Nathaniel Rateliff: From plastics factory to Glastonbury

Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats. Picture: Brantley Gutierrez

Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats. Picture: Brantley Gutierrez - Credit: Archant

Nathaniel Rateliff is gracing the Citadel stage again. He talks to Zoe Paskett about his Night Sweats.

Performing in front of thousands may seem like a daunting prospect. Many musicians admit to never fully getting rid of the butterflies. But not Nathaniel Rateliff.

“I never really got nervous,” he says.

“It’s just this thing we do. I just try to make sure people are having a good time.”

This coming from the front man and namesake of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, the American folk-cum-soul-cum-vintage R&B band who played to dedicated crowds in the slurry of Glastonbury at the end of June.

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“The crowd was great,” he says.

“We had to go straight to the stage and onto the next thing straight after, so I didn’t get to see a lot of the festival. My experience of Glastonbury was just very muddy.”

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Fresh from the swamp, the Night Sweats are gearing up to play Citadel in Victoria Park next weekend for the second time.

Last year’s acts included Ben Howard and Bear’s Den, with whom Rateliff starred in 2014 BFI Film Festival favourite Austin to Boston, which followed their collective tour with The Staves around the US in five VW camper vans.

“It was definitely not like any tour I’ve ever been on,” he says.

“It was a really great experience and I made friends that I’ll have for the rest of my life.”

Luckily, Rateliff is always surrounded by friends on the stage, having a six-strong band to dance with: Joseph Pope III (bass), Mark Shusterman (keyboards), Patrick Meese (drums), Luke Mossman (Guitar), Wesley Watkins (trumpet) and Andy Wild (saxophone).

In the middle of a busy festival season, the band is looking forward to Latitude in Suffolk and a number of festivals and venues around the USA, before returning to the UK in November for the last leg of their European tour.

“It’s hard to be on the road away from home this much,” says Rateliff.

“We all feel a bit lonely and miss our families, but we have each other and we’re a family. You have to take the good with the bad and I’ve definitely had worse jobs!”

Rateliff formed Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats in 2013 and has since enjoyed international critical acclaim for the band’s breakout single “S.O.B.”, appearing on Later…with Jools Holland and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Rateliff’s love for music began at the tender age of seven when he took up drums to play in his family church band.

After the death of his father when he was 13, he turned to guitar and began to write songs almost straightaway.

But it wasn’t for a while that he took on music as a profession, working as a janitor, gardener and carpenter and in a plastics factory in the years before taking to the stage.

“I grew up with parents that instilled a strong work ethic in me. I feel that working people are the backbone of every society.

“I appreciate getting my hands dirty and praise the people still doing it.

“But everything I learnt never prepared me for what I’ve experienced in the music industry.”

His musical career began in Born with the Flood, the first band he created with close friend Joseph Pope III who remains a member of the Night Sweats.

A decade later, the Night Sweats’ self-titled debut album has sold half a million copies worldwide.

Rateliff claims that the album’s hit single, “S.O.B”, which is about trying to cope with a break-up through drinking, was never meant to be recorded and originally was supposed to be a joke.

“I guess I’ve always had quite a dour sense of humour,” he says.

Citadel returns to Victoria Park for a second time on July 17 after great success in its first year.

Back with a vengeance, the 2016 festival has expanded, complete with a comedy tent, sports day activities and talks from the likes of Hackney-born rapper and poet Akala and journalists from the Frontline Club. Other headliners include Caribou, Sigur Ros and Lianne La Havas.

Citadel Festival is in Victoria Park on Sunday July 17 from 12 – 10:30pm. Tickets and information at

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