the sound grew and evolved into what it was meant to be, I knew I would want to bring that experience to the live show. It’s been wonderful to call upon talented friends to step in to take up those parts and play them live at my side, or to have been in the studio lending their talents to those parts with their own hands.
What’s something making music as a solo artist has taught you about life, and your work as a musician?
I think I’ve really been given a great gift here – I have been afforded the opportunity to go back to a place and time where I began to find my sound, and do it the right way. I get to go backwards to go forwards. This solo adventure has taught me SO much about myself, and it has pushed me to challenge myself in so many ways. Five years ago, you never would’ve convinced me that I’d be on a stage with a guitar in hand. Or recording my own tracks in my home as I wrote them. Five years ago you never would’ve convinced me that I would one day have the emotional freedom that I have now, either. Or that I would be dusting myself off with grace after a tough few days. I have grown so much, and I know there is still so much ahead for me. I feel confident that I am finally at a place where I am thriving, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Nathan Gray’s Working Title comes out January 31 from End Hits Records, and is available for preorder..
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