Though my feelings about social media are conflicted and complicated – a sentiment I’m confident many others share – one of the things I do like about it is that it’s allowed me to connect with a lot of really talented musicians and bands. One I’m happy to know is NAVE, the solo music project of British singer-songwriter, composer and producer Nathan Evans. Incorporating a broad array of genres and styles, including alternative rock, electronica, trip-hop, ambient, orchestral and dark wave, the hyper-talented Bournemouth-based artist creates dramatic, incredibly compelling music that’s often atmospheric and gorgeous, but sometimes also harsh and disturbing. Nathan is a thoughtful guy who’s unafraid to tackle issues relating to social justice and mental health, calling out the incessant bullshit and hypocrisy we seem to be faced with on a daily basis.
A truly prolific songwriter, he’s released a staggering amount of music over the past 10 years, both as NAVE (also sometimes represented as Nave or N.A.V.E.) and as front man of alternative psychedelic rock band Native Tongue. He’s been on a creative tear since 2021, and from what I can tell, he dropped eight singles last year, including “Broken Record”, a hauntingly beautiful song decrying the addictive nature of social media and its negative impacts on our emotional well-being. I love it so much, it went all the way to #1 on my Top 30 chart and ranks #14 on my 100 Best Songs of 2022 list.
He’s continued to release lots of new music in 2023, and on February 19th, he dropped God’s Waiting Room, a monumental work which I believe is his first full-length album. The words “full-length” are a massive understatement, as the album contains a mind-boggling 31 tracks! Because of its daunting length, it was a few days before I was able to give it my full attention, but once I did, I was literally blown away! The word “masterpiece” is often overused and lightly awarded, but I can say with all certainty that in the case of God’s Waiting Room, it’s well-earned. Listening to this brilliant and stunning album is an immersive experience that takes us on a sonic journey through the many moods, ideas and emotions of NAVE’s creative mind.
In order to gain a bit of insight into his inspiration for creating such an epic work, I asked Nathan to answer a few questions, which he was more than eager to do. Here’s what we talked about:
EML: You’re an astonishingly prolific musician and composer Nathan, and I’m truly in awe of your tremendous output. Not only have you released an epic 31-track album, you’ve also recently released a number of other stand-alone songs. Where and how do you find your inspiration for all this music?
NAVE: First off, thank you for your continued support and kind words. You have been a true rare find in this shallow industry. The lack of camaraderie and true music lovers is scarce and we need more people like yourself who truly care about new music.
My 31 track album is a collection of songs and ideas spanning over 8 years to now. The majority of those songs were never intended to be released, but after going back and listening, I felt it was important because they carry so much emotion. I tend to release stand-alone songs that I spend a lot of time on and have that feeling of “oh this is a single”. The reason I called the album ‘Gods Waiting Room’ is because most of the songs aren’t singles, but more snapshots of moments in my life. What was going on and how I was feeling. I could imagine them all being played in a waiting room because they are so random and odd.
In answer to your question though, the honest response is I don’t know where and how I find the inspiration to have such a high output. Maybe I feel I have something to prove to myself and others who never believed in me. I was written off in school for having ADHD, and was medicated for 6 years with Ritalin so I always felt like an outcast. Maybe my subconscious wants to leave behind a large library of work that I feel is important. Maybe I’m on an autistic spectrum and I can’t stop jumping from one idea to the other, constantly trying to outdo myself and find my “smells like teen spirit” banger. Maybe I am trying to refine my tools and become the best I can be, which is very similar to the mentality I had when I was competing in trampolining from the age 5-11 and had to come 1st in all competitions. If I would come in 2nd ever, it would be crushing. I knew I had the magic and that has translated to music today
EML: Continuing on the theme of inspiration, some of the tracks on ‘God’s Waiting Room’ seem to have titles and/or lyrics dealing with self-assessment, mental health or personal well-being – e.g. “Jealous Little Bitch”, “Passive Aggressive”, “Son of a Rich Man”, “Computer Is My Friend” and “Kiss My Bad Side”. Are any of these songs autobiographical, or a means of addressing some inner demons or conflict?
NAVE: I find my songs either have a personal meaning, a message, or they don’t mean anything to me. Some tracks are blunt, some are cryptic, which means something to me, but to someone else interpreting them, it is completely different (which tends to happen often). Someone will tell me what my song means to them and I’ll be like “whoa, that’s not what I had in mind”. But I love that and it’s become clear from people’s comments that my music/lyrics creates imagery and causes multiple interpretations which I love.
For example, the songs you’ve mentioned. “Jealous Little Bitch” is an instrumental song, but made at a time when I was angry at certain people in my life and patterns of behaviour where I felt jealousy from “friends” or “family” instead of support and love. “Son of a Rich Man” was a dig at certain people that would never know the stress and uncertainty of having no money. They have an easy ride almost in a world where billionaires exist, and shouldn’t. I compare them to cartoon characters in a fairy tale paradise.
My track ‘Rose Tinted Glasses”, which was a stand alone release, was probably the most personal and therapeutic song I’ve ever written, about the loss of my Mum at 26. I put out a music video of it and I would cry every time I’d watch it. I’ve never had that with any song I’ve ever written and it addressed grief, anger and such sadness in me.
Another driving force isn’t so much facing inner demons but a feeling of obligation and duty to spread truth, love and light. Call out corruption, bullshit and lies. I made a tune called “blood thirsty billionaires” and made a video calling out certain people and shone a light on the ridiculous injustice and imbalance. It pisses me off that actors, musicians, sportsmen and whoever don’t use their platform enough to stand up to the lies we are fed everyday. The food we eat is full of harmful pesticides, the water we drink contains high levels of chlorine and the doctors don’t have our best interest at heart. They just read from a script or give us big pharma products. Cancer is 1 in 2 from the water, food and air, yet we freak out over a flu that mainly kills old and vulnerable people. We keep bending over to the government and accepting their lies and obeying without thinking for ourselves and truly questioning. Can you tell I am passionate about all this stuff. Can you see maybe why I make so much music lol?
EML: You certainly have a lot to say! When recording your songs as a solo artist, do you play and record all the music yourself? And besides the piano as your primary instrument, accompanied by what I’m guessing are lots of programmed synths, what other instruments do you play?
NAVE: Yeah, I mostly use the keyboard to write in synths, then programme and edit the drums. Then I finally add vocals. The vocals are always hit and miss. Sometimes they come quick and other times its a slog. I focus on the beat, atmosphere, melody and bass to create a vibe and if it makes me feel something, I quickly know whether to spend more time or move on. There always comes a time when I produce where that moment happens. Its like a magic. A transition occurs when the song comes to life and its amazing. I play drums, piano, guitar, bass and hope to learn the violin one day. I tried once and was terrible. The noise was so bad, I was unable to persist. So big respect to you violin players out there. You truly have to crawl through thorns and stinging nettles to reach the roses.
EML: With 31 amazing tracks, you could have broken them up into two or even three separate albums. Why the decision to include them all in one monumental album?
NAVE: I had considered that, but it felt they were all from a chapter in my life and belonged together. It also shows my progression till now and it was appealing to release a large body of work, particularly under such a poignant album title.
EML: That certainly makes sense. What other musicians or bands do you consider primary influences for your music?
NAVE: I ingested a lot of music as a teenager, but over the years I tend to stay away from listening to music as I find it better to be naive and not influenced by others’ music. The more music I listen to, the more chance I might feel I am copying them or “I cant do that because that sounds like that” if you know what I mean? But obviously Radiohead, Nirvana, Queens Of The Stone Age, Muse, BRMC, UNKLE, Jose Gonzalez, Deftones, Limp Bizkit, Morcheeba, Moby were big influences. Our bass player in my band Native Tongue is a music freak so he shows me a lot of new music and one track in particular that blew me away recently and inspired me to write my track “CONNIFER” is the track “NOT” by Big Thief. Incredible song.
EML: Is there anything I’ve neglected to ask that you’d like people to know about yourself or your music?
NAVE: I have struggled not finding the audience I was hoping to. It hurts when I put my heart and soul into these songs and I can’t reach anyone new or build my fan base, no matter how hard I try. I feel I’m finally coming to peace with that and doing this because I love it, not for people’s validation. My main drive has always been to reach people, and its been a painful road reaching so few people and not building that fan base I hoped for. Obviously there is still time but if it never happens, then fuck it. I still touched you and others, and devoted myself to an outlet which has kept me sane for so many years. Without it, I may not even be here now to answer these questions.
So my final thing to say is to everyone out there, do what makes you happy and try not to seek happiness externally. Think for yourself and question authority. We have been boxed up like objects and we are still treated like slaves working long hours for no money. It doesn’t have to be this way. Seek the truth within yourself and the world will open up like a flower. Independent thought. Love yourself and be kind to others.
Thank you Jeff. You are a star.
EML: Thank YOU Nathan for taking the time to answer my questions, and for all your incredible music. Hopefully, this review and interview will bring you at least a few more fans.
Okay, let’s get to God’s Waiting Room, shall we? Because it contains so many tracks – all of which are outstanding – I won’t be doing my usual track-by-track discussion, as it would take me forever and besides, no one would read it all! Instead, I’ll touch on my favorites, as well as some of the more fascinating and impactful tracks. Of the album’s 31 offerings, 17 are instrumentals, whereas 14 feature lyrics and vocals of some kind or another.
On the unsettling opening track “The Speaker“, NAVE talk-sings in a mysterious whispered voice “Why do you listen to the speaker? Isn’t that, in listening to the speaker, you’re listening to yourself? Is that what is taking place? The speaker is only pointing something out. Acting as a mirror in which you only see yourself. Your own state of mind. Your own consciousness. And if at the end of these talks, you say to yourself ‘I have not changed’, why, it is your fault.” Though I didn’t ask him, my guess is that the song set the overall tone for the album, also serving as a kind of introduction.
As the album unfolds, each new track brings a different mood and vibe, keeping it sounding fresh and holding our attention. The second track “Sleepy Head” is a darkly beautiful instrumental featuring a mesmerizing trip hop groove and rather spooky string synths. And speaking of spooky, “White Witch” is downright chilling as NAVE drones “Never again, will you and I suffer. Never again, will the world go by unnoticed” against a mysterious cinematic backdrop that would make a great opening for a horror film.
Several instrumental tracks, like “Into the Abyss“, “Twilight Zone” and “Watch It Unfold“, are atmospheric and beautiful, with haunting piano movements, sparkling synths and cinematic strings. One of my favorites is the stunning “Linda’s Song“, with its vibrant piano keys, soaring strings and pleasing guitar chords. I also love “Jealous Little Bitch“, with its gorgeous violin notes and eerie synths layered over an assertive skittering beat.
Another favorite (on an album full of favorites) is “Passive Aggressive“, with its trippy hip hop groove, highlighted by menacing industrial synths sprinkled here and there with twinkling little touches that keep the song from sounding too heavy and dark. NAVE does a great job rapping the wonderful lyrics about an encounter with an unpleasant receptionist at a medical appointment: “Walk in the door, time for my appointment. Ignored by a lady unhappy in employment. Making me wait for a good few minutes. Grittin’ my teeth, pushed to the limit. I calm myself, instant reflection dealing with this middle-aged bitch on reception. Stay strong, try not to break. Refrain from explaining, I’m here cuz my balls ache. I’ve come a long way, massive obsessive, passive aggressive.“
“Swim Away With Me” is so quietly majestic and beautiful, it brings tears to my eyes. Then, abruptly changing the mood with “Millions of Wilfully Ignorant Sleepwalkers“, he skillfully uses a droning melody and rather ghostly, dream-like synths to convey a sense of people moving through life like zombies, seemingly unaware of their surroundings. The darkly beautiful “Breath With Me” has a strong Radiohead vibe, thanks in large part to the beguiling falsetto by appropriately-named guest vocalist Ethereal, which seems to channel Thom Yorke.
The terrific “Son of a Rich Man” is a languid and bluesy, guitar-driven song that NAVE touched on earlier as being a dig at people born with a silver spoon in their mouths. I love the pointed lyrics: “I don’t know who I am anymore. In fact, I don’t think I ever did. I’m indecisive, with hindsight bias. Sure, the grass could always be greener./ But who knows, paradise could just be a fairly tale, only fit for cartoon characters and billionaires. Maybe I should make a plan, or wait to reincarnate as the son of a rich man.”
One of the most beautiful tracks on the album is “Infinite Ground“, where NAVE’s dreamy echoed vocals meld so perfectly with the delicate acoustic guitar notes, it nearly takes my breath away. The unusual “Tashi Delek” is a dark song, featuring a strong trip hop beat, deep bass and harsh industrial synths, punctuated by contrasting delicate xylophone sounds. NAVE’s otherworldly vocals add to the song’s edgy vibe as he wails “I looked at your face. I couldn’t help but stare. I got you on my mind. There ain’t nothing wrong. Just a slip of the tongue. Can you feel my pain? And I miss you.”
The album closes with the contemplative piano piece “My Goodbye“, a beautiful and fitting end to this exquisite work of musical art. I’ve probably listened to God’s Waiting Room more than 15 times, and it manages to reveal new sounds, textures and meanings each time I hear it. I love this album, and hope at least some of my readers will appreciate and enjoy it too.
Connect with NAVE: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Find his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp / YouTube / Soundcloud