Singer Nathaniel Rateliff shares thoughts on farming
With interview time at a premium, and hordes of media at the Farm Aid concert, I had the opportunity to sit down with artist Nathanial Rateliff, and see where he was at with the growing farm crisis.
Rateliff was born in St. Louis, on October 7, 1978 and grew up in rural Missouri, He learned to play the drums at age seven and joined his family's Gospel Band. At 13, Rateliff had lost his father in a car crash, but Rateliff would not let that deter his interest in music. So, he taught himself guitar and began writing his own songs.
Years later with a lot of determination and hard work, Rateliff and longtime friend and band mate Joseph Pope III would see the formation of The Night Sweats.
With their music described as folk, Americana and vintage rhythm & blues, Rateliff acknowledged that he spent his years growing up listening to many different Country & Western and classic R&B singers, that influenced his style of music and song writing.
No strangers to Billboard's Adult Alternative Songs airplay chart, with songs like I Need Never Get Old, You worry me, and Wasting Time, Rateliff had the Farm Aid crowd on their feet, belting out the lyrics to S.O.B., a song featured in the 1980 hit movie ‘The Blues Brothers’, starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.
Now to the meat and potatoes of Rateliff’s feelings on the farming crisis.
When asked about what is causing such a downfall in the farming business across the nation, Rateliff was quick to answer.
“Unfortunately, I think it has a lot to do with politics. We are sort of run by these corporations and these big conglomerates as well. I was talking with some friends from Missouri about that. It’s hard to fight legislation when you have all these people ganging up against family farms. We are here in hopes that that changes. We unfortunately have a government right now that is running like a business. I don’t think that is beneficial for any of us. I hope that changes. It seems to be small steps right now.”
Growing up in rural Missouri, Rateliff shared that his mother still lives there as does most of his family. “You go back, and there’s really no where to buy reasonable produce and meat. It shocks me a little bit. Then you have obesity rates and these things that could be better controlled by better eating habits and better access to food, I think. It’s one of the things I’d like to see change.”
Rateliff admitted that he hasn’t really written a lot on the topic, though stressed that he should.
“I’ve kind of beat around the bush on some political ideas. Songs, for me, is about trying to bring people together in hopes that people try to understand each other, leaving them a little less ignorant and a little less fearful from people they don’t know and hopefully changing that way.”
As for Farm Aid partnering Native Americans Rateliff said, “I sat on the panel with two native peoples and its cool to see what they are doing in their communities. Years ago, when I first moved to Colorado, I spent time in Hopi land and planted corn with the Hopi’s. I’ve always been fascinated by the history and the culture.”
He found it interesting that Native Americans were talking about trying to get food like real fish and venison from their communities, rather than using USDA sourced meat, and admitted that there are a lot of loopholes when it comes to how the USDA functions.
Rateliff stated that he and his band are committed to helping the Farm Aid organization continue to grow, and they are glad to have been a part of the 2019 concert.